Photos by Laura Josefina Kelly | By Abi Isa Lee | January 21, 2022
We're pleased to share an interview with Laura Josefina Kelly, the founder of Sol Authentica, this week!
Laura talks about her childhood memories from Venezuela, how her life challenges fueled her passion, and how she tries to maintain balance in her life.
Continue reading to learn more about how she started her journey as an entrepreneur, the mission behind Sol Authentica, and how she continues to give back to the community.
Crafts-Women: Before we get started, what three words would you use to describe yourself if you were given just three words?
Laura Josefina Kelly: Warm, funny, and genuine
CW: We'd want to learn more about you. Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are some of the most treasured memories that you still have today?
LJK: I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and lived throughout South America and Miami before my family settled in Northern California when I was five years old. Although I lived primary in California, I spent summers and holidays in Venezuela.
I got to experience the world through two very different cultural backgrounds.
My father traveled for work a lot, and some of my fondest memories are his arrivals back from trips - he always brought home a doll for me, and with that doll came a beautiful story of the artisan that made it. I had dolls from Chile, Singapore, Spain, Bolivia, and the list goes on. Not one doll was from a store, but rather they came from a street artist or vendor.
He always felt good about his purchase, and I treasured the doll more, knowing someone had made it with their own hands. That must have been the start of my love of the handcrafted item.
CW: Please take us on a journey of self-discovery and how you got to where you are now. Was there anything you experienced in the past that motivated and drove you to become an entrepreneur?
LJK: As cliche as it sounds, I really turned tragedy into triumph. I overcame a lot of childhood challenges that made me into a sort of “warrior spirit,” and as I got into adulthood, more challenges came, some traumatizing.
At one point, I think I became an entrepreneur because I learned that I had to rely on myself and not others by doing that.
When one loses trust in others, they can live in a world of fear and distrust, or they can march forward to the beat of their own drum and create the life and circle they want for themselves.
So without writing a novel, let’s just say I took the pain and used it as fuel to redesign the life I wanted for myself, and that began with finding purpose in my everyday life.
CW: I really like the narrative behind your company and the name you chose.
How did the ideas for your company come about, and what is the purpose behind your passion, we'd love to know more about it.
LJK: Sol Authentica. Sol is an acronym for the source of light & the Spanish word for sun (which is fitting). Authentica is a play on words for Authentic (I added the “a”) on the end as it sounds like autentica (Spanish) but spelled Authentic(a) - much like me it’s a mix of Spanish and English.
I have always loved words - written and spoken. Much like my father’s colorful stories of the people he met on his travels, words can stay with us, excite us, encourage us and help rewire our thought patterns. I always say if you believe in it then you are halfway there.
I am sol was a written affirmation I wrote one night. It means “I am the source of light” - it’s a reminder that we all have what we need within us, that if we follow that guiding light, we will never be led astray.
I even include one of my written affirmations with every purchase.
CW: How does your previous experience, both professional and personal, come together to influence your business and personal life on a daily basis? What lessons have you learned from your past experiences?
LJK: I went to school for fashion design and spent years in the industry, but as a self-proclaimed nomad, I often left jobs and went on adventures every few years. I traveled and volunteered in Nepal, India, Costa Rica, and Israel, to mention a few places, and met some of the most intriguing people, and had some of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.
In 2013, I started Josefina Events, a boutique event planning company that taught me a lot about hustling and appropriately pricing (and valuing) yourself. I built an incredible reputation, and although I still like organizing and creating events, it was time for me to put my skills to use in a way that was more in line with who I am today.
I sold my company in December 2021 and am now solely focused on Sol Authentica. We change and evolve, and it's OK to change gears.
I'm 40 years old and starting something new, but hey, like I always say, "If you believe in it, then you are halfway there."
CW: Has it been a smooth road? If not, could you perhaps share some of your challenges as well as the most important lessons you have learned from them?
LJK: I launched Sol Authentica on November 11, 2021, but it was a work in progress for about a year and a half. Although new, it has already provided me with some great new lessons, and I continue to learn every day.
The most important thing I've learned is that you must first understand the "WHY" behind your brand.
When you get up in the morning, the WHY is what pulls you out of bed, the passion behind the brand that explains it, and the reason you will be successful. It all starts there.
CW: What makes Sol Authentica unique?
LJK: Sol Authentica is more than a hat company.
It’s a mission to send a much broader message through an affirmation of self-love.
Everything Sol Authentica carries is made by hand, supports an artisan, and is made of sustainable materials. I am dedicated to giving back 1% to mental health organizations that give services to those in need that would otherwise not be able to afford it.
I love hats - I wear many of them as an entrepreneur and I love that my background in design has come full circle and I have been able to launch a company that will make people feel just as good about themselves for purchasing it as they will feel when they wear it.
CW: What are the primary principles you follow in order to develop effective customer relationships?
LJK: Listen. Your customer's reaction to your products tells you exactly what they want and need. The customer is choosing to spend their money on an item that has meaning and intention - these products have value, and it’s important for them to know we value their business and want to provide more of what they want and need.
CW: What has been the most celebrated and most challenging experiences you've had in your business?
LJK: One of my hat styles sold out in the first four days of its launch, which was one of the biggest celebrated moments. Technology is a challenging obstacle to overcome. It doesn't sit well with me, and I'm not very good at it. I'm ready to pull my hair out, but I don't have a tech person I can turn to for help, so there's a lot of Googling going on for me on a regular basis.
CW: How do you strike a balance between your business and personal lives?
LJK: I’m still looking for it, but I have learned that emails and texts just must go unanswered after a certain time—end of the story. Everything can wait until morning.
CW: Wellness is a big part of the Crafts-Women’s culture, and I think it’s one of the most important topics to discuss for everyone, whether they’re entrepreneurs, stay-at-home parents, professionals, or students.
Do you have a self-care regimen that you follow? What do you do when you’re not motivated to do it?
LJK: Meditation. Meditation. Meditation.
That is the best medicine and the best recipe for my success. Being still with my thoughts and listening to my sol - that beautiful source of light always steers me in the right direction.
Also, no tv or tech at dinner - strict rule in my house. I want to enjoy time with my husband and son without outside distractions.
I want us to value the time we have together. Time and love are the best currency the universe offers us.
CW: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
LJK: Figure out the why. Why are you going after this dream? Keep it on a post-it on your computer or make it your screen saver.
Always remember why you started it in the first place.
Because there will be days when stress and frustrations may force you to question WHAT you are doing, but if the core is the WHY and you know it, then you will be able to persevere.
CW: Do you have anything you'd want to say to our young people who are ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime?
LJK: You are capable of doing anything. If you want something badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen. Don’t be hesitant to ask for help, but know that you are ultimately the one who must take responsibility.
CW: Can you describe your life as an entrepreneur in one word?
CW: What are your future plans?
LJK: Custom hat bars! People can choose their hats and we customize them. Doing pop-ups and hat parties would be fantastic, as would offering more products and accessories that are made with meaning and shopped with intention.