Pushing past the fear to bring dignity to women in Guatemala, meet Sheeva Sairafi, CEO and Founder of Local + Lejos

Meet Sheeva Sairafi, CEO, Founder of Local + Lejos shares her HeartStories

This girl is on fire.  Her heart is set on creating lasting impact and she won’t let anything get in her way, including a conversation with me!  Ha.  Seriously though, she made it very clear (in her kind, caring way) that she’s not here to shoot the breeze, her focus is on empowering women in Guatemala by bringing us design with intention.

She had me at hello.  Let’s meet Sheeva!

Hi Sheeva!  Excited to get to know you a bit!  First things firt, tell us where you’re from?

I grew up in the suburbs of Massachusetts, and went to Boston University for college. A year after graduation, I moved to NYC for a few years before calling Los Angeles home!

What were you doing before you started Local + Lejos?

Straight out of college, I started working for a huge corporate retailer, TJX Companies (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods!).  I had an amazing experience there. Throughout my time I held roles in planning, allocation, merchandising, and buying. I was able to work in Boston, New York, London, and then eventually, to my now home, Los Angeles.

Without the groundwork that I learned from my experience there, I wouldn’t have had the guts to leave and feel confident that I can do this.

How did you get started? 

The business started as my passion project.

I had heard that the textile market in Guatemala was out of this world, and was really interested in exploring if there was potential to work with artisans there. So, a friend and I packed a bag and headed south for a few days. I was completely blown away, 7 suitcases filled later; I headed home and started the branding process.

I had a few pop up shops around town, and when my entire inventory was gone in just a few weeks, I realized there was more to be built. At the time, I was still working some consulting jobs, and I called it my side hustle for at least the first 6 months. But, when one of the jobs surfaced to become a full-time opportunity, I realized I had to take the leap and give the business all my time.

Local + Lejos has been self-funded with my personal savings, and I won’t lie – it has been stressful!

Tell us about your support system through building Local + Lejos. 

Sheeva Sairafi, Local + LejosMy family has been extremely supportive, both financially and mentally. My boyfriend is also referred to as my Director of Operations (he’s gunning for the VP title).

But, what has helped me the most is connecting with other founders that are overcoming similar challenges and learning from one another.

My close friend Jess Puccinelli, of Haute Hope is referred to as my work wife, and there is rarely a day that goes by without a stream of texts / calls / emails to discuss a work related matter.

What’s been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

Not that these are huge sacrifices, but I have just really had to change my spending behaviors and habits. I’m much more cognizant of how every dollar (both personal and work) is spent, because we have such a limited budget.  As a result, I’m not able to do a lot of things I used to be able to (like attend every wedding I’m invited to), and sometimes it’s hard for friends to understand that.

What is the hardest negative soundtrack in your mind, you have to overcome? What’s the thing you’re most afraid of?

Without a question, the fear of failure.

After spending so much time with our artisans and understanding how important this work is to their lives, I feel its my duty to understand the consumer / marketing side to continue to grow this business. The women are doing their part, and now its time for me to do mine.

It is both terrifying and exciting all at the same time.

Some days, when fear takes over, its hard to do anything. I’ve spent a lot of time meditating and learning to let go of the thoughts that don’t serve me. In the end, I always go back to my gut feeling (I figure it hasn’t led me too far astray in this life), that this is what I’m meant to be doing, and that there is a market opportunity for this business.

How do you do good? 

Sheeva SairafiAt Local + Lejos, our mission is empowerment.

Spending time in these local communities, you see what lack of opportunities exists. Our business was born to provide these opportunities, and truly use business as a force for good.  We do not hand money to our artisans for not doing work, we provide them an opportunity for a job, and most importantly, to learn.

When a woman is dignified, she is powerful.

A powerful woman can make decisions outside of her work life that deeply affect the cycle of the next generation. For example, keeping their children in school.  Our work provides opportunity and access to sustainable work that is very hard to find in these developing nations. We run training programs with our artisans, to teach them new skills, and how to manage their finances.

It’s so true Sheeva.  You’re helping women create sustainable futures for generations to come in Guatemala, India, Mexico and Rwanda.  What you’re doing is beautiful on every level.  And your designs are to die for!  

I’m thrilled we get to bring those designs to Dallas TOMORROW for the Fashioned for Freedom runway show. It’s certainly a night of dignity and empowerment for women all over the world.  

Lots of love from us to you Sheeva!

to more love,

Crystal

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