New Generation: Ana Neto and Daniela Marques
Two friends of a lifetime have come together to bring to life a shared dream: create a business.
Ana, with background in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Daniela, with a background in Radiology and Marketing, have created, in 2013, the brand Maria Maleta. A brand of bags and purses with a unique concept: one reversible bag with two sides you can use. Get to know Ana Neto and Daniela Marques.
How did this project emerge?
Me (Ana) and Daniela know each since we were kids. We grew up together, in São João da Madeira, and we’ve been best friends since our teenage years. We went to college together and we lived together for many years, but we didn’t have the experience of having a business together, which was something we wanted for a long time.
In 2013, and already working in our academic fields, we started thinking of having a part-time project, since we were living in a global economic crisis and professional prospects were not enthusiastic. So, we decided to start a project that could provide us freedom for our creative side, as well as extra money at the end of the month. We had several ideas, but the fact that we grew up in São João da Madeira, and that both of our families are connected to the footwear industry, was decisive. Growing up in the middle of a footwear factory has given me skills, both regarding techniques and materials, that were essential for the creation of Maria Maleta. Initially, we thought of opting for the footwear sector, but we eventually realized there were already do many excellent and prestigious footwear brands in Portugal that creating something differentiating and innovative would be too much complex. We ended up choosing leather goods, a field that excited us a lot and is, in some ways, connected to footwear.
Then, during a summer afternoon, with some sketches and ideas, we came up with our first product: a clutch!
How does Maria Maleta distinguish itself?
What distinguishes a brand is its differentiating concept and design. A bag, a woman, two sides to reveal.
The increasingly detailed choice of sustainable raw materials is something that also differentiates us. We have an increasing concern about adding value to our products in balance with the environment.
It also distinguishes itself for by its partners. The most recent partnership was with Big Blue Ocean Cleanup, an NGO that is focused on cleaning the ocean and recycling the waste from both oceans and beaches.
Maria Maleta doesn’t want to be just one more product or concept. We want to highlight the independent women from the XXI century. An active woman, an entrepreneur that, without leaving her feminine side aside, fights for women’s rights. With an acute sense of humor, a woman that is devoted to the causes she defends and values the details and history behind a product. That values quality and design, in the way she expresses herself.
What have been the main challenges in this process?
There have been many challenges. From the product being exactly what we idealized to the communication strategy of what we wanted to put out in the world, almost instantly, as it’s often very hard to distinguish yourself in the midst of constant and infinite information within the digital scene. With the craziness of the ‘now’ and the ‘immediate’, trying to catch someone’s attention and give them a sense of timeless and durable bag that lasts a lifetime it’s very hard in this instant Fast Fashion era.
However, we always try to look at challenges with positivity and in a constructive way.
In your opinion, what does the new generation of entrepreneurs has to offer to the sector?
The world had been evolving in such a way, with the digital revolution, that it allowed the crash of stigmas and prejudices and created an unparalleled transparency and creative freedom. Products no longer have to follow rules of color or gender, they can be a lot of things at the same time, and that’s highly positive. This new talent wave has a lot to offer and have reached a creative freedom like never before.
What piece of advice would you give to a youngster who is entering the industry?
We’re always in a continuous learning process and there are no standard recipes that fit everyone. However, hard work and determination are, without a doubt, essential and resilience is a key characteristic when you’re an entrepreneur. Mistakes and obstacles are going to be part of it, but the most important thing is to not give up and always believe in what we’re doing.