Liz Nazario of Atelier LN: Leather Accessories made in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico

Today we have the pleasure of interviewing an artisan from Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico who makes hand-painted leather accessories. She shares with us what inspires her work and the lessons she learned when starting her own business.

Meet Liz Nazario from Atelier LN!

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Liz Jeannete Nazario Pagan, I’m 41 years old, I’m the mother of a 13-year-old girl, I’ve been living in Juana Diaz for 11 years. I studied Marketing and Administration of Hotels and Restaurants. I am a PRIDCO certified artisan since 2013. And since then I am the owner of Atelier LN where I make purses, briefcases, wallets and accessories in leather. I work with my husband Gabriel Iglesias who is my partner in crime and he has accompanied me and supported me throughout this entire process as an entrepreneur. ☺

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

In 2012 I started making leather accessories which I liked a lot and sold to my friends and colleagues. But to be able to present myself at craft shows and fairs I had to be certified as an artisan. However, at that time Fomento, not certifying artisans in the accessories category so I decided to look for a product category related to what I was already doing and that’s why I decided to start preparing leather handbags and purses.

I’ve always loved craft fairs and I always felt called to be on the other side of the table, serving people, and I was finally able to do this when I was certified in December 2013. Since then I’ve always done very well at shows and selling directly via my own Facebook page and via Instagram.

What inspires you?

Everything inspires me, especially different and daring color combinations. I love looking at color charts, fashion magazines and entrepreneurship books.

Currently, the bags I most enjoy making at the hand painted, so those combinations of colors inspire me use them in my wallets. Customers like it a lot since each hand painted piece is unique and different. Each client knows that each piece is unique and one of a kind and is not repeated. I’m also very aware of the details and the finishes so that the piece is a quality one.

Why are handicrafts and supporting local products so important?

Handicrafts are important because they help preserve our identity, our culture and help us remember who we are as a country. I am convinced that in Puerto Rico there are many local products of excellent quality and when we support each other we promote the local economy and contribute to the development of more local businesses. We must cultivate in the younger generations a culture that recognizes that a product made in Puerto Rico is one of quality.

Since becoming the owner of your own business, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far was learning to create my bags on my own. When I first started I had no formal education in how to build bags and that meant that in the beginning each bag would take me longer to make it. There are many tools I had to learn to use but now I see that the learning process was essential for me. That difficulty at the beginning gave me the opportunity to create my own style of handmade leather wallet and people always tell me, “I like your work because it is different.” So in the end it was worth it. To this day I continue to educate myself, buying books, taking sewing classes and related workshops to continue learning.

Of all the pieces you have created, which is your favorite?

Wow! There are several … I’ll tell you that the hand-painted pieces are the ones I like the most … but there’s a briefcase I created for a friend that I also love. It was a Three King’s Day gift for her husband. It was a large piece and a challenge for me. It took many hours of work and when I finished it I kept looking at it because I loved it. It was 100% handmade: the cutting, painting, sewing, the whole finishing process was done by my hands. So it was one of those pieces that I was very proud to be able to create.

There was also another briefcase that went to Costa Rica, so there is part of me in Costa Rica as well!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business selling their own creations?

My main recommendation is that you complete the process to be certified with the Puerto Rican Artisan Development Program, that way you can sell your goods at craft shows and fairs here in Puerto Rico and thus have a stronger presence. Make sure your product line is something unique in your category and be consistent with your products.

Keep learning new things and take advantage of social networks to promote your work. Know that an entrepreneur works 24/7 and that to see results you have to give three times more effort than with a “regular” job, but in the end when you see customers happy with the piece they bought from you the satisfaction is incredible. That is priceless!!

Where can we get your products?

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram and at local fairs or craft shows where I participate.

Thanks to Liz for taking time out of her day for this interview! I wish you continued success for you and Atelier LN.

If you’re a maker and want to learn how to expand or start your business, join the club through Patreon or follow me on Instagram.