We’ve shared our love for Frēda Salvador before, so we’re fangirling hard at having the founders, Megan Papay and Cristina Palomo-Nelson, here to answer our most pressing questions. As a beloved Bay Area brand, Frēda Salvador is an artisan line of shoes designed in Sausalito and handmade in a small family factory in the Alicante region of Spain. It’s a wizness (women-owned business) by and for effortlessly cool, authentically confident women, which is why you need their shoes in your closet stat.
We asked Megan and Cristina what life is like running such a successful brand, how they’ve managed to grow both a business and a family at the same time, and what we should be thinking about going into the new year.
Tell us a little more about yourself – who you are, where you’re from, and who greets you when you come home.
My name is Megan Papay and I am Co-Founder and Designer of FREDA. I also lead community, brand marketing, and social. I am originally from Delaware and spent all my life on the East Coast, but I moved to California with my husband 15 years ago. We live in Sausalito and have a 12 year old daughter named Piper and a ton of animals. 3 dogs, a cat, 3 chickens, and fish greet me everyday. They keep me insanely sane.
My name is Cristina Palomo Nelson and I am Co-Founder and Designer of FREDA. I run Operations, Logistics, and Finance. I am from El Salvador and moved to California for High School and I have been here ever since. I live in Mill Valley with my husband and two kids, Luca who is 5 and Lola who is 3.
Let’s start with your careers. Clearly life pivoted in a major way when your paths crossed at Anyi Lu (a footwear brand) and you decided to start your own line together. What convinced you to make that very big, very scary leap into entrepreneurship?
Cris: It was clear there was a void in the market for comfortable, yet cool shoes. Ballet flats were the closest thing, but they were still limiting in style and comfort. We set out to offer statement flats and boots that women could pound the pavement in all day. It was also so important to us to build a community of badass women that support and empower each other. Our vision was so clear, so we did not have any hesitation.
You launched Frēda Salvador in the fall of 2012 while at the same time getting married, having kids, moving to the suburbs, managing toddler tantrums, enduring potty training, suffering through sleepless nights, etc. etc. etc. Was there ever a moment when you questioned whether or not you could “do it all?”
Megan: Piper was 3 when we started FREDA! Looking back that is kind of nuts, but for a whole year it was just Cris and I and she could not have been a more supportive partner. Our first office was in a cottage in my backyard so I was “home” when Piper got back from pre-school. She would come and play in the office with us and we kept her busy by asking her to design boxes and shoes. It’s all she knows, so I am thankful for that. Having FREDA has made me sacrifice time with her, which I struggle with, but at the end of the day I am so grateful she is seeing me live out my dreams. She is seeing me work hard, have amazing partnerships with my husband and women that support and inspire me. She hears me talk about my fears and then she sees me overcome them. I hope that by her seeing me vulnerable and asking for help, she will do the same.
Every moment of everyday I question if I can do it all and the answer is always the same, nope. It is physically impossible. For a long time I tried and tried and tried, but that made me feel terrible. It was an unsustainable pace and I crashed. Now I take the time to prioritize and do what is most important to me, FREDA and my family. It has given me a sense of balance, which I have learned is a total mindset. I have to have constant communication with myself that if I feel overwhelmed in one area, I can get through it and I make time for myself to do that. Owning a business demands me to grind at all times…people count on me and I can’t let them down. I know that if work is pulling me deeper and deeper in, it is important to calendar time for myself and my family to keep me feeling happy and fulfilled in all areas of my life. I am really lucky though, one of FREDA’s core values is family first and everyone on our team is so supportive of that.
Along those lines, what does a “balanced life” mean to you? What do you do to strive for it?
Cris: I don’t actually know if balance is attainable in the way most people strive for. Maybe my perspective is skewed because I have 2 very young kids, a husband, and a very demanding job. It is unrealistic for me to ever shut off on either side. At work, I need to have my phone near me to ensure my family is okay. At home, it’s the same. We have an ecommerce site and three brick and mortar stores. I can never be unreachable. In today’s world with technology being ever present – I am also expected to be responsive at all times, things happen quickly, answers are needed immediately in some cases.
For me, as long as the balance exists within what I love, it makes everything else worth it. Meaning I am choosing to spend my time building a brand I love and also spending my time with the family that makes me whole. It is not always a 50/50 split but it ebbs and flows and that is okay for me because both fulfill me so the balance is there.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Cris: Design! I don’t get to do it as much as I would like, but that creative time fulfills me to no end. I love seeing through the process from start to finish and it is so rewarding to spot our shoes on women in the streets or seeing them on social.
