Panama, Here We Come

Exciting news! By Grace has been accepted into the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Reverse Exchange Program! Mid April, we will be heading down to Panama to partner with Santé Cutarras, an amazing company founded by our newest partner and muse, Nayleen Quintero. She is a powerhouse of a woman who is currently pregnant with a baby boy, is raising a two-year-old daughter, works a full-time job, all while running Sante because she is a true entrepreneur at heart.

Through innovation, vibrant colors, new materials and collaborations, Santé Cutarras is rescuing the traditional sandal of Panama and the artisans who craft them. Santé provides access for the local artists to a new commerce platform, giving them the opportunity to overcome financial struggles and educational barriers, while providing for themselves and their families.

Santé Cutarras is on a mission to:

·      Innovate the national Cutarra with quality and design. 

·      Rescue and revalue the Cutarras as a symbol of the folklore of Panama.

·      Improve the quality of life of the artisans who carry on this tradition.

·      Prevent the loss of the Cutarras craftsmanship legacy.

By Grace and Santé Cutarras intend to bring By Grace’s master craftsman/ apprentice business model to Panama’s artisan communities. There is abundant talent and a willingness to work. We’ve seen through work on our 5 other campuses that when you educate a person, you offer them the tools necessary to help themselves. By partnering, we are extending Sante’s marketplace into the States, and growing By Grace’s artisan pool.

We first met Nayleen last year when she came to the States and worked alongside By Grace, each company teaching the other their tricks of the trade.

Since our introduction through YLAI, By Grace and Santé Cutarras have drawn many parallels between our endeavors. Our joint efforts will focus on empowerment through education in the craft of making shoes, but also in providing general business knowledge within the local artisan communities in rural areas of Panama City. By Grace will provide a footwear course, resulting in: jobs for master artisans as instructors, new artisans gaining a skill that makes them employable and will aid in bettering the overall quality of the existing product.

Santé Cutarras will then serve as the workshop and production facility for By Grace’s Panama line of women’s accessories. Together our hope is to teach 12-15 women how to sew in 2018, and to consistently employ 10-20 craftspeople in the creation of shoes. In future years, we hope to grow our partnership into multiple villages outside Panama City, with the sandals created being sold both in Central and Northern America.

The first phase of our collaboration is the design and sampling phase in our combined signature collection. Over the next two months, we will finalize the product we hope to sell and select the craftspeople who will complete the order. April 8-21, 2018 Kelsey will travel on By Grace’s behalf to meet with Nayleen to work alongside Sante Cutarras’s employees.

We hope to share this great opportunity with both our Panamanian and US communities. During By Grace’s visit we are planning to visit the US Panama Embassy, talk to the students at Nayleen’s high school in Los Santos about our project, while hopefully motivating them to undertake similar actions in their professional future. We also plan to make several press stops including a radio interview for “The Breakfast Show” at Cool FM 89.3.

Our hope is that this is just the beginning of a very fruitful partnership. Keep your eyes peeled for By Grace + Sante’s signature shoe collection!

Until next time,

Kelsey