Instant Innovation

When the global pandemic that no one expected caught us off guard and threw the economy into a tailspin, many Miamians got creative and took the opportunity to launch new businesses that effortlessly meld their skills, passions and pastimes to yield ideas worth investing in.
Words by Jorge Arauz | July 31, 2020 | Lifestyle

Across the U.S. and around the world, millions of people are finding themselves in a situation they never imagined with uncertainty surrounding nearly every facet of life — including work. “People’s very identities are often tied to their jobs and careers,” says Kimberly Roush, Founder of All-Star Executive Coaching and Co-Author of Who Are You…When You Are Big?. “In a situation like this, you’ve lost your job, your title, your paycheck and are left wondering who you are and where you go from here.” She says it’s natural to take a few days to regroup after the initial shock of having a career torpedoed. “It can be a chance to redefine success on your terms, as well as an opportunity to take your career off autopilot and get it moving in a direction that gives you more fulfillment.”

And that’s exactly what Miami-based Industrial Engineer María Márquez has been able to do with her smile-inducing, colorful Mandado Bags. “The word mandado is Spanish for errands, market runs and other chores,” she says. “It’s a one-word summary of my daily activities and a perfect way to introduce some of my Latin flare to the brand.” More than a traditional grocery bag, Mandado Bags are wearable works of art that will add pizzazz to any outfit. They are all printed with images of Mexican icons known around the world and then decorated with sequins, crystals and other appliques that Márquez adds to bring out their one-of-a-kind beauty. “The pandemic has made it clear that people prefer to buy from people and not faceless giants,” she says. “This crisis has pushed everyone to create consciousness and think more about the makers, crafters and artisans behind our favorite pieces.”

Raphaelle Paolini is one such artisan who recently launched PAO Jewelry during COVID from her condo in Brickell. After making 250 bracelets for healthcare workers at Jackson Memorial Hospital and other health facilities throughout Miami, she immediately realized the joy her bracelets brought to people’s faces was something she wanted to continue. And so it came that she took the skills she had learned at a “Market For Makers” event pre-COVID and launched PAO. “I was living in Paris just a few short months ago and decided to come to Miami for a better life and endless opportunities,” she says. “With my new jewelry line, I’m trying to make something positive come out of quarantine, and the sudden interest in my pieces has been a humbling and inspiring experience!”

Equally inspired is Jaime Mulet, who has worked in the service industry for the past 20 years in Miami at various landmark establishments including Monty’s, Automatic Slims and The Clevelander. His new shoe laundry service, The Sneaker Butlers, is gaining momentum with sneakerheads around the city. “During these ‘new norm’ times, I’ve been able to work on ideas that I had previously put on the backburner because of the long hours and constant daily grind of my jobs,” he says. “The Sneaker Butlers and our IG @TheSneakerButlersMIA was born on my kitchen table with nothing but a legal pad and a bottle of Jameson — I had so many ideas but no GPS to guide me other than a passion for kicks, a hard work ethic and a determination to succeed.”

Another new business that also launched at home during COVID is Quiche Me. A Miami native, Montsy Smithies, a working mom of two elementary school-aged children, has been a Physical Therapist for 20 years, including 6 years at Jackson Memorial Hospital and most recently at Pinecrest Physical Therapy. Back in March, when school moved to virtual learning and the demand at work was reduced significantly when elective orthopedic procedures were cancelled, she went from working 40 hours a week to 15 hours at the clinic, giving her plenty of time to fine-tune her culinary skills. As Easter and April birthdays came around, she says she started to miss celebrating special occasions. In lieu of traditional gifts, she began baking her family’s legendary quiche recipe and giving them away as presents. “Everyone LOVED it!,” she says. At the urging of her best friend, she began to experiment further with the recipe, hoping to sell a few for Mother’s Day. “That Monday, I posted my idea in a chat of close high school friends and before I knew it, I had 5 days to make 40 quiches!” Throughout the first few weeks, she was operating behind a logo, pictures of her quiches and Instagram mentions. “Just recently, I decided to put my name, face and story next to my quiches and the outpouring of support that followed has been UNREAL,” she says. “This is when realized I was on to something special. I’ve always taken great pride in making a difference in people’s lives with therapy, now I can bring joy with my quiches!”

As a Kundalini Yogi & Crystal Healer, Diana Bomeny felt a desire to create soulful and meaningful products and services that would inspire the community. Shortly after that realization, she set out to launch Soul Stories, a lifestyle brand she co-founded with her mother, Marina Ebe. In addition to their online shop, Soul Stories offer a variety of services including Kundalini yoga, crystal healing, sound healing, meditation and breathwork sessions. “The outbreak has inspired us to fulfill and follow through with our dreams,” they say. “We feel particularly aligned now in these times where our products and services may bring healing to people all around the world.”

Looking toward the future, Career Coach Roush brings it full circle and offers a few choice words of wisdom and says it’s all about creating your own destiny by expanding your network — and using it to your advantage. “Your network isn’t just everyone you’ve worked with in the past,” she says. “It’s your customers, vendors, family members, neighbors, fellow soccer moms and dads, members of your church, fellow volunteers — anyone you come into contact with can potentially steer you in the right direction. You never know where a lead for your next great job is going to come from.” 

In the end, as long as you keep your head in the game and put in the effort, you will find meaningful employment again, likely in a better position than the last one you were in. “Just keep your spirits up, stay positive and, as difficult as it may seem, enjoy the ride!”