Inspiring Latina of the Week: Lingerie Line Creator & Entrepreneur Catalina Girald

Catalina Girald knows a thing or two about hard work. Born in Colombia, she worked as a mergers and acquisitions attorney for four years, before heading to Stanford to earn her MBA. In 2007, she founded Moxsie, a fashion site for independent designers, which she sold two years later. Now, she's focused on a lingerie brand called Naja, which focuses on high quality at affordable prices, that works to empower women not only on the self confidence front, but on a deeper level: the line employs single mothers in Medellin.

For her hard work, vision and philanthropic focus, Catalina Girald is this week's Inspiring Latina! 

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I was born in Colombia, South America and immigrated to the US when I was 4 years old. My father had gone to college and grad school in the US and wanted to come back to raise his family. We lived in Connecticut, then Texas. I lived all over the place after the age of 16–Massachusetts, Switzerland, France–I have always been a little bit of an explorer and a nomad. For grad school, I studied law at Boston College, then worked as attorney at Skadden, Arps in New York. But I had always wanted to start my own company. so I began studying fashion at FIT in New York and applied for business school. I did my MBA at Stanford and started my first company shortly thereafter. Naja is my second company.

What inspired you to start this line?

The company has a very clear philosophy–to inspire and empower women. I don't believe that most fashion brands do this. Most lingerie brands portray women as catering to men. I wanted to create a lingerie brand that was first about the relationship between the woman and herself, because this is the relationship that we must first master.

Did your culture or family have anything to do with being an entrepreneur?

Not at all. Actually, I think it did the opposite.  I think the Latino culture works against us when it comes to becoming entrepreneurs. Our parents come to this country looking for opportunity and what they want is for us to have safe jobs that are also hopefully prestigious. I think this goes for both Latin men and women which is why I think there are so few Latino entrepreneurs in the US (as compared to entrepreneurs from other cultures). But, as a female, the pressures of the Latino culture make it even harder to break out and become an entrepreneur. As Latinos, our families are very important. We aren't used to going against their will. So to choose the most uncertain profession of all, and to choose a job that takes up so much time that it jeopardizes our "marrying" potential definitely goes against the grain of our culture.  

At first, my mother couldn't understand why I would leave a big New York law firm job with such a good salary to go out into the unknown. But, personally, I had to make the choice that made me happy.  But, I was lucky that my parents ultimately stood behind my decision–my father even took out a loan just to help me finance my first company.  So while the Latino culture might not push you towards being an entrepreneur, once you decide to become one, the strength and encouragement provided by Latino families becomes invaluable.

What would you say to someone who might say that a Latina-created lingerie line plays into the idea of being seen as stereotypically sexy?

Hah! I get that all of the time–it is usually a man saying it. So I tell him that yeah, Latinas know sexy. That is why he should buy my brand for his wife or girlfriend.

What empowers you most about your brand? What gets you excited to wake up every day?

The challenges of running a company get me up every morning and are the same things that make me feel empowered. 

More Latinas are starting business now than ever. What would you say to a budding entrepreneur? 

Go for it. The world needs more Latina entrepreneurs! Ask for help whenever you can. Look for mentors to guide you. Pick a theme song to inspire you and when you wake up and feel that you can't do it, blast it and tell yourself that you can. 

Tell us a bit about your philanthropy mission for the brand?

Underwear for Hope is a project that helps single mothers learn to sew. For every bra purchase that you make, you get a free lingerie wash bag. Half of the proceeds of these bags go towards educating women in the developing world. The other half go directly to the women that sewed the bags. We currently have three women from the poorest neighborhoods of Colombia employed full time through our program.

What projects for the brand (or otherwise) are you looking forward to launching in the future?

We're launching exciting new collections, which I can't tell you about yet, but I'm looking forward to having the capital to expand the size offering of our lingerie collections. We would like to include women of all shapes and sizes, but because we are still small we have had to offer limited sizing. But I believe that beautiful lingerie that makes a woman feel good about herself should come in all shapes and sizes!

What makes you proud about being Latina? 

Latinas are some of the strongest and beautiful women that I have ever met. I am proud to be a part of a culture that values family, is so hard working, and has come up against all odds to become an important and powerful segment of the American population.

Do you know of someone who should be featured as an Inspiring Latina? Nominate them by emailing!