What began as a passion for style and an impressive career in fashion design became a groundbreaking business model for trailblazer Tommie Hernandez. She launched Sirena Patterns, an online fashion academy, and Puerto Rico’s sole sewing pattern company and club. 

Hernandez certainly had the experience to change the way the fashion industry operated. The Puerto Rican fashion designer honed her skills at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Then, she returned to Puerto Rico after graduating and went on to run a successful boutique-atelier for 17 years, crafting personalized attire and swimwear. 

During that phase of her career, she created custom beachwear for women, hosted fashion shows, and sold her designs to large retailers such as JCPenney and local surf shops and boutiques. 

A strong, determined, and hard-working Jefa, Hernandez always felt empowered to chase her dreams. 

“I was raised by hard-working Latino parents who encouraged me to achieve everything I wanted,” she told FIERCE. “They never saw my goals as impossible; on the contrary, they taught me that being Latina was something to be proud of and that the sky’s the limit. That’s why every time I have a new goal or project, even though I get a little nervous, I have the courage to accept the challenge.”

Finding her true calling with Sirena Patterns

It was when Hernandez began exploring ways to expand her business and reach that she came up with the concept for Sirena Patterns. It is a sewing pattern business where she could create gorgeous sewing patterns that allow fashion lovers to download PDF patterns and order sewing kits to create their own fashion pieces. 

“While I truly enjoyed crafting the personalized attire and swimwear that best fit my clientele and helped boost their confidence, I wanted to delve deeper into the fashion industry and adapt my business into a more scalable model,” she told FIERCE. “Five years ago, I shifted gears and decided to transform my business to utilize all my knowledge, experience, and expertise in the sewing and fashion fields to reach a wider audience.”

Now, after making the career shift, Hernandez creates sewing patterns in both digital and printed formats, operates an online fashion academy, the Sirena Elite Program, and manages a membership site for Latinas who love sewing and crafting. 

Sirena Patterns is Puerto Rico’s sole bilingual sewing pattern company and club, and it boasts over 40 patterns sold in over 50 countries worldwide. Her global influence spans 2,000 academy students and pattern sales across the world.

Hernandez first had the idea to create Sirena Patterns by listening to audiobooks while running. Through those audio books, she learned a lot about online marketing. 

“I wanted a business that could reach people on a global level and solve my challenges at the time regarding inventory and time,” she shared. “I began selling PDF sewing patterns online and expanded that business model to where we are now.”  

Building a brand and a community

For Hernandez, it’s about more than just the business and the brand — it’s about the community and inspiring others. Her goal has always been to empower and spread wisdom to individuals, particularly women, by fostering a passion for sewing and design and providing people with tools to create.

“Our online community participates in virtual get-togethers. They celebrate their wins, get advice from each other, and have fun! This makes for a truly unique experience for Sirena Patterns subscribers and drives creativity and inspiration for all who participate,” she proudly told FIERCE.

The business model is interwoven with the very foundation of Sirena Patterns — a focus on education, inspiration, community, and inclusion. 

Hernandez and her team at Sirena Patterns firmly believe that education is not only beneficial but essential and should be within everyone’s reach, irrespective of their ethnicity or social or economic background.

At the core of the online community, sewing club, and downloadable tools, the goal is to inspire and empower. 

“Our primary objective revolves around guiding students toward skill mastery while equipping them to embark on their own ventures in fashion. Through our online courses and digital and printed sewing patterns, we address the challenge of creating patterns from scratch. We stand as the definitive solution for individuals seeking to either refine a hobby or earnestly pursue a career in the fashion industry,” Hernandez states on the Sirena Patterns website.

Finding support along the way

While Hernandez knew in her gut that making the career shift and pivoting from her fashion design business to her current sewing pattern empire was the right choice, it was not without stress and obstacles along the way. 

This is particularly true, considering Sirena Patterns is a one-of-a-kind idea. 

“When you are the first at something, things are harder. Since we are the only sewing pattern company in Puerto Rico and the first to offer advanced online Fashion Design programs, establishing efficient systems and processes proved to be an intricate endeavor,” she told FIERCE.

There was also the issue of support or lack thereof. 

“We faced the roadblock of not having a local support network to address our inquiries. However, the struggle to overcome these hurdles instilled a deeper appreciation for our achievements. We were able to make new connections, learn from our mistakes, and try over and over in order to overcome these challenges,” Hernandez shared.

She credits much of her access to support and guidance to the Bravo Family Foundation’s Rising Entrepreneurs Program (REP), which “proved key to mitigating the challenges we faced, particularly in the area of achieving profitable growth for my brand.” 

Her participation in the REP helped Hernandez take Sirena Patterns to new reach and growth potential levels. “Through REP, I expanded this concept further and maintained that growth, launching the design certification, complete with on-demand recordings of my classes so students could revisit them as they developed their skills as designers. Through its lessons, mentorship, and support, REP helped me elevate my idea into the full-fledged fashion design community it has become,” she shared. 

Tommie Hernandez and Sirena Patterns have certainly come a long way 

And she does not take that growth or success for granted. On the contrary, she’s quick to share her wisdom with other entrepreneurs. After all,  her brand’s mission is to educate and empower other women and Latinas and inspire others to chase their goals and design their futures. 

Her best advice to other Latina entrepreneurs is to apply for a business incubator or accelerator. 

“You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. What’s better than being around other entrepreneurs and mentors when you want to build a business? We’ve participated in multiple programs like the Rising Entrepreneurs Program, and there is so much to learn from the mentors and your peers. It’s a game-changer!”

And when in doubt, don’t overthink it, she urges. “Commit first, figure out later.” And use your culture and your support system to help propel you forward. “Own your roots, your culture, and that vibrant accent of yours! Celebrate it with pride!”