Meet Joyia Toran, who brings unique native crafts to Wanderluxe Home
Joyia Toran always had that entrepreneurial spirit – she just needed to find the right business. On a trip to Mexico, she found it – selling unique, handmade crafts produced by local artisans. This is the story of how she started Wanderluxe Home.
A dream in search of a business
Joyia Toran has had lots of ideas for starting a business, “It was always a dream of mine to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know just what I wanted to do. I’ve had a million ideas over the years. When I was in grad school in New York in early 2000, there were a lot of cool little salad places. I thought, ‘This is so great – they have all sorts of options, and it’s fast and convenient. Why don’t I do something like that?’ And then Sweet Green came along. Then I said, ‘Oh, maybe I can do natural popsicles. And maybe add alcohol for adults.’ But I thought, I’m not a chef. I don’t want to spend my life in a kitchen.”
It turns out she needed to look a little farther from home to find her dream business. “My fiancé and I love to travel,” said Joyia. “My fiancé is not a beachy type of guy, and he got me started going off the beaten path, seeing outside the touristy areas. What sparked my interest was just hearing stories and seeing really cool things that weren’t the normal trinkets.”
The search for unique handmade crafts
Joyia was fascinated by the crafts she saw that were handmade by artisans in Mexico and beyond.
“We were seeing, not the normal tourist markets, but unique pieces that were authentically made. and then hearing the stories of artisans who are making these crafts and have been doing it for generations. If you ask them how long they’ve been doing it, they can’t even tell you. They say, “Oh, I don’t know – my mother, my mother’s mother, my mother’s mother’s mother – they’ve all been in it.’ It’s been a tradition in their family and sometimes even entire communities. This is what they’ve been doing for generations, for hundreds or even thousands of years.”
“I went back again and again, and I would pick up small things to share with my friends, my parents, but I thought, ‘What’s a way to help share these stories about people in places you may never connect with?’ And that’s how Wanderluxe Home was born.”
Starting in the middle of it all
Joyia launched her website in October 2020 – in the midst of the pandemic. “I officially started the business in January 2020. I left my corporate job at the end of 2019. My thought was, I would have a year to travel, to reconnect with some of the groups I had already met with. I thought, ‘Now that I know I’m establishing a business, I can travel this year – in 2020 – and hit at least six different countries.’ I had that all planned out. My first trip was to Mexico for the last couple of weeks in February and the first week in March. And it began and ended.”
“I didn’t work at all that year. I just kept hoping. I thought, clearly by June. Okay, maybe August. Okay, not August, but maybe October. And finally, I realized, you’re not using your passport.”
“So, I started the background work in January, but did not actually launch my site with products for sale until October.”
Realizing the dream on her own, but not alone
“I knew I wanted to do something, but something that also has a message, that has meaning besides just trying to make a buck. This felt right. My fiancé said, ‘This is your thing.’”
She started the business on her own, but hires help as she needs it. “I am the only full-time employee, but I work with contractors. I have about six freelancers that I work with when I need them. I have a designer who assists me with design - I just give her an idea of what I want. I have a graphic designer who did the design of my website and helps me with some of the paper designs, like the seasonal box. I have a web developer. And I had some people early on, like the consultant who helped me come up with the language for talking about my vision and my values. And I had someone help with branding.”
Joyia came from a career in pharmaceutical sales, so there were some things about being a business owner – and about e-commerce – that surprised her.
“I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I was surprised at how hard it is. It’s very expensive to be here. You hear people say, ‘Oh, you can start a business for a thousand dollars.’ I’m not foolish enough to think that my business would cost a thousand dollars, but I did not realize how much the expenses would be. The way I operate is that I pay everybody 50% before they start production, and I pay them the balance before they ship. So, I have fronted all this cash.”
Keys to success: Research and networking
With travel out of the question, Joyia had to find other ways to advance her business dream.
“My goal for 2020 was to do a lot of research. Most of the people in Mexico I had found when I traveled. So I was already familiar with maybe half or two-thirds of the artisans I work with in Mexico. I had already met with them and brought things home. So I asked them, ‘Would you be interested? Can you produce like crazy?’ I’m not selling to Amazon, but I just need some quantity.
“The internet is an amazing thing. I’ve met with a couple of people in the industry who d consulting. Like the woman who helped me communicate my brand voice, she has been in this space for a while. So, I’d say, ‘Hey, I want to do jute bags. Do you happen to know anybody?’ And they say, ‘My brother’s best friend just started a company. He works with trans women and women in Bangladesh who don’t have a lot of opportunity. Let me connect you.’”
Advice for those just starting out
Joyia has learned a lot from her journey so far, particularly in light of the challenges she’s faced related to the pandemic. She has some advice for those who are beginning their journey.
“My first advice comes back to money. If you have a day job and you can manage both, keep your day job. Work this on the side and save as much as you can. If you’re passionate about it and you believe in it and you have a clear direction of where you want to go, it’s absolutely possible to manage both. But try to keep your day job – don’t just quit and run out, unless you have a ton of funding.
“Secondly, be kind to yourself. There are days when I feel – and the pandemic doesn’t help – like I’m by myself. Although my fiancé is very supportive. My parents are supportive, although I think they’re a little confused. My dad always asks, ‘Are you making money yet? Do people buy this stuff?’ I think he doesn’t get it.
“Don’t beat yourself up. There are days when I look at competitors, what they’re doing and the rounds of funding they’ve gotten. And it’s hard not to think, ‘Did I make a mistake? Am I doing things wrong?’ But, no, it’s your journey, period. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Take the good with the bad. Some days are awesome. And other days, it’s a little bumpy.”
The importance of protection
Joyia also recommends that business owners protect themselves against risks they can’t see coming. That’s why she turned to Hiscox for her business insurance.
“I like knowing that I’m protected if anything were to happen. Even though I don’t have a store, I’m a storefront. And I have tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of items in storage. I want to make sure it’s protected, so better safe than sorry.
“When I started looking for insurance, I kept coming back to Hiscox. I called a couple of places that wouldn’t write me because I’m so small. Plus, I work with companies that are international. So it had to be the perfect fit, which Hiscox is.”
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