I hope you enjoy this interview with Laura Grier, co-founder of the Peruvian hat line Andeana Hats.
When did you start your business?
The concept of Andeana Hats was only born a year ago in 2018 while my business partner and I were trekking across the Rainbow Mountains in the Sacred Valley of Peru!
What is the spark that pushed you to start?
While Pats and I were trekking the Ausangate trek across the Rainbow Mountains at 1700 ft. slightly giddy and deprived of oxygen, we walked through amazing villages and met with the Quechan people along the way. We were inspired by their unique hats and how they still live out their weaving traditions from hundreds of years ago today. We soon realized with our combined backgrounds, passions and skill sets in travel, tourism, fashion, and photography that there was no one better to help share these AMAZING hats with the world.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Yes. I knew from a young age that I couldn’t stand when someone told me something couldn’t be done. No one will care about something as much as you do, so if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. I love the freedom of being my own boss. I knew I had to create a career that combined my passions of travel and meeting new people. The ability to create a brand new product from a simple idea is exhilarating. I always knew I was meant for much more than a desk job.
What are the three greatest challenges of your business? The three greatest joys?
Our first challenge has been communicating with indigenous people whose language predates the Internet. Another is having to respect their way of life such as holidays, their harvest and shearing seasons and the fact that traditional currency doesn’t drive them. This makes rushing deadlines a little tricky. Same thing goes for Mother Nature. She makes handmade Alpaca wool hats hard to create and import into America. The production time completely depends on the rainy season. The greatest joys of this company go hand in hand with the challenges. Getting to work with these incredible humans, learn about their culture and traditions while being surrounded by such beauty in Peru all while getting to bring their gorgeous crafts to the world is absolutely incredible. Its humbling to realize how much power mother nature has in our business and it’s a great lesson to learn to respect nature and not give so much importance to money.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
“It is so fun to watch my business evolve into travel and tourism working with National Geographic and now founding Andeana Hats. Every evolution of my business involves combining my passions and skill sets along the way.”Living abroad from a young age, it was no surprise that I turned my life of travel, adventure, and exploration into a profession. As a photojournalist for the past 20 years, I have photographed on all 7 continents and have made a life out of exploring the world, capturing, and writing about my experiences. It is so fun to watch my business evolve into travel and tourism working with National Geographic and now founding Andeana Hats. Every evolution of my business involves combining my passions and skill sets along the way.
If you could invite a famous public figure (deceased or alive) to lunch, who would it be?
I love Richard Branson because he is a visionary a disrupter, adventurer, explorer, and a self-made eccentric billionaire. He only has a 4th grade education and dyslexia and his fearless mindset completely changed the game and the world. Richard believes that doing good is great for business. That is our mantra for Andeana Hats.
What are your favorite three items in your wardrobe and why?
Obviously my Andeana Hat is my number 1! Second would have to be my llama onsie, I take it everywhere I travel. Thirdly, I would have to say I have so many colorful costumes and outfits from around the world I can’t choose just one. My closet is a rainbow of loose, flowing, beautifully vibrant clothes. That way my photos really stand out.
What current sustainable practices is your company doing, and what do you hope to be doing within the next 3 years?
We are working with materials that do not harm the environment or animals. We are helping to sustain the Incan weaving traditions, and help them to use the products from the alpaca wool, with natural dyes that doesn’t hurt the world, while letting them keep their way of life that they have been practicing for hundreds of years. Andeana Hats provides a sustainable platform for them to provide for their families and community.
How did you come up with the name of your line?
I have always been a huge fan of Indiana Jones. I’ve been called the Indiana Jones of travel photography. Once the concept of our company was born, it didn’t take long to come up with a play on words while trekking through the Andes mountains.
Can you name the ah-ha moment when you received confirmation that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing?
My ah ha moment would be when my partner and I talked to National Geographic and they said that they have never sold woman’s hats before in their artesian catalogue. They then asked us if we could provide a way to get the hats from the villages to consumers in America. They said if we could do that, then they would give us their blessing. That was the confidence we needed to take on our passion project that now is so much more.
If you could tell your 21-year-old self something, what would it be?
1. OWN YOUR OWN STYLE- BE CONSISTENT- SO what if my work doesn’t look like Style Me Pretty, or if I don’t have the most likes on FB. Trends come and go, but your style should stand out and be your own. Don’t force yourself to bend with the trends if it not you. Your clients will find you and you will be happy and proud of what you’re doing rather than fighting the masses upstream. Again, if you are constantly changing your work to match what is the newest trend or hiring people that don’t share your vision or style, your work will be disjointed. Clients are hiring you based on your work and style, so be consistent.
2. ALWAYS CREATE- Constantly CREATE and do Inspiration shoots to hone your craft or stay relevant. If you’re struggling with a trend, create a new one. HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER. Suggest Story ideas or interesting approach to your shoot and it will come back to you tenfold. Become a thought expert to further your brand. Magazines and blogs are always looking for article ideas and you want to content or pitch ideas for magazines and blogs to make yourself stand out.
3. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND FIND A WORK/LIFE BALANCE- All of the perks of owning a business, the freedom, flexibility, creative power and pride of seeing your work and business come to life…sort of comes with a price and a constant struggle to find balance between work and your personal life since it is such a fuzzy gray line as to where one begins and one ends. I am never able to turn my brain off or “clock out” which is a blessing and a curse at times. I have learned that I need to be ok with relaxing and turning off my work sometimes. That taking care of yourself (even though it takes hours away from you actually getting some work done) in the long run makes you far more successful and happy and in turn a better, more successful, more well-rounded business owner. I wish someone would have told me… That I had more control over the types of jobs I wanted and to go brand myself from the beginning. Also, I wish someone would have explained that “success” is not based on getting the most money or celebrity jobs, but based on if you are doing what you love. I would have been less hard on myself. Also, to not compare yourself to others and be ok with being unique.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
I would love to have an Adventure Travel TV Show where I am hunting for treasure or lost civilizations… some sort of quest to find the unknown and off the beaten path locales. I also would LOVE to create a coffee table book or documentary about wedding traditions and cultural practices from around the world. Every culture, no mater how primitive, has some sort of uniting ceremony between a man and woman and I find it fascinating how similar, yet different they can all be. I think it would unite us more as a member of humanity seeing how similar we all really are no matter what culture we belong to. I want to visit at least 50 more countries and influence woman around the world to be fearless explorers.
What is your favorite item in your line sheet and why?
I love every hat that we carry… color, style, and size. Although, the intention bands are extremely special and bring a one of a kind aspect to these already incredibly unique hats. They bring everything that the Quechua people believe in and stand for straight to the wearer. It is something that no other hat being made in the world can say its simply intentional.