Episode 51: Seeking the Uncomfortable with Amelia Leme
If you think entrepreneurship is hard, try starting a company in a new country in a second language. That’s what Amelia Leme did when she launched @manathreads, and she tells her story on the show this week. Amelia talks about making a change in the textile industry, building her business network from scratch, and “MANAfesting” her way to success. Amelia’s positive energy shines through in this episode and she’ll leave you inspired to crush your goals.
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Iris: Welcome to Outside by Design. I'm Iris.
Lisa: I'm Lisa, welcome to episode 14 of season 4. Today we are talking to…
Iris: Amelia Leme. She is the founder of Mana Threads and she has an incredible entrepreneur story going from living in a completely different country, moving to a country where you don't speak the language, and managing to start an amazing business. It’s crazy.
Lisa: Yeah. Mana Threads is awesome. You should hit up their website or Instagram as you listen to this so that you can see all the Bold patterns and colors and kind of read about the brand ethos as we get into this. And just like... I... I love Amelia, she is so likable and personable and funny and just rad and like... if we lived in the same town we’d go biking all the time.
Iris: Yeah, she... she loves to jump headfirst into things and she's so enthusiastic and colorful and that's exactly what her brand is as well - bright, colorful, inspirational.
Lisa: Yep and full disclosure, maybe even a disclaimer. Mana Threads is a brand that really has been helping build and we are all obsessed with it.
Lisa: We're so into this brand.
Iris: We love Mana.
Lisa: Yeah, and and it's been a really really exciting, fun, bold brand to work on and with and Amelia just rocks. So yeah, Amelia is fearless, like..
Iris: She is.
Lisa: I can't get over it. Yeah, she just does things. She's like, oh you just go do it.
Lisa: So this is a really inspirational episode. You'll feel pretty fired up I think.
Iris: Yeah, buckle up. Here we go.
Lisa: Amelia thank you for being on our show today. Everyone's going to be stoked to hear from you.
Amelia: Oh my gosh. Thank you for inviting me. Yeah super stoked to be here.
Lisa: And the very first question we ask everyone is to describe where they are and what they're looking at.
Amelia: So I'm home, staring my luggage. I just came back from the Roam Fest. So I have like my stuff everywhere and try not to look outside because it's down pouring back in Vermont. So yeah, it's going to be a this is like the rainy season, the mud season. The snow is melting. So yes, I'm very, like, exciting but hard, you know, because the trails are still wet. The snow is almost gone. So but yeah, so I'm staring my… my dirty laundry from there the Roam Fest.
Lisa: Rome Fest is so much fun. What was your favorite part of Roam Bike Fest?
Amelia: You know, I thought... I love the idea. Like they, they create magic. That fest is like, you know, it's not like too tight on schedule or like, you know, you do whatever you want to do. And not having clinics, not having like all those stuff, it’s basically getting a bunch of women to ride and the awesome part is like, to have some locals that know the trails so you don't have to be dealing, like, getting lost or keep looking your phone. So you can just ride. And just the energy of everybody like, you know. It's, well, I've never been an event like that and they think really like they create something magical there. Roam Fest... I'm definitely like, oh the fuck I lost out on the first four years! I can't believe it!
Amelia: But yeah.
Lisa: Yeah, that's a good event. Cool. And our audience is going to love you and your story. And the word manifestation, so we have all kinds of good things to talk about. So why don't you just kick it off and talk about... kind of your story and how you started Mana Threads.
Amelia: Cool. So yeah, I'm originally from Brazil and I moved here to United States in 2008. So... actually I was here for one year in 2003, part of Exchange program to improve my English and actually to learn English, but then I ended up coming back here in 2008. So yeah, it's been like 10 years and something. And a lot things happened on those last 10 years. So I decided to completely change my career. I have a business degree in computer science. So I was like more like a nerd working behind a computer. But I decided to do something different and find out that becoming a personal trainer was just a matter of getting a certification and it was a great way for me to also start, like, creating friends and you know getting my roots deeper here in Vermont. So as a personal trainer, I was wearing, you know, athletic wear every day and... and the outdoor part of Vermont is just like, for me, it was putting all my passion about outdoor on steroids. And I noticed that there was nothing really I liked. You know, there was some Lululemon, Athleta, I thought they were boring. They were... there was not a lot of meaning behind the stuff and I thought maybe I should start my own thing. And that's basically what happened. I want to make like some cool athletic wear with a really good fabric and and that was in 2014. We made 700 piece of clothes, the idea was to open a store on Church Street here in Burlington and my shipment never came! And I ended up… I opened my store like in the middle of a snowstorm in February 2015, but everybody that I met, you know, through personal training and the friends I made, everybody showed up and I had like a killer day. I sold a lot. So it just give me... gave me that feeling like, you know, the community is here. They believe what I'm doing and gave me, like, strength to continue with Mana Threads.
