Maria Jose Herrera
Meet Maria, the Maker behind Pontigo
"After seeing hundreds or thousands of single-use plastic bags thrown in the trash, I thought there had to be a better and more environmentally friendly way for a kid to carry snacks to school or the park.
I wanted my daughters to live in a better world, so the change had to start with me."
Read her story below
How did you get into making reusable snack bags, dolls, and kids clothes?
Since I was a little girl my mother taught me how to sew and over the years I became really good at it. So, when the idea of making something to reduce pollution came into the picture, it was a no-brainer to take advantage of my existing skills and started making reusable snack bags with fabric.
After many trials, I ended up with a perfect design that is chlorine free, lined in order to keep food fresh for longer, easy to wash, and of course strong and durable (thanks to my husband who had fun simulating the kids’ abuse on the bags).
Skirts, rompers and dolls came afterwards, because my daughters kept asking for them and I thought it was a great idea to give them something that is homemade, with non-synthetic fabrics, exactly with the prints they wanted, and, in case of the dolls, a friend that looks like them.
“Find a problem that needs to be solved. Then create a solution that you are passionate about and that uses your skills.”
What kinds of jobs did you have leading up to the start of your creative venture?
I’m a mathematician and I used to work in the financial department at a bank. So I could migrate those skills into sewing, but while in high school I worked during the summer at my mother’s uniform factory and I learned to cut and maximize the use of fabric. I learned how to make patterns and calculate the differences between sizes.
How do you envision your brand growing in the future?
This pandemic has really highlighted how business will be conducted in the future. People have grown a new sense of community and have put more importance on local stores and locally made products. At the same time being in lockdown has opened the doors to reach people all over the world through online commerce.
So I think Pontigo will continue focusing on the local community, selling products in local stores and craft fairs while at the same time [reaching] people far away through online markets.
“It is our decision to make this world a better place for our children. And to stop using disposable plastic is a good start.”
What does your workspace look like? Are you hyper-organized, a little messy?
I have a big table used for many purposes. So I need to be very organized so I don’t lose track of where I am in the production process and so I don’t mix any parts. I also have a huge closet where I store every little thing in its own compartment.
“I do sometimes get disappointed when I notice a product or design is not as popular as I thought it would be. However, this helps me understand the market and change focus on what is important.”
If you could move to any other place in this or any universe where would you go?
I would probably go to a place in the Arctic circle, probably Scandinavia, where it is not too hot during the summer and there is light for 20 hours. Then I can ski the rest of the year. I would like my friends and family to be there with me
This place would also have people of all races and colors without any racism. Outdoors life would be the norm, great international food and learning new languages.