One of the reasons I travel is to meet people from all over the world. It is a beautiful thing to meet strangers who you can instantly connect with and share stories, ideas, and moments with. Traveling is an opportunity to step into another culture, look into others’ lives and customs, and be inspired and learn from what you see.
By introducing you to Lucía and women like her, whether it’s other small business owners or solo travelers, my intention is to shine a light on the essence of what it means to live fearlessly. The women I am featuring in this series are personally inspiring to me, and I hope they ignite something within yourself that aligns you with your truth and gives you the push to start living a life that is inspiring to you.
To me, there is nothing more inspiring than those who follow their passion and fearlessly chase their dreams. Meet Lucía Cobian, a beautiful example of a woman crafting her skill in the form of homemade backpacks and handbags all made with local material.
At only 24 years old, she built her own business, La Chola, and is a central part of a small community in the village she recently relocated to in pursuit of turning the vision of her brand into a reality.
Originally from a suburb of the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, she now lives in Tilcara in the northern part of Argentina, which is near the border of Chile and Bolivia in the Andes mountain range. She’s been living there for a few months.
HOW IT BEGAN
Before she moved to Tilcara, she was studying fashion design at the University of Architecture and Urbanism Design in Buenos Aires. There she began producing jean backpacks and her friends loved it so much that they started ordering and buying them from her. That’s how the brand La Chola began in 2013. “Chola” is the name of indigenous women in Bolivia who wear the traditional clothing. The traditional clothing inspired some of the looks of her creations. La Chola is also the surname of her aunt, who has always inspired and supported her through everything.
In 2016, she went to Jujuy in northern Argentina as she was curious about the weaving technique found in this region. The next year, she took a weaving course and that’s when she fell in love with the area…the mountains, the magic, the people, their traditions, their culture, all the materials, the colors, the techniques, everything! She completed the course and learned a lot of new techniques and improved her skills.
STARTING HER BUSINESS
In the meanwhile, she continued to return to Tilcara. She always found an excuse to come back to the place she felt such a connection to. As she finished her studies, she decided to move to Tilcara. She had the vision to open a shop based on what she learned in university combined with the skills she learned through the weaving courses.
“This is the magic that happens around here…when you have an idea you’re inspired by, the opportunities just appear. It was all very clear and happened quite easily.” She quickly found a storefront to rent for her shop and a home nearby. The only true difficulty she faced was other peoples’ opinions.
“You know these people who tell you, oh my gosh, what a project…very ambitious. You’re crazy! Have you really thought this through? Do you really know what you’re doing?” As she faced this, she took that not-so-positive energy and transformed it to motivation. She moved forward, believing in herself, her vision, and turned her belief in La Chola into one of her strengths.
“I wasn’t going to listen to them. I continued to do my thing and work hard. I knew that if I stuck with it, it would work out.”
La Chola is a shop, but even moreso, it’s the place where Lucía spends most of her time turning her visions into reality. She spends her days there at the drawing board, weaving, and carefully creating each product by hand.
The shop is also largely community-oriented. People stroll into the shop and watch her behind the sewing machine. There are many people stopping by the shop all throughout the day and into the evening, drinking mate (an Argentine tradition), hanging out, and this is how many new ideas come up as well. For example, a friend of hers recently stopped by the shop and brought wooden fruit boxes from the local market. He thought they’d be a great addition to the shop. She placed it on the wall as a shelf to display her latest product. A great new addition! They drink mate and chat, celebrating new ideas and suggestions.
This is how CJ from my latest ‘Inspiring Travelers’ series got to know Lucía. They came up with a unique “La Chola Tour” where CJ will take a customized backpack/purse hybrid and snap photos of herself with the product throughout her travels all around the world.
She also sells blankets, gloves, and socks made from llama wool and all sorts of handmade products crafted by local friends and craftsmen. She reminds me that all products in the store are made with love! This is her way of connecting with and supporting the local community.
What keeps her going? Simple. She absolutely loves what she does. She wakes up in the morning, walks down the street to the shop, admiring the Andes Mountains in the distance. She feels that she is in the right place at the right time doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing. She’s a radiant, motivated, and inspiring young woman who has set out to do what she loves and sharing that with her community!
THE FUTURE OF LA CHOLA
In the future, she aims to develop the products and create new designs for multipurpose travel bags and purses for all types of people.
She would love to expand her brand and open shops in different cities around Argentina or around the world. For now, it makes sense for her to be in the village. For Lu, living in the village is a deliberate personal and professional life choice. She has found her home there and people are more receptive and appreciative of her work than if she were in her hometown of Buenos Aires.
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? Fiercely believe in yourself. Don’t allow outsiders or people who doubt you to bring you down.
“Do what you love. Do what you believe in. And do it the best you can. – Lucía Cobian”
You can follow CJ’s “La Chola Tour” through her Instagram on CJontheroadagain.
Check out La Chola products on Facebook and Instagram. Like and Follow La Chola on social media to follow her journey! To buy a product, you can message Lucía on these social media sites and she will send you a link with the order form, which is a common way of doing business transactions in Argentina. For travelers who are inspired by Lucía and her vision, she would love to post your photos with her products and feature them on her social media sites!
*Special thanks to CJ for her inspiration for this article and the effort she put into interviewing and translating. Thank you, soul sister!