Image Source: Yulia Nar
“Overcoming the challenges is very rewarding but also very nerve-racking,” Isabella Montoya, founder of Paz Lifestyle, says about starting her own business. You would think that launching an online retail business a year before the pandemic would’ve been a recipe for disaster. But that was far from the case for Montoya, who launched a sustainable fashion and lifestyle e-commerce website in May 2019 and officially launched with an LLC in New York on March 9, 2020. “Eventually, I began to crave more meaning and purpose behind my work and resigned from Prada in February 2020 to dedicate my full-time attention to Paz Lifestyle.”
Montoya was born in Peru, but she grew up in Houston, where her family moved when she was just 3 years old. Nearly eight years ago, she made another life-changing move to New York City, residing in Brooklyn. The former Texas native recounts she was doing many things at once before deciding to take the plunge and become a full-time entrepreneur. “It was hard. Leading up to launching Paz Lifestyle I was working full-time at Prada, studying international trade and marketing full-time at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), and a part-time member of the New York Fair Trade Coalition.”
Montoya’s inspiration for launching a business that focused on selling ethical and conscious brands was a mélange between her studies, which taught her about the negative impact the fashion industry has on our planet and people, and her experience in the luxury sector.
Image Source: Diana Mena
“I built a career in luxury retail working for Elie Tahari, Christian Dior, and Prada, all companies who have inspired me deeply with their personal journeys,” she shares. “Mr. Tahari is the embodiment of the American Dream, he arrived in New York with less than $100 and built his brand from scratch. Mr. Dior built a legacy in less than a decade after finding his calling at 40 years old and passing away early in his life. Mrs. Prada is a living legend. She is ahead of her time as a CEO, creative designer, and owner of her conglomerate brands, Prada and Miu Miu.”
“I am and will forever be inspired by my parents’ journey and how hard they work to provide for our family. My family instilled grit in me.”
In addition to that, Montoya was further inspired by her family. “I am and will forever be inspired by my parents’ journey and how hard they work to provide for our family. My family instilled grit in me,” she says. Choosing the name Paz, which means peace in Spanish, was highly significant for the female entrepreneur. “Paz is inspired by my Mother. My mother’s maiden name is Paz, and her birthday is on April 22, Earth Day. I always wanted to have a family name as a business name and what makes it extra special is that it shares the meaning of our philosophy of approaching business in a selfless manner and working towards a regenerative culture,” Montoya explains.”
Paz Lifestyle is a mecca for chic, luxury, indie, and up-and-coming brands within clothing, accessories, footwear, beauty, and home. Some of the brands you can shop include Lima Sagrada, a line that produces luxury handbags in trendy and timeless styles such as the Cream Checkered Woven Bag ($380). Another is Loti, a brand whose founder is also Peruvian and specializes in making one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories with upcycled textiles. The Zero Waste Sun Hat ($68) is a favorite during the warmer months. Within beauty, there is Nutu, which offers wellness and beauty products like the Moringa Face Oil ($36) that are made and infused with moringa. And within home, you can find Ponchos Rojas, a brand that upcycles Bolivian textiles and works with communities in the Bolivian Andes to create new works like the Upcycled Pink Stripe Pillow ($48).
“Working solely with sustainable brands has been a process of due diligence. We built a hybrid business model that works with the current times and welcomes any brand that shares the same values and journey [as us],” explains the Brooklynite. Moreover, the Latina businesswoman finds her website to be a positive force for brands that also come from her native roots. “What has been great is sharing this platform with brands from my home country, Perú, where for many centuries sustainable practices have existed for the fashion industry along with other international brands.”
Image Source: Diana Mena
Although PL is an online store, Montoya hopes to one day open a permanent destination store. For now, she likes to bring customers an IRL shopping experience with occasional pop-ups. This way, they can get a look and feel of the products firsthand. “Our clients also get a rare shopping experience by being able to meet and greet the founders behind our brands,” she adds. Not only does socializing with the brands’ founders feel like an intimate and friendly shopping experience, but it also allows customers to see and try on items while better understanding the brand’s mission, how the items are made, and what makes them special.
Having a strong foundation within fashion and retail has given Montoya the means to grow a successful business. She’s three years into launching Paz Lifestyle and still going strong, but she can attest that starting a company from scratch comes with some challenges. “My biggest challenge is scaling, e-commerce, and balancing a healthy work schedule. I have been practicing the four-day work week schedule which is hard but something I have to learn to do. I would like to offer it to our future employees one day and I am aware that I should try it/practice it too,” says the founder.
“Starting a business on my own was the bravest thing I have done and thus the most rewarding.”
Nonetheless, having the opportunity to launch a retail business that’s close to her heart has given her a world of possibilities and she’s only getting started. “Starting a business on my own was the bravest thing I have done and thus the most rewarding,” Montoya shares. “I have met the most incredible friends along the way to help me with my journey and other inspiring entrepreneurs that are part of Paz Lifestyle brands, who all fill my life with so much joy,” she shares.
Image Source: Diana Mena
As a Latina who’s living out her dreams of working in luxury, retail, and most importantly, doing it consciously, Montoya is well aware that she couldn’t have done it without her team and those supporting her along the way. “My accomplishments are a celebration of teamwork and the unconditional love and support from my partner Antoine Desjonqueres, an entrepreneur for sustainable agriculture who is CoFounder of Nutu and now CoFounder of Paz Lifestyle.”
“We were able to achieve $128k in sales in 2021 and are on the way to doubling our sales from 2021 and paying myself a salary of $30k. We are very grateful to our customers/clients who have supported us since launching our first pop-up in December 2019 at a cafe in Brooklyn,” she adds. “Our investors are our customers who shop with us and we are so grateful for their support.” When asked about her thoughts on being an entrepreneur, she responds: “For me personally, I would describe it as a constant practice of perseverance and having an agile perspective on errors and mistakes. I have taken many steps to get to today along with many learning curves to achieve my dreams.”
Montoya adds that learning is what she loves most about owning a business. “We have accomplished so much for ourselves and for the brands that shape Paz Lifestyle, a new generation of brands that are pioneers in what they do.”