Q & A with Mapale Co-Founder, Angela Tobon
“You have to know what you’re capable of accomplishing and if you do that, I think you will be able to service your customers the way they deserve.” -Angela Tabon
This is the tale of two talented and driven fashion insiders who fall in love and join forces to take over the lingerie world. It sounds like something straight out of Hollywood, but this tale is true. It’s the story of Angela and Pablo Tobon, spouses and co-founders of the sexy Miami-based brand, Mapalé.
Thanks to this pair, Mapalé has caused a buzz for its innovative and high-quality products in the lingerie, swimwear/resort, activewear and lounge categories. We sat down with Angela to pick her brain about working with her significant other and what exciting things are coming up for the Mapalé brand this year.
You are both co-owners of the successful Mapale Brand, what made you want to start the business?
Well, we actually started quite a few years ago. In 2000 Pablo actually had a business selling lingerie under a different brand and I had a business where I was selling ready-to-wear. When we got married, we decided to merge both of the companies. So, that’s how everything started! It was very cool. We met when we were very young and we were both in the industry and it was really interesting to grow together. Once we merged the business and we got married, everything truly started to work. So, I can say that it was early 2005 when we came up with the company as it is known today and it’s been a great experience. It’s truly been magical to be able to do what we love to do and spend time together.
Had either of you worked in the swim or lingerie industry before?
Pablo comes from a family where they had lingerie and swimwear factories for their entire lives. So it was genetics, I think he came programmed for that! He was, of course, exposed to everything his family did growing up and he’s very entrepreneurial and business oriented. Even when he was little, he would go with his parents to trade shows or business meetings. In my case it’s a similar situation, even though my family didn’t work in lingerie or swimwear. I come from a very entrepreneurial, business-oriented family. So I think we both kind of grew up with it!
“We have people that surround us that are a great help and that definitely allow us to have a great balance.”
Is it difficult to manage a work/home balance?
Actually, no! I think before we had kids, we were spending 110% of our time working. We would work from home and when we went out to dinner—we were always looking at what people were wearing in a business way. We really devoted all our energies to the business and we loved it. I think that’s truly what allowed Mapalé to grow and to make the company very solid. When we had the kids, we realized that a change was needed and it was perfect timing. Finding balance does require a lot of work. It requires you to be organized and to understand that there are times when you need to prioritize. Sometimes, that means the business needs a little extra time, but family is our main priority. We’re happy we’re a couple and that we can support each other. We never say, ‘you’re going to do that and I’m going to do this,’ it just kind of falls into place. So, actually it’s been something that we’ve been successful at and we have a great support system—Pablo’s parents live very close to us. Whenever help is needed they are right there. I think it’s also important to acknowledge that we have people that surround us that are a great help and that definitely allow us to have a great balance.
What advice would you give to couples who want to start a business with their significant other?
I think it’s been a very, very interesting ride and I can tell you that I truly enjoy working with Pablo. Sometimes, we look at each other when we need to make a decision and we just kind of know what the answers will be for both of us. More often than not, we find that we really have the same mindset and it’s very easy for us to agree on something. When we don’t, I don’t recall ever having an issue. He’ll explain his arguments and I’ll explain mine, and then we pretty much come to an agreement. I believe that when you have a partner that you can trust and that you can look to, working together just makes you stronger. Having each other is one of our strengths!
Do you have any funny stories about what it’s like to work so closely with your significant other?
There was this one trip to Canada—we were going skiing and since we’re from Florida, packing for cold weather always requires a lot of planning. So, we packed our large bags, had everything in place and we were ready to go. We arrived at the hotel in Canada and when Pablo opened one of the bags it was full of panties, swimsuits and babydolls instead of our winter clothes! Well, we had just came back home from a business trip and instead of taking the bag that I had so carefully packed with that checklist in my hand, he took our samples bag. Our winter stuff was left at home and we were in Canada with only babydolls, panties and swimwear!
“As long as you’re surrounded by people who have the same passion about what you do, it will work.”
For our readers who dream of owning their own lingerie or swimwear brand someday, could you tell us what responsibilities you have as a brand owner? What are the challenges of having your own brand?
I think the main thing that you have to think about when you are a brand owner is who you are and the vision that you have for your company in a competitive world. You’re always going to be exposed to other’s success stories and that can make you start considering other strategies besides the one you truly believe. You have to be true to who you are and what kind of product you’re putting out there for your customers. You have to know what you’re capable of accomplishing. If you do that, I think you will be able to service your customers the way they deserve. There are so many options today for people, but the reality is that your customers are looking for YOU! As long as you’re surrounded by people who have the same passion about what you do, it will work.