By Mark Ambrogi
Claudia Mendez had a clothing line in her native Bolivia.
Yet when she married an Indiana native and moved to Carmel in September 2014, she wasn’t sure of her next step.
“I kept thinking, ‘what am I going to do, and how am I going to reinvent myself?” Mendez said. “After exploring a few options, I decided to continue with what I know.”
Mendez met Garrett Curry, founder and creative lead of Raygun Workshop, and he has helped her bring her company the U.S. with a new name and brand. Raygun Workshop focuses on branding and creating websites. Ella Ember is the online retailer of alpaca outerwear, sweaters, scarves, vests, jackets and shawls. Ellaember.com launched the second week in November.
Mendez started a company in 2003 in Bolivia, which she still runs.
“We sold in the U.S. for a long time, Mendez said. “We came to Magic, which is the largest fashion trade show here in the states in Las Vegas. We did that four years. We had an interesting, growing portfolio of customers here in the U.S. Then the (financial) crisis hit in 2008 and 2009m and on top of that, we lost our trade preferences. So we stopped selling here, but our business still continued. We opened our own shop in Bolivia and focused on the European market ever since.”
Mendez said she was helped by attending start-up and entrepreneurial events.
“That’s how started to meet people that made me comfortable to start a company here,” she said. “I have a network to do that.”
Mendez found through a consultant there is room for niche market for women between 40 and 65.
“We’re focusing on women who are balancing families and careers and who want to look nice and unique,” Mendez said. “When you go into a restaurant, you don’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing.”
Alpaca is a natural fiber that is hard to find in stores, she said.
“Our production is basically 100 percent made of alpaca,” Mendez said. “Once you wear an alpaca sweater, you understand the difference between the other sweaters you wear.”
The products are produced in Bolivia.