But yeah... so it's a pretty new company. So it’s like three years and something and I'm a one-woman show, no employees yet. So just trying to balance life. Of course the hubby helps me a lot. He's like a big supporter. But yeah, and a lot of things changed, but I feel like since I got here in Vermont. You know, it wasn't, like, easy, because you got to learn English, you're in a completely different country and you got to learn all that stuff and you know, learn how to mountain bike. Learn how to snowboard. Start a company, learn English, start a life. And so I feel like there's a lot that happened on the last 10 years, but Mana Threads like... I feel like so passionate about it. I'm so happy, like, and I really want to see this company, like, to have a good, you know... more years of us of good business. Yeah.
Lisa: Oh, yeah, your clothing is awesome. And it's bright and fun and it has personality.
Lisa: And you didn't you didn't even talk about how eco-friendly it is yet.
Amelia: I know, so, you know, like I don't have any background on clothing or designing or anything. But the more you get to know the industry like what you doing, you know, there's a lot of research every time you're going to like buy a tag for your clothing or you're going to pick the fabric or the thread you start realizing, you know, now you're part of the industry. And the industry is ugly industry, is like... the second biggest polluter. So for me it was like, okay, this is... this is not... either… because reality is, we don't need another company making clothing. There's enough out there. What we need is a company that makes better clothing for, you know, for us and for the planet. And knowing that the... the textile industry is the biggest polluter I had to make some changes for me to be able to continue. So in 2015, Brazil developed this yarn, that it's not just recycled, but it's also biodegradable. And so basically, you know, your clothing is going to end up on the landfill, but two years on the landfill without sunlight and oxygen, this fabric will biodegrade. So what they did was just a tweak on the yarn to be… to be weaker to be able to break down. Doesn’t mean your clothes are going to break down when you hiking, or like you get wet or something, and I tell people unless you're planning to go to a place where there's no sunlight and oxygen for two years, I think your clothes are going to be okay, but yeah, they biodegrade. And and I think the consumers doing this push, like, because we need to... we are the ones that make the push. Like, and for me as a small business. I can make that change. I can easily decide what fabric I want to use on my garment. So for the biggest producers out there, for them, you know, they're making like two cents on each pants, if they can cut off two cents of each pair of pants they make that's a huge revenue for them, the profit. They're not going to change that. But for me it’s like, yeah, I'll pay more on that fabric, you know, and I can still keep the same prices as whatever the other people are making similar clothes, but it's just that feeling for me to be able to continue doing business is like, I gotta do better than this, so. And that's what is, you know, the passion behind it.
Lisa: Yeah, and that passion comes through so much, any time that we talk to you or work with you or... you know, that passion shows in the clothing and those bold patterns. And yeah, I think... I think you got it going on.
Amelia: Yeah, I like the bold patterns. It's like... it makes you happy, you know, put some color on you and if there was a... there was a lot of black and when you’re mass-producing it's hard for you, you know, to come up with like bold prints, I guess, because they sell more if it's just a solid thing. But I feel like it's so fun to wear some cool prints and colorful and so I'm totally going on that, you know. The patterns are pretty important. The fit is more than... more than... more important than the... the pattern but it's just a combination of style, you know colorful stuff and really good fabric.
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Lisa: Well, that was awesome. I absolutely adore what Amelia’s saying about making the textile industry a better, safer, more sustainable, healthier place, and she does that through intelligently sourcing her clothing.
Iris: Yeah, exactly. She doesn't just start a business to make money and put more waste out into the world. She's starting this business not only to make people happy and not have to wear boring clothing, but also to make a difference in the textile industry. And she saw something that needed to be changed and she's changing it.
Lisa: Yep, and I can get on board with that. Like, I want to buy Mana Threads clothing just to support that idea alone. And I think that's the most successful thing a brand can do, is stand for something and fight for it.
Iris: Yeah, exactly. This is a really great example of creating a business for something more than just business. Should we get back to Amelia and see what she has to say about manafestation?
Lisa: manafestation, baby.
Lisa: And the word of the month on the on the podcast for May is manifestation and so I'm curious of what does manifestation mean to you.
