Carol Romano owns an online business and a store in Mexico’s San Miguel famed for its eclectic vibe and its unusual, one-of-a-kind merchandise. But the story of how she came to own her own business started a decade earlier…with a trip to Morocco.
Insh’ala was not Carol’s first business foray in San Miguel. She first came to the expat haven and arts mecca in Mexico’s colonial highlands back in 1995. At that time, her life was in a transition.
“I came down for a couple of months’ visit, and was able to do some product design with local artisans,” explains the New York native.
At the time, Carol worked in San Francisco as a graphics designer and she was soon doing trade shows back home which featured the new designs she came by in Mexico.
But inspiration really hit a few years later during her first trip to Morocco. Like many others who begin an import-export business, Carol got started simply by buying some local goods to help cover her costs. She bought carpets. Then, when she came home, she sold them at a profit.
The success of the mini-venture was the only motivation she needed: “I decided to try to make it an actual, functioning business.”
In the beginning, her main market for the carpets was the U.S. but demand was high and her business grew until she was importing her wares by the container-load.
In 2001, she opened her store Insh’ala in San Miguel, giving her a home base for selling her imports.
During the store’s first 10 years, Insh’ala focused exclusively on Arabic goods from places like Morocco, Turkey and Syria. However, Carol has since broadened her horizons—by looking on her doorstep.
She explains, “In the last couple of years I’ve made some changes…importing a bit less and finding things closer to home. It became important to start to mix it a bit more with European, Asian, Mexican and modern.”
Today, Carol still imports from the Middle East…carpets from Turkey and Morocco…textiles from Uzbekistan…but now she imports via FedEx in small, more select quantities. This means she doesn’t have to travel to the East every time she wants to import, which has given her more time to enjoy Mexico.
Carol has discovered that Mexico is a treasure trove in its own right. She now sells furniture, antiques, and accessories bought from what she describes as “very eclectic individuals” in her adopted country. It has helped Carol and her store maintain its reputation for offering “real one-of-a-kind” items.
Carol now ships her merchandise all over Mexico, the U.S., and beyond. 2011 was Insh’ala’s most successful year ever—and 2012 has started strong.
Being able to travel, to spend her days “just loving beautiful things, and with the store being successful…that keeps me going.”
Editor’s Note: We’ve often written about the type of lifestyle someone who makes their living from import-export can enjoy. Find out more here.