Mercedes Salazar is one of those women that seem to make it all work with relative ease: Career, marriage, and children are radiantly healthy examples of how this remarkable woman coordinates her life. We interviewed Mercedes to find out how she balances work, life, and love and produces jewelry that inspires others to do the same.
How did you get started?
I have always been passionate about different materials starting when I was studying jewelry design in Mexico. When I came back to Colombia, everyone always admired my jewelry. This inspired me to get started on an actual business. My husband was a great support and we made a little store in our living room and the customers started coming. We grew very fast. My husband then gave us a bigger space in his office where we created a little store and workshop. We made fun jewelry with many colors and different materials, which were new to the market at the time.
We were lucky because the press became immediately excited about what we were doing. We were featured in magazines and have ever since managed to keep a good public profile. This has been material in growing our brand.
We now have over 50 employees. One thing that I am very proud of, is that we work with many indigenous people of Colombia who work for us in external workshops. I love the techniques the indigenous people use. The way they use their hands, they use colors and materials that provide jewelry that lasts.
Did you face a lot of competition in setting up your business?
When we started there were only a few designers producing contemporary jewelry. Now the market is full of designers. It is very competitive. At the time, we created a trend, a brand. Now we see that many designers are using our techniques for their jewelry.
How did you internationalize your brand?
When we started, we immediately had an international outlook. We attended many shows around the world to see how they worked. And then six months later we started to participate. We participate in a show called the “Workshop” in New York. We are now doing shows in New York a few times a year, and we now have a showroom where we show our collections to international clients. We used to have a showroom in Tokyo because the Japanese market is important for us. So are Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Chile, and Panama. We also have a store in Mexico.
In the US we have a great participation. We sell or products online, in departments stores, and on Amazon.com. They buy specific collections for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.
What is your source of inspiration?
My inspiration comes from real life. From the different stages I have been through. When my children were very young, they used to believe so much in fairy tales and magic that it inspired me to make a collection called “Enchanted Forrest”. This was an appeal to women to believe in the power inside their hearts. I always invite women to believe in themselves more. I have a collection called “Writings”. We engrave self-esteem sentences into little hearts. It is important to tell women that they are beautiful and that they can do anything. We are now helping girls in vulnerable situation in the cost of Colombia by making hearts that say “I can”. For every heart we sell, we give a heart to the girls in trouble. It makes customers feel that they can help through their purchases. We try to couple the delicacy of jewelry with the strength of women.
Were there moments where you felt like giving up?
No, I never had that thought. It is all easier when you have support. As women, we do not necessarily grow up with the confidence that we can build businesses. Today, it is different. I teach my girls that they can do whatever they want. And with my jewelry, I want to empower others too.
How do you juggle all your responsibilities?
There are many ingredients to a successful business and family. The most important thing is discipline than love and passion. If you have passion for everything that you do then your day is long and you can get everything done. You create time for your family. I like to emphasize food. It is my ingredient to show my family how much I love them. I have three kids, all in their teens and I love them very much.
If you put your heart in it then you can do anything. Just don’t let your energies go into things that are not worth it. It is about perception. With the right attitude, the day is really long and you can divide your time productively in order to tackle all your responsibilities.
Did you parents support you?
My father died when I was 7 years old. I have three sisters and we are all completely different. My mother did not really understand what I was doing when I started my business. She was always super upset about the press coverage. The fame wasn’t important to me, but it was good for the company. My mother thought that I wasn’t spending enough time with my children. It was very hard for me because I love my mother very much. It has taught me that I want my children to be better than me. I want them to be very powerful.
Sometimes as a woman you get judged for trying to have a career and taking care of your children at the same time. It is not easy to find the solidarity to support you in this. There does not need to be a trade-off between being a good mother and a successful career woman. With the right structure and support system, you can do both.
Judgments between women are difficult to bear. Solidarity is key to empower women, which is what we are trying to achieve in producing our jewelry. It is a symbol of solidarity.
How would you describe your husband?
I think that the most important thing in our relationship is that my husband believed in me. It was enough responsibility to drive me and make him proud of me. Having him believing so much in my talent and in the business was crucial.
How do you manage your relationship with your husband?
If you have love you can do anything. You have to be patient and respectful. You also have to divide the work. We are careful not to criticize each other in our respective responsibility. You have to be loving and kind to each other and try not to scream and to avoid fighting. It is easy to fall out with the person that you spend your days with. It is a matter of being patient and kind and trying to be a better person every day. There is a rule between us where we try to avoid speaking about the business at home. We try to keep it light. We take a lot of holidays during the year and cook together. We try to do positive things for our family and our marriage. Because life is very short, and you have to enjoy it while you can.