Amelia: I think we should change that word to MANAfestation! [both laugh] This is like, I'm like what what? This is like perfect. No so I think it’s like, that’s, you know, my passion for a community, for bringing a clothing line that is sustainable, and you know support... support everything that... that I feel like I got support so... so... so far from community, and you know, friends and people that believe on me. So I think Mana Threads is a vehicle for me to... to show that, to express that and you know, my passions and for the outdoor, for women, and... and really the planet. Yeah, so this is how I feel like I manifest my... all my passions. Yeah.
Lisa: Yeah, and I think it's incredible that not only are you taking the path of entrepreneurship, but you're doing entrepreneurship in a second language. It's amazing. What's... what kind of obstacles have you come up against or faced?
Amelia: Oh one is like… and it’s still really hard because I don't think my English is good. So I don't talk on the phone. I'm like, no, I can't talk on the phone. It's just very hard for me. I feel like I like to look in the eye, you know, because there's so much, like, exchange when you're looking the reaction of the person, like you can tell you know... or either like if she is understanding what I'm saying, or I lost her. So talking on the phone for me I'm guessing, like, I'm guessing if this is a good, you know conversation I'm carrying from… if the person's understanding me So the language piece is definitely something that still get me. So I try to avoid talk on the phone. Like I don't answer phone calls at all. I just like, email me or face time. I love FaceTime. That's like, for me, is the best way. Of course, there's the whole side of Mana Threads that there is more like the paperwork, the permits, all the stuff. My husband helps me with that because I cannot read all those, like, rules and documents and like, I’m just like, what? I'm the creative piece and I like the fun part and I... that's like... so good thing I have people that can help me on that. But yeah, it's I think like even... so the language is definitely a big piece of that. I think the other part, you know, like I didn't really have... I didn't have anybody here in the United States. And if you compare with another company that you know, she went to a college here in Vermont and the parents to have a lot of friends. So you kind of come with that help. That for me I had to create my own, built my own, find out where it is. And but hey, I like that. Like, I like that piece, that's... for me it's really exciting to figure out things. If it was easy, one, everybody else will be doing it or you would take the fun out of it. You know, if everything had a process and step and the like this is... No, I like what shit goes wrong and you got to figure it out. You know, a little bit of pressure. Like, we're gonna be at the Outdoor Retailer... I don't have clothes to be there and that's like a month away. So, what, okay, we gotta make it happen. Yeah, so it's fun. You know, it's fun. I take that as a part of being an entrepreneur. I guess you got to enjoy it otherwise it's a torture.
Lisa: So a couple things on that, is like, first of all, on the phone and on podcasts and everything, I think you convey so much energy and positive vibes and... and I'm curious on another thing you said there is that you kind of had to build your own community. And I find that fascinating because that's... I think that's really intimidating. That's so hard to do. So, what are your tips for, like, how did you just launch into your new life in Vermont? And how did you build a community?
Amelia: Yeah, that's a good question. I think like you... you you gotta go out there. Like, you... you got to go out there, you know. I wasn't used to do things on my own by myself, and you gotta, you gotta go out there, like you gotta. Because on the end, it's always a good experience. I feel even if it... if you feel a little awkward or you want to... like when I first got my mountain bike, that was 2012. I went to the bike shop and I'm like, okay. I have a race coming up. I'm like, I signed up for a race before I got a bike. I signed up for a 50 miles race here call Vermont 50 and I went to the bike shop like really I had no idea what I was doing. But I told him, like, I want to buy a mountain bike because I'm going to do this race, Vermont 50 and it was like four months away or three months away something like that. And... but I thought well, what could go wrong, right? [laughs] So I started doing some of the little races that they have here at Catamount. And the first day I showed up I was like by myself, but I heard it was a good, good friendly race and I showed up there and there was like people with Spandex and logos everywhere. There was like teams. And I'm like... Oh my gosh, I don't know what this is. But then I met this person Kelly out. She came talk to me, and she was so freaking nice, we’re really good friends today. But you know, you got to put yourself sometimes in a situation that you feel really uncomfortable. But from that you start like, okay, I signed up, I showed up and I now like, you know, talking with people and trying to follow up with them. And always leave that... you know that person that you just met with something. That either is like a good impression, you know, the person is probably going to remember you and a way of you to connect again. Because that's it. You don't want that to end right there. So always leave with that feeling, okay, I can reach out to the person, I got her contact, or we plan a bike ride again, or there's something coming up she, she might invite me and yeah, that's... it's a one by one thing but when you see there's like, you know, it there's... there's one person, there was 5, and 10 and now you're like, yeah. That's for everything. Like same thing I did with the surfboard. I got a surfboard and I was like, okay, I want to surf in New Hampshire and I wasn't... I didn't know what I was doing but... yeah, and then you start making friends. I mean, I like to... I like to, I'm on the, I'm a social person. Like in Brazil. There's not a lot going on in Brazil as you know, the options here in the States is crazy. Like you can start mountain biking. It's just, get a mountain bike. You want to wind surf, you get a wind surf or there are trails, there, there, you know or a climb so you have all those options. In Brazil, we don't have that, we have people. So the reason you get together it's because of people, not because their activity. So if there's nothing going on, you have people. And I miss that. So for me be around people and talk and just create that relationship. I guess it's easy, which is good. Otherwise, I think it will be a little harder for the business as well.
