Back in April of last year, the Girlboss Foundation awarded Roseli Ilano of ILANO design a grant for her textile and bag company that stood out for its colorful, vibrant aesthetic and for her dedication to conscientious business practices and working with female artisans from all over the world. We checked in with Roseli recently to find out how things have been going in the year and half since she received her grant. Check out her incredible progress!
It’s been over a year since you were awarded your Girlboss Foundation grant. What’s new?!
Handmade sandals! We've expanded ILANO from home textiles and bags to include shoes. I'm proud to share that we've stayed true to our vision of partnering with women artisans from around the globe. Our newest collaboration is with with a small, woman-owned-and-operated taller de huaraches in Mexico that has been perfecting the craft of handmade sandals for more than 30 years. I still design our collections in my Oakland studio and continue to grow the business with my love of bold colors, patterns and the principles of transparency and fairness that anchor the company.
The Girlboss Foundation grant gave me the resources to attend my first tradeshows in Las Vegas and New York to meet some of the most influential buyers and tastemakers from retail outlets I'd only ever dreamed of being in. We went from being in a handful of stores in California to tripling our wholesale accounts to include boutiques across the country, as well as in Europe and Japan. Exhibiting at the tradeshows also gave me access to pitch stylists, bloggers, and fashion journalists. Our sandals were just featured in the July issue of InStyle Magazine.
Since being awarded the grant a year ago, it's been an empowering journey to trade stories with other women who are hustling to make their dreams come true. I feel part of a community, and Sophia's book and the Girlboss Foundation were a big part of creating that space.
How has the grant changed your approach to your business?
I had a breakthrough when I stopped comparing my trajectory and timeline to that of other successful brands (believe me, it's not easy!). I try to focus on my unique point of view, what makes ILANO special as a social enterprise, and doing the daily work to make the best product that represents my aesthetic and values.
I have too many ideas, and that has been a blessing and a curse. It means I stay curious and inspired, but on the flipside, it has pulled me in diverging directions, spending energy on developing new products and partnerships that deviate from our core. Now I ask myself: Is this a need-to-have, or a nice-to-have expense for the business? How is it adding value? Does it stay true to our mission and what makes ILANO truly unique?