It’s challenging enough to try to launch a business and go after your dreams as an entrepreneur. It’s extra difficult for a Latina entrepreneur. But that’s precisely what the co-founders of Mave Studio, Madeleine Martín and Vanessa Shemesh, did in 2022. 

Years of experience working in Latin America’s luxury and fashion industry made them uniquely qualified to help brands grow. And this is not a role or an opportunity they are taking lightly.

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Since its launch, they have amassed loyal clients and built a community of brands. They help bring to life through their work in brand consulting, PR, strategy, and creative direction. 

While building a brand of their own, they are helping to raise visibility and promote the success of Latina-owned brands.

Mave Studio and its mission to elevate Latina voices

Madeleine and Vanessa had known each other for years through their professional paths. 

Madeleine is from Panama. After five years working for the communications and PR department in Chanel Latin America, she left Panama and moved to Madrid to start an MBA. 

For her part, Vanessa is from Colombia. She worked for a PR agency and led the marketing team for Tiffany & Co. in Colombia and Panama. 

The two met at an event in 2018 in Panama, and the rest is history. Four years later, they joined forces to achieve a common dream — to help brands grow to their full potential by empowering leaders to make educated and intentional choices for their companies.

Their larger goal is and has always been to simultaneously arm these Jefas with the tools they need to grow their brands. In doing so, they want to close the leadership gap in their industry. This means ensuring other Latina entrepreneurs and innovators have the support and community they need to succeed.

We chatted with Madeleine and Vanessa to learn their story and advice for other aspiring Latina business leaders and entrepreneurs in the PR space and beyond. 

After speaking with these two powerhouses, it’s impossible not to be inspired by their energy and vision. 

Tell us a little about yourselves. What are your backgrounds? Where are you from, and what was your professional experience before you launched Mave Studio?

Mave Studio was born in June 2022 to help brands grow and help leaders educate themselves to make the best decisions to compete within the global fashion and luxury industry. We aim to provide our clients with all the tools to create a business and brand in an organic and authentic way.

We want to leverage the experience gained from our careers in the luxury and fashion industry in the Latin American region (LATAM) to expand that knowledge and assist different growing brands in structuring their path.

Founded by two women, we are determined to help change the leadership gap in our industry and how our social initiatives will be a driving force behind our new agency. We met some time ago, after coming from working in the fashion and luxury industry in the Latin American market.

What empowered you to take the leap and start Mave Studio? 

Life has allowed us to bring our personalities and social spheres into our work and to utilize them to the fullest. Not only professionally but also personally. We are always on the move, meeting people in a very real way and genuinely showing how passionate we are about fashion, Latin America, art, and design.

We love building relationships and connecting with people around us, always aiming to help others grow. That’s why since Mave Studio’s launch in June 2022, Mave has been well-received in the market and has received excellent word-of-mouth referrals. 

The growth of Mave Studio has been organic, and we are incredibly grateful for how the market has embraced us and for fulfilling the dreams we aspire to achieve for Mave and for brands in Latin America and beyond.

Also, we have so much talent in Latin America and want to put our names and others up where they should be. 

Our top priority is delivering results to our clients. After working with us, we always strive to ensure that our clients can see a positive difference in their brand’s behavior. We are always honest about what we can achieve for a brand and what may be beyond our capabilities. 

We acknowledge that we are not perfect and are aware of the investment and effort required for a brand or entrepreneur to invest in these strategies. Therefore, we always act with transparency. If we are not the right agency for a particular brand, we will either refer them to someone who may be a better fit or provide advice that we believe can help them achieve their goals before investing in a PR agency.

What was the best advice you ever received about starting and running your own business? 

Madeleine: Like my mom used to tell me since I was a kid, “Never burn any bridges.” I believe this advice is not only extremely useful for your business but also for life in general. You never know what life will throw at you and who will be your next boss, friend, or investor. 

I also believe in caring for myself; my brother always reminds me of that. Running a business can be demanding, both physically and mentally. Prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Ultimately, your well-being is crucial for the long-term success of your business.

Vanessa: Don’t expect everything to come to you so quickly; be patient, perseverant, and humble. Hard work will naturally reward you and help you grow. All businesses start from the bottom and gradually progress. It’s important not to compare yourself to others and understand that everyone has different realities and life moments. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong.

Entrepreneurship is difficult, but if you approach things with love, cheesy as it may sound, doors will open for you. We’ve experienced it firsthand. 

Getting to where we are today didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been working in the industry for ten years, going through different companies, meeting different people, having different bosses, and experiencing good and bad days, and every experience teaches you something valuable and leads you to where we are now. If we hadn’t gone through all that and hadn’t educated ourselves and prepared professionally, we wouldn’t have met the people we know or been able to start a PR agency in the fashion industry.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced as Latina business owners, and how did you overcome it?

We believe that the current situation in Latin American countries has shifted how we are perceived, and Latin brands are growing and gaining international recognition. This is something that happened less frequently 20-30 years ago. It presents an opportunity for us, and we want to help all brands continue to grow. 

However, we are fully aware of the importance of honesty and being transparent with everyone. We understand the need to accept what we can deliver and what is beyond our control. We have had to decline to work with some clients because part of entrepreneurship is acknowledging that you cannot do everything on your own and gradually expanding your team. This growth process must be measured and extended to ensure it is done correctly.

We have also encountered situations where brands approach us without a clear business plan or long-term sales projections. Instead, they prioritize influencer marketing over essential aspects of their business. On the contrary, we believe that brands should invest their time and money in establishing these crucial foundations for any company before considering PR investment.

How do you hope your work will help elevate the voices of other Latinx-owned brands and help empower Latinx consumers in their daily lives?

Since its inception, Mave Studio has always had the intention and mission of helping Latin brands grow to compete within the global fashion and luxury industry. We want to leverage the experience gained from our careers in the luxury and fashion industry in the Latin American region (LATAM) to expand that knowledge and assist different growing brands in structuring their path. We have always believed in giving back to our region and sharing the knowledge and passion we have learned over the years. 

What would you tell them if you could share one life lesson with future generations of Latina entrepreneurs?

We believe being Latina is a superpower. We should own, believe, and make the best of it. You should embrace your heritage and cultural identity as a source of strength and business advancement. As a Latina entrepreneur, you possess a unique perspective, rich cultural heritage, and diverse experiences that can set you apart in the business world. Your cultural background can be a tremendous asset in building connections, understanding different markets, and developing innovative solutions. 

Among entrepreneurs, it is crucial to support and connect with one another. The circumstances in our countries have led us to be scattered all around the world. We must set aside unhealthy competition and understand that we are all striving to move forward and fulfill our dreams. 

That’s the beauty of PR – the nature of connecting people from various industries and backgrounds to create and grow. Expecting nothing in return and approaching everything with genuine sincerity is the most authentic way to grow, as it naturally opens doors for you.

For me, Madeleine, as a Latina living in Europe, I have been able to discover how strong, resilient, and brave we are as a Latin community. If we use all that strength for good, we, as Latinas, will continue to succeed together.