Megan: I love the community building aspect of my job. I love gathering women together for workshops, panels, and dinners. I love meeting our customers and sharing stories. I love when we get to work with girls and show them career options in a creative space.
Megan, you’ve set a goal to buy only vintage, consigned or slow fashion brands. Can you give us more insight into why this is important to you, what we should be thinking about as we shop, and/or how Frēda Salvador participates in this movement?
Megan: I have been shopping this way for 3 years now and I love it so much! My commitment to shopping this way had a lot to do with social media. Because I run FREDA’s Instagram account I spend a lot of time on it. I was increasingly turned off by fast fashion. It started by being annoyed that these companies were knocking off other designers and beating them to market. You would see something so beautiful and unique on the runway and then 30 days later it was available for purchase for $50. It was an endless cycle and got me thinking about how many garments they must be churning out. Where is everything going after you wear it 10x and then get rid of it? Also, why is it ok to steal someone’s design? And most importantly who is behind making these fast fashion garments? Are they safe, healthy, happy, treated fairly?
I LOVE clothes and I have always loved fashion. I love the story clothes tell about you; it’s such a personal decision; why do you choose to wear what you wear? Therefore, I made the decision to only support brands that are transparent about their process and the people behind the making of their products. I love vintage and consignment because of the one of a kind element. Finding something unique that resonates with me deeply is such a good feeling. It brings me happiness! I also joined Rent The Runway lately and I have had a great experience. I am a HUGE fan. They have curated smaller designers which I love. I try and rent with the same integrity as I purchase…companies I know, trust and admire. They have done a great job supporting an offering brands that fit these requirements. And now my wardrobe is endless and my closet feels manageable.
There is a very long list of A+ celebrities wearing Frēda Salvador shoes, from Cate Blanchett to Gigi Hadid to Halle Berry. We just have to ask – which Frēda-wearing celebrity sighting made you fangirl the most?
Megan: Cate Blanchett for sure! She has been my style icon for years and years.
If you were writing a book about your life, what might your 2019 chapter be called?
Cris: Stop, Drop and Roll. We were putting out fires all year because we committed to making incredible changes in our company. We came out on top, so we are super proud, but it was a hard year!
What’s the most resonant piece of advice you’ve heard recently?
Cris: It’s our mantra and a quote my dad shared with us “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” It’s FREDA. We are scrappy, passionate, determined and believe so much in what we are doing.
Looking forward, what does being a woman in 2020 mean to you?
Megan: It’s magical. Truly. I believe we have the power to change the world and it starts at our dinner table and in our community. We can make a positive impact by making the smallest changes and it’s incredible to see small changes snowball into big changes. I think women supporting women is everything. I think being a woman in 2020 means showing vulnerability. Asking for help and then on the flipside offering help. We can do so much if we band together.
Are there any other women-owned businesses you love that we should know and support?
Megan: SO many!!! These come to mind first.
- Clothes: Doen, Clare Vivier, Kamperett, Janessa Leone, Lunya, Nili Lotan, Mara Hoffman
- Coffee: Lady Falcon Coffee
- Beauty: Baeo Baby – The body butter is AMAZING (I use on my face nightly), Vintners Daughter
- Wine: Sophie James Winery
Which cannabis products are you enjoying right now?
Megan: Both Cris and I are fans of CBD. Love the calming effect and also CBD cream is a dream for muscle knots when we spend hours and hours hunched over a computer.
Lastly, our favorite game, Quick Fire:
Instagram or Facebook? Instagram
AOC or RBG? RBG
Megan Rapinoe or Serena Williams? Megan Rapinoe (Megan is a big soccer fan!)
Hawaii or Mexico? Hawaii (Megan); Mexico (Cris)
Beatles or Rolling Stones? Beatles
Oprah or Ellen? Both!
In the car: music or podcasts? Music (Megan); Podcasts (Cris)
Botox: yay or nay? nay
Bikinis or one-pieces? One piece
- CBD or THC? CBD
Editor’s Note: Megan and Cris, next time you need a CBD refill, we got you. Maybe that will offset the 3+ pairs Freda shoes that we’re currently eyeing…