Sinai Mejias is from Caracas, Venezuela and now lives on Oz’s Gold Coast. By making surfboard covers and running a DIY and hobby-based blog, she has managed to combine her background with her many loves: friends, family and creating. Her light-hearted outlook has translated into very cheery, colorful products. Here she shares her insight into discovering and playing with the blog and art that she has turned into a budding online business.
Your blog is called “Hola para siempre,” and your shop is “Ola para siempre.” Hello forever and Waves forever – a clever play on words. Can you tell us the story of how you came up with your blog and brand name?
Haha! That’s a funny story. Many years ago, when I was 15 and my brother was nine, my family and I took a trip to the States. When we got home, my dad recorded a video of us sending greetings to our friends in the States. At the end of the video my brother said “chao para siempre,” which means “goodbye forever,” and I thought that was pretty funny. So that became a sort of “internal joke” between my brother and I. Three years ago, I went to visit my family in Venezuela and my brother received me with a big sign that said “hola para siempre,” which means “hello forever.”
How do these two names characterize you and your business?
I guess the fact that I named my business after something that reminds me of my family, makes me feel a bit closer to my roots and my people. Spanish is so beautiful, and I miss my family so much. I just had to do it, I had to name my brand after something meaningful to me.
Where in Venezuela did you grow up? Did you ever get into surfing?
I grew up in Caracas, which is the capital of Venezuela. Caracas is a big city, pretty full-on. My family and I would go to our beach apartment in a town called Higuerote every weekend. I remember having the best times of my life in that place. However, I’ve got to confess I’m not a surfer. My boyfriend is the surfer, and I made my first board cover for him. Sorry to disappoint you guys!
What brought you to the Gold Coast from Venezuela? Have you done other traveling beyond Australia?
Actually I was in Spain before coming to Australia. I was doing a Masters in Marketing, and my boyfriend (Ruben) asked me if I wanted to come to Australia to live with him, and I said yes. So I guess what brought me to Australia was something called ‘love.’ I’ve traveled around Australia since I came here. Australia is such a beautiful country! I’ve also been to Tasmania, and we we’re going to New Zealand in June.
So you make board covers, board bags, and kids’ tents. Where did you get the idea to create and sell these accessories?
I borrowed a sewing machine from Ruben’s mother and started to make Kindle covers and clutches. One day, my friend Alexa gave me the idea of making a board cover. So I made a couple for Ruben, and he loved them and so did his friends. After that I was sewing like crazy and selling my covers online. The play tents idea came because I wanted to make something for kids, something cool and fun. One thing led the other, and after watching Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson, boom! I made my first play tent. I really enjoy doing what I do. I love sewing and creating new things every day.
Where and when did you hone your sewing skills?
My mom used to own a clothing factory, and I grew up surrounded by fabrics and seamstresses, so I guess it’s in my genes!
How do you figure out your fabric schemes and patterns? Do you recycle use leftover fabric from one accessory to use for another one?
Ok, I’ve got to be honest here. I’m not a very organised person. I’m trying to be one, though. I get the fabric, and then I imagine a cool combination in my head. Then I throw the fabrics on the floor and make my “art work” (that’s how I like to call it). After that, it’s just a matter of getting the pieces together and voila — a board cover is born! I do recycle every little thing that I use in the process so I can use it in any of my creations.
But that’s still a great way to go… What elements do you consider most important to call your business successful?
Well, I think it’s a matter of being persistent and loving what you do. Also, my boyfriend Ruben has been so supportive and caring. I have to thank him for how cool he has been through this process.
Is your end goal to run a business creating surfboard covers/bags and tents? Do you hope to expand to creating and selling other types of accessories?
Yes, that’s the goal, to keep making board covers and play tents, and maybe someday I could have my own shop. And when the time comes, I’ll see if I’d like to incorporate other types of accessories.
What are 3-5 things you are most passionate about? We’re curious to know if your business incorporates one or more of these passions.
No. 1: My blog and my business, because they give me the freedom to create my own way
No. 2: My boyfriend, my family and my dog
No. 3: A good book and a good movie
No. 4: Venezuelan food
How has word spread of your blog and shop? Is the online community your biggest majority of buyers, or do you also sell in shops/in person?
Word has spread through friends, Facebook, markets, surfboard shapers, etc. I guess my largest customer base is the online community… And yes, I do also sell in shops (Patagonia Burleigh Heads, Ho’okupu Byron Bay, and Lame in Currumbin).
Can you identify some memorable break-throughs or obstacles you’ve faced with your business? What are some memorable lessons, from the ups or downs, that you’ve learned as a small businesswoman?
It has not been easy. My boyfriend works full-time, and with me running a small business he is the one who’s been paying all the bills. It’s a weird feeling not being able to contribute (money-wise).
I’m five feet tall. I’m short. Very short. So when I go to the shops to sell my covers I have to convince people that my covers are the best covers in the whole world (which they are, of course). I remember one day, I went to this shop, and the lady who was in charge gave me this look and told me that my covers where “too handmade” for the shop. So I grabbed my covers and went home feeling a bit sad. But after a moment I realised that “too handmade” was not an insult. What in the world does “too handmade” mean anyway? “Too handmade” means what I do. I can’t believe in 2013 some people consider “too handmade” as something bad. So I guess after all, you have to believe in what you do. You have to believe in your product. And yes, my products are “too handmade” because I make them with my bare hands. And I’ll tell you something, I have pretty cool hands.
Photos 4,5,7,10, and 12 taken by Victoria Aguirre; the rest captured by Sinai.