Jewelry company gives back to employees
Upon graduating from Bauer College of Business in 2013, Paulina Tobon worked to prove that success and fulfillment can be attained while pursuing risky entrepreneurial ventures.
After earning a degree in management information systems, Tobon found herself juggling job interviews and an entrepreneurial siren song, leading her to launch Luca Love, a non-profit that sells handmade bracelets fashioned by women in Colombia.
“When I first started, I was embarrassed because everyone was graduating and starting these awesome jobs but I was going to sell bracelets,” Tobon said.
Luca Love was born when Tobon wanted to find a product made in Colombia, bring it to the U.S. and give back the profits made to the community. She began by making a small number of hand-made bracelets that were sold to friends and family.
Tobon’s mom, Marleny Tobon, lives in Colombia and is the Design and Production Coordinator of the company where she focuses on directly working with artisans. The company is named after Luis Carlos, Paulina’s uncle from Colombia who, she said, passed down a dedication of helping others.
“To run Luca Love together has been a very beautiful experience,” Tobon said. “It feels like you never want to give up until reaching the dreams we share as a family.”
While studying at UH, Tobon studied abroad in Southeast Asia. Her experience on that trip, where students gave back by providing micro finance loans to locals, sparked the idea to give back through business.
“Working with Luca Love as a family makes me so much more passionate,” Tobon’s sister, Daniela Tobon, said. “We are building something together that is bigger than ourselves.”
One artisan woman, Tobon said, stands out among the rest. Elizabeth, a mother who was working towards her GED had the dream to become an English teacher. After graduation, she began paying for her college education by working with Luca Love.
Each woman is paid per bracelet that they make. After working for two years, Elizabeth is now an English teacher at a rural school in Colombia, a place where Luca Love provides English tutoring.
“I can make a difference with business,” Tobon said. “I can use business to make a change.”