Fair Trade Advocate & Entrepreneur, Jamie Pesanti
For this month’s Expat Spotlight, we reached out to local business owner and entrepreneur Jamie Pesanti to discuss her love of travel, what it has been like starting a business in San Miguel, and why she moved here in the first place.
You're always posting the most amazing photos from your travels around Mexico and internationally. Where is your favorite place to travel and why?
I'm doing this interview from Italy right now, so I would probably say that I'm obsessed with Italy, (which I am), but I don’t know if I really have one favorite place to travel. There are just so many different types of places to travel to and so many different types of travel experiences. In general, I love traveling and being somewhere new. I love feeling uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what to do or where to go, having to listen to the people from a different culture and language. It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you feel a little bit awkward and intrigued at the same time. I like that feeling, so I guess that's why I love traveling so much.
Traveling around Mexico is definitely a favorite. There is so much diversity, and it's so beautiful. I really love traveling to Spanish-speaking countries, because it gives me a chance to practice. Next on my bucket list are Greece and Argentina.
How did you end up moving to San Miguel?
I was a schoolteacher in Southern California for 19 years. I love teaching, but I had been really burned out and wanted to kind of move out of the teaching profession, stop my three hour per day commute, and start my own business. My husband and I talked about where we could live where we would be able to get back to Los Angeles quickly if we needed to and still feel like part of our friends’ and families’ lives.
We both really love Mexico, got married in Mexico, and have been going to Mexico as much as we could for years. It’s so cliché, but we had been to San Miguel a few years before, and we fell completely in love with it, like everyone does. We also loved Tulum, so for a couple of years we kept talking about how amazing it would be if we could live in both places and go back-and-forth.
We continued talking about it and trying to figure it out. Then, one day, we decided we just needed to make a decision. We’re basically just going to have to say, “yes, we’ll try,” or “no, we won't.” And we decided to do it! San Miguel, like everybody says, is just a magical place, so this is where we chose to go. I'm not sure that we’ll always stay in San Miguel, but for now, it's a really good home base.
What inspired you to open your own store here, and where do you get all of the fabulous things you sell?
About three years ago, while I was still teaching in Los Angeles, I had started working with an artisan group in Chiapas. I was selling their fair trade clothing line and jewelry around Los Angeles in pop-up shops. I had my online store www.mercadocollective.com as well that only sells artisan made goods and fair trade products.
I’ve had a love for fair trade and artisan made goods for at least 15 years, so I knew when I moved to San Miguel that the first thing I wanted to do was open a shop and promote those communities. I opened a space where I could create the collection, curate the goods, and get to work directly with the artisans, helping them earn a living. I choose the products really carefully, or I have the products made based on what I love and what I want to see in the space that I'm creating. I only sell products that I would buy and want in my house.
I am mostly in Mexico, so I’ll get specific things made in different cities here, like Oaxaca or Mexico City. I’ve also made a lot of connections just traveling around and talking with people. I’ll find beautiful things and develop a relationship with the artisan right there on the street where they are selling. I’ll ask if they can ship goods, and we work out a wholesale deal making sure it is still at fair trade price.
My goal, initially, was to only sell Mexican made products to support the artisans here where I live. After talking to several people who are from Mexico, they actually really liked the fact that at my store they could get goods that were made in other countries, not just the same sorts of things they could find locally. For example, if I'm selling Oaxacan baskets, which I’m obsessed with, a lot of people in Mexico know that they can get those baskets for the same price that I'm getting them.
People here don’t always have the chance to travel to these other places where I source products, so they like having access to these international items. I would say that right now my store in San Miguel is 50% to 60% Mexican made. On my website, I work with 55 different artisans from all over the world, and I work with some of those artisans for my store here as well. Unfortunately, some of them don't ship to Mexico, or it's too difficult to get the products here.
Visit Mercado Collective’s new location at The Collective at Jesus 27 in Centro. While there visit Yo San Miguel Art Gallery featuring local San Miguel artists.
You also have multiple rental listings. Tell us more about those and your love for decorating them.
I've loved decorating and curating spaces since I was a kid, so while I was teaching, doing pop-up shops, and selling goods for my online store, I started staging peoples’ homes. I didn't work for a company, but I was helping friends around Los Angeles redecorate or source pieces for a new home. I don't necessarily want to be an interior designer, but one of my favorite things to do is to reimagine a space. What I would really love to get into here in San Miguel is re-staging peoples’ homes.
That leads me into living in San Miguel. We had the plan right from the very beginning that we would buy a condo in Tulum and a house in San Miguel, with the intention of going back and forth and renting out one place while we were in the other. Then, because of my love for decorating and staging places, I decided that I would start renting some different fixer uppers around San Miguel.
I really love to keep busy with projects, and I saw a lot of potential here. I ended up renovating an old, dilapidated apartment that I found. It’s just a little casita, but for me, it was a big project. [I enjoy] figuring out how to make the space more beautiful and make it live up to its potential. Then I figured I would rent it [out] and see what happens.
It's been pretty successful, and I really liked working on it. So, after that first one, I did another one that didn't need quite as much renovation. It just needed some love and cuteness. It was another fun little project where I was able to reimagine and reinvent a space. It's been really fun to rent them out and see our guests’ positive responses to the spaces.
See Jamie’s San Miguel rentals previously featured on our blog here (La Casa Boheme San Miguel & La Casita Paloma). For information on how to book her Tulum property click here.
Do you have any advice for someone who may want to move abroad (and maybe start a business abroad)?
I think anything is possible. I stayed in teaching for a really long time because I was fearful that I needed a "stable job," retirement, and I needed to know every single month how my money was coming in. It's not really true. I think it is completely possible to reinvent yourself and find something you really want to do and a place to do it.
Fear is normal when you are doing something new, but just don't let that fear overwhelm you or stop you from chasing your dreams and making new things happen. Go for what you want, and if it doesn't work out, you can move on and do something else. Us moving to San Miguel doesn’t necessarily mean we have to stay here forever. We can always change and reinvent ourselves again.