Meet Our Founder & Designer — Emily Rathmanner
Hi Minga friends and family! I'm Emily, one of the many women behind Minga. Since starting our small brand two years ago, I've fallen into many roles outside of founder and designer: Customer service agent, shipping and sales, event coordinator, social media guru, photographer and marketing gal... The list goes on and on and OH what a ride it's been since the beginning of our small brand.
The beauty of Minga is that it truly combines all of my passions into one. After college, I moved to Australia and began traveling the world solo while working online as a graphic designer. Some of the things that I found the most intriguing while on the road were 1- the people and 2- the markets.
Whether it was motorcycling through the mountains of Vietnam, getting lost in the souks of Morocco or couchsurfing my way through Indonesia, I fell in love with talking to strangers and finding out not only their life stories but the meaning behind their country's crafts and culture.
I soon realized that artisan-made goods was something I had to pursue further and invest serious time into. I began to purchase jewelry, rugs, paintings (you name it!) from the artisans I was meeting to sell back home in the US. While it was fun while it lasted, I realized that it wasn't sustainable; As soon as I left their store or home, I had no future contact with them. I longed to create an ongoing partnership with the inspiring humans I was meeting; something that could last and be built upon. Something that could give back and create change.
So, there I was living in Peru, working for a nonprofit in a small surf town, and still fixated on the idea. Researching, calling, trying to find any snippets of info to get to where I wanted to be. A few weeks in and I still wasn't having much luck with my search. I was getting frustrated until a student group came to volunteer with our nonprofit in Peru... "I'm looking for a group of artisans to work with," I explained to one student. "Wait, really?" he answered while pointing down to his bag, "Look at this!"
Turns out the student group had just come from Intag, a small mountainous region in the Andes of Ecuador, the same small town that's home to Minga's artisan partners. He told me that they were looking for someone to help them design and distribute their handmade products. He told me about their beautiful work, unique process, and that there are only a few groups in the world still practicing this craft. He told me to go.
That go was all I needed and looking back now, a true "just go for it" moment from the universe. After receiving the OK to visit from the women's artisan group, I showed up to Ecuador alone, barely speaking Spanish, with a backpack and a dictionary.
I ended up being invited to live in the women's' small village in the mountains of Ecuador for 3 months. My days were spent getting to know the family of Carmen, the women I lived with, helping harvest pineapples, practicing Spanish, assisting with the natural dyes and asking endless questions about the women's incredible bag creation process.
I learned that the use of the agave fiber we use, known as cabuya, dates back to the 17th century and is known as one of the world’s first natural fibers used for commercial purposes.
For thousands of years, inhabitants of Intag have been using cabuya to weave an array of products ranging from carrying sacks, ropes, shoes, mattresses, to baskets and bags. The plant towers over any human; it’s leaves are strong and thick, explaining why the durable fiber is perfect for processing.
Over those 3 months in Ecuador, I worked side by side with these beautiful women to design each Minga original bag style and slowly chip away at our branding and website. Finally, I took a leap of faith, put in my first order and once it was live, it sold out.
Phew, lots of ups and downs have happened since then - Spring 2018. We hit goals, worked through complications, attended our dream events and nearly lost shipments. We're slowly growing at a pace that feels right for us.
We are focused on our mission: To keep an ancient art form alive; A skill that only a handful of people in the world still practice. We are bringing awareness to all-natural fibers and sustainable fashion methods. We are empowering these artists, these women and this community so they can continue to practice their freedoms and live in peace.
Before Minga, there was nothing pushing me, nothing inspiring me. Life was easy and simply that made me feel uneasy. I decided to pursue my passion, resulting in my mission to meet and collaborate with artisans, which would eventually take me to Ecuador.
Ecuador: A country where I met 18 hardworking, talented women, saw their craft and heard their stories; a country where I witnessed what a small group of passionate individuals could do to create positive change in society.
Ecuador: A country that taught me that if you work towards something with all your heart and all the goodwill in the world, the universe will deliver you that dream and throw in some extra lessons along the way.
While you’re out shopping, either in a new place or at home, look for products that are made locally, ethically and support fair trade. So much work goes into small businesses like Minga, and with each order we receive, we can continue supporting our artisan partners and working towards a more sustainable and conscious shopping experience.
I thank you for taking the time to accompany us on this Minga journey.
PS - If you have any questions or ever want to say hello, please feel free to reach out via email at email@example.com.