Lisa: Yeah, you have an unbelievable skill of friend making but also you have this like deep trust in yourself that everything is cool and everything is going to be okay. And I really admire that about you. Where do you think that comes from?
Amelia: So I grew up in Brazil. I have two brothers and a younger sister. The younger sister is six years younger. So I basically grew up, my... my two brothers, one older than me and one younger, but I think it was because my mom... my mom was like super cool. She just, she... she was the cool mom in the neighborhood. Basically she was the only mom that would let the kids play outside as long as they want. So I think you start developing the sense of, you gotta.. if you climb that tree and you, you know, you climb too high you might fall. And if you fall it's your own damn fault, like, you... you pay for whatever you do. So you gotta start learning and trusting what you're capable of, you know. Really like I feel I can do this, that applies to business, to mountain biking. Of course I got some concussions along the way but you know, you really believe you can do that you... you... yeah. So I think his since I was a kid, like I start, you know on my own learn how to trust the things that I was capable of. And I think I... yeah, I think… I think I give that to my mom from being a cool mom. Yeah. She never gave me candy or money. But she gave me freedom.
Lisa: And look at what you've done with it. You're living in Vermont. And started your own apparel company. I love it.
Amelia: Yeah. Hey Mom's no candy or money. Let your kids play outside. They gonna, yeah, it's a good skill.
Lisa: Absolutely. Absolutely.
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Iris: So starting a company is really hard, entrepreneurship is hard. And I couldn’t imagine doing it in my second language in a new country.
Lisa: Yeah, that's pretty intense. I think about how I started Wheelie and I did... I did that through no connections as well. And I did that through snowboarding a lot and living the kind of life that I wanted and being really true to who... who I am and what I... how I wanted to spend my time and then, you know growing and growing from there by meeting people who needed design work and things. But I can't imagine doing that in a second language.
Iris: Yeah, building a community and building a business from that community is really difficult if you don't have a leg up in that already. And Amelia shows us exactly how to do it. Just go out there, put yourself in situations where you might be a little out of your comfort zone, meet people, share yourself. Just be true and you'll build your community that way.
Lisa: What a badass.
Iris: Yeah, she's amazing.
Lisa: She's awesome. It's also really commendable how Amelia is creating a community, you know, in sports that maybe she isn't an insider. She signed up for a race before she bought a bike, what confidence and and what... what optimism to just know that no matter what she's got it and she can figure it out.
Lisa: And make it happen. And that is magnetic.
Iris: That's manifestation. In a nutshell.
Lisa: Yep. Love it.
Iris: Yeah, let's get back to Amelia.
Lisa: So what what do you got on deck for Mana Threads that you want to talk about? What do you have coming up?
Amelia: I have so... I have Outdoor Retailer. So the Outdoor Retailer, it's actually something that I'm super excited about it. So Vermont decided to have a booth at Outdoor Retailer and bring some local Brands to be part of that. So I'm not sure how many brands are going to be there. I think maybe seven brands from Vermont to represent Vermont and I'm going for free. So I'm like, sweet! You know, so I know I just need to get my clothes ready. So it won’t be like a total shit show, but I think I'll be fine. Like again you get a trust that you can get the stuff, you know, but yeah, so although Outdoor Retailer the summer summer show now, we're going to be there. I think me, I saw Skida is going to be there. Who else? Yeah, there's a bunch of brands there. So yeah, please, if you are at Outdoor Retailer look for the Vermont booth and hopefully you're going to see me there with some pants. I mean not me wearing pants, my pants.
Yeah. Yeah, what else I have. Yeah. So now we're... this year... that's the change that we made which was this year to switch all of our fabric for biodegradable fabric. So our next collection will be all this amazing biodegradable fabric that I don't even need to say anything, when you touch the fabric you’re gonna realize like, this is so cool. And also bringing production to United States. So this is a whole new process we found this manufacturing in LA called Lefty Productions and I tend to only work with the women, the, you know, women owned business, like Wheelie Creative. Lefty Production, so they're producing all of our stuff. That should be hopefully... hopefully we'll come out like in June or something. But yeah, those are the three next big things for us. Yeah and... yeah, OR, the biodegradable fabric, and production here in United States. Very exciting.
