Me, Mariana Figueiredo, entrepreneur and creator of Nunamae

Moi, Mariana Figueiredo, entrepreneure et créatrice de Nunamae

As Nunamae celebrated its third birthday this year, I wanted to share with you a part of my journey as an entrepreneur. As you can imagine, it is dotted with great encounters, disappointments, great successes, questions, and of course, a lot of work. With this article, I want to convince you that if you have the desire and the self-sacrifice, your projects can not only see the light of day, but also become 100% your daily life. We met ?

My name is Mariana Figueiredo, I am 35 years old. I was born in Caldas da Rainha, a small town on the Portuguese coast north of Lisbon. I moved to the capital with my family at the age of 7, and I lived there until I was 15.
Caldas da Rainha, is an artistic town very well known thanks to the famous ceramist Bordalo Pinheiro , whose pieces in the shape of vegetables and fruits you certainly know. It was here, after finishing high school, that I decided to study interior design at the School of Arts and Design.

When I graduated in 2011, Portugal was going through a serious economic crisis and there weren't many job offers for those who wanted to enter the job market. A year later, I decided to leave Portugal for Paris. At the time, I didn't want to practice my profession, I didn't see myself working as an interior designer. I wanted to learn French and earn money so I could travel. I felt like I needed to see different cultures, to explore the world a little. So I worked as an “Au pair” to learn the language and finance my travels.

What was your professional background before launching Nunamae?

I didn't have a linear path. For several years, I didn't know what I wanted to do, what could make me truly happy and fulfilled.
The loss of my mother, who died of devastating cancer in 2007, reinforced this feeling of being lost. There was something to be filled in me, but I didn't know what the path was.

In 2013, I went to Turkey, where I lived for 9 months, as part of a volunteering project. Then, I continued to travel for two years, before returning to Paris. It allowed me to discover the world and myself in a different way. It changed my mentality.

In 2018, I am back in Lisbon. Until the creation of Nunamae in 2020, I had jobs as an executive assistant, project manager in a digital marketing company, I created a Portuguese crafts brand and I also worked in as a purchasing manager in a design company.
I am very proud of my journey, because I know that I am where I need to be today thanks to everything I have done and learned over the years.

How much time passed between the moment you started thinking about the Nunamae project and the moment you launched it?

In fact, it only took a few months. I had just sold another craft project in March 2020, and I wasn't really thinking about starting a brand again. But a few weeks later, I started to tell myself that I would sincerely like to make something meaningful. I had in mind the production of a sustainable, local product, manufactured with conscience and of quality. The ideas were numerous and all very different from each other.

When I finally decided to launch my rug brand, six months passed until the website launched. The process was quick, and my investment at the time was 300 euros! I made the website myself and the first photos were taken at home. The whole branding part was done by my boyfriend. In terms of stock, I only worked on 3 sizes, and two colors: beige and ecru. I purchased one unit of each of the small sizes (which were the prototypes) and launched the website. I didn't want to take too many risks, I was afraid it wouldn't work. We were in the middle of a pandemic and everything was uncertain. Additionally, I had a full-time job at the time and Nunamae was born with the intention of being a part-time project.

Was funding a problem?

No, because apart from purchasing the validated prototypes, the site domain, printing the labels, and the monthly site fee, everything was done by my boyfriend at the time, and me. This allowed me to make big savings.

What do you suffer most when starting a business?

I think the biggest problem when you create a company where you are the only one working for is loneliness. Even if we are in contact with many partners, suppliers and customers, this feeling is the one that takes up the most space.
When a question arises, in terms of investment or creativity, there is obviously no team to brainstorm. You also have to be a very good manager of your time, and control your schedule by planning activities outside of work in order to be able to socialize with other people.

Your advice for maintaining your mental health when things get difficult?

At the start of 2021, I burned out, because I was working full time and Nunamae was growing. We were also confined, and I took care of my son at home alongside my two activities.
It was a very difficult time as Nunamae was just starting out and growing. I knew I had to make a choice and follow the path that would make me happy and fulfilled.

In May, I left my job to devote myself 100% to Nunamae. Since then, I have been paying attention to my mental and physical health. It's not always easy, especially when you work in a small company where everything depends on you. I feel like we often spend our days solving problems and situations at the last minute, which can be frustrating and mentally exhausting.

Personally, I do physical exercise, weight training and pilates. I also decided to see a psychologist once a week (which we all should do) and this year I decided to do hypnotherapy sessions, which is incredibly good and has helped me see quickly a difference in my emotional, physical and even creative state.
I have also learned to spend time alone reading or meditating, which does me a lot of good. It is essential to have time for yourself, as well as for your family and friends, and for this it is essential to have excellent time management.

What is your greatest achievement?

Completing this project is my greatest pride and greatest achievement. I never thought I would create something that would allow me to quit my main job just 8 months after launching. I did it because I felt the need to exploit my creative side and my passion for decoration. I worked with my heart and my intuition.

How do you manage your victories, but also your doubts? 

In terms of victories, I have a first moment of excitement and joy like a little child when he receives a new toy. In fact, I am very grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. I always analyze what was done to make them happen in my life.
As for my doubts, I learned to manage them over time. Today, I no longer let them worry me. Often, time is my best friend.

How to manage your time when you do everything from A to Z?

On weekends, usually Sunday evening, I organize my schedule for the following week. In the morning, I always try to do the priority tasks: meetings, commercial prospecting. And in the afternoon, I devote myself to the creative part.
Every week, I have unforeseen events, and I always try to integrate them into what is already planned in the agenda.

What part of your activity do you like best?

The part that gives me the most pleasure is the creative part, the discovery of new artisans and new techniques. Portugal is rich in crafts, and each region has its own tradition. I enjoy traveling across the country and visiting their workshops, chatting with them, learning their stories and collaborating hand in hand on different projects.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started?

1/ You don't need to have many years of experience
2/ Start with very little
3/ Others’ fears are not yours
4/ A project that you create is a part of you that you release into the world
5/ Success is made of mistakes and victories
6/ Be consistent every day
7/ Do what makes you happy

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