Lisa: It’s a big deal.
Lisa: A really big deal. And one of my favorite things about your brand and I know we've talked about it is like how you portray really strong women doing things. So did you do that on purpose or is that just... is that just kind of how you approach things anyway? Like it's... you definitely use very athletic women that are genuinely having a good time. And that's what you photograph and put on your website.
Amelia: Yeah. Yeah, that's exactly what it is. So there's, you know, a different body shape, different culture, different color, different everything like reality is. When you're out there, that's what you see, so I'm not trying to you know, only show one type of body, one... one type of body type or… and I think, I love to see strong women, you know performing and passionate about what they do and that doesn't mean they're skinny. They got muscles, you know, they got quads they're climbing. They're out there and... and so I think you like, the different body type is just... and I want to include everybody, like, I wish I could really make like 14 different sizes or... to be able to fit everybody. We do make four sizes. Hopefully, we'll add more sizes. But I think at the image that you know, there's so much bad shit in the industry trying to show that perfect body that you know, the thing is like, but that's not reality. I mean, you can't judge by the look, you know, it's a whole package, women's a whole package. You meet amazing people out there, super passionate about, and so Mana Threads is for active women that like to you know, pursue their passions and play hard.
Lisa: Yeah, what do you think is the definition to you, what does it mean to be a strong woman?
Amelia: Oh my gosh.
Lisa: Or what does strength mean to you? That's a... that's a big question.
Amelia: That's a big question. I'm going to tell you one that I'm like getting... goose bumps or goof bumps? Is it goosebumps?
Lisa: It's goose bumps.
Amelia: Yes. Yeah, so we were at Roam Fest and I met this woman called Grace. She was on the panel. She was... She was diagnosed with MS when she was a kid and her mom basically told her, don't worry, just go out there and enjoy your life, right? So that's what she did. She... she just enjoy her life and then she signed up for this crazy mountain bike race, it was like, I don't know 2,500 miles. He took her 41 days to finish and she was feeling like shit and then after the race she ended up finding out that she did the whole race with cancer. I mean, she is almost 50 years old. She is so strong, mentally strong, physically strong and you know, just in positive... like the positivity behind that person is strong. So I had a pleasure to meet this person and it just give you like... she's a, she's a super skinny tiny, you know, you look at her, she's so fragile, but she's so strong. You know, so the strong is not... it could be a personality. It could be you know, the way you you live your life, you raise your family, you at work, and in the way you play outside. Yeah, so strong women. And there's a lot out there.
Lisa: Oh, yeah. There are a lot of good ones. I... that's what I love about working in the outdoor industry is just the incredible human beings that we get to meet.
Amelia: Yeah. I love that piece. And we're lucky, you know because we can... we can... we can do what we like, working on the industry that we enjoy, and that's like... I feel like we're so lucky to be able to do that.
Lisa: Yeah, big time. And I think... I think what your building is... is amazing. And I don't know. Is there anything as we wrap up this podcast is there anything that I haven't asked you that you want to share with our audience?
Amelia: Well, I guess just, you know, if you... if you like this podcast you... you... you think that Mana Threads is something that you know, you have interest, go on our Instagram page and follow us. There's a lot of stuff that's going to happen. Hopefully good stuff. And yeah, so you can stay, we can stay connected. So the Instagram is Mana M-A-N-A Threads. Yeah, so.
Lisa: And you want to talk about the word Mana?
Amelia: Yeah, so Mana, it's... it's a sling for sisters in Portuguese because I did start this business with my sister. She's not part of the business anymore because I'm also bringing production to United States and all that stuff. But Mana comes from irmã in Portuguese, and if you go to Hawaii or Polynesia, Mana means inner power, which I love. Yeah, Sisterhood!
Lisa: Sisterhood! That is just the coolest business name and I am on board. I love it.
Amelia: Yeah, super cool.
Lisa: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here today, Amelia and I can't wait to see you at OR.
Amelia: Oh, I'll see you there? Are you gonna be there?
Amelia: Sweet, alright, yeah.
Lisa: I'll come hang out at your booth so you can take a break if you want.
Amelia: [laughs] right? No, super stoked about OR. Definitely want to see you guys there.
Iris: Thanks so much Amelia. We love your positivity. This is such a fun episode. You're hilarious.
Lisa: And awesome.
Lisa: We all love you.
Iris: We love you. And you can find Amelia's socials as well as Mana Threads in our show notes and let us know what you think about the show. Leave us a review or head over to our Instagram @wheeliecreative, drop a comment.