An Artisan’s Touch

Leslie Amaya, founder of AmaDa Artesania, brings handmade, artisanal hats and accessories from Mexico to the Denver market.

Photo courtesy of AmaDa Artesania

During the pandemic, an unlikely partnership between a Denver mother and artisans in Michoacán, Mexico birthed into a thriving business. Known today as AmaDa Artesania, founder Leslie Amaya created the accessories shop with a mission to support Mexican artists in her home in Denver. More than a year later, she is doing just that with a bustling brand of hats, necklaces, phone cases, and other colorful accessories.

From Mother to Entrepreneur

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amaya found herself in an all-too-familiar place: itching to do something with her free time. As a natural-born seller and frequent traveler to Mexico, she tried to sell some of the handmade earrings and necklaces she bought in the country. However, after a few failed Facebook Live selling attempts, she went back to square one. Then, her husband said the magic word—hats.

Inspired by her love of embroidered hats, Amaya bought a few from Michoacán artisans. They sold out as fast as a Best Buy Black Friday sale. Pleased with the hats’ success, Amaya had the idea to combine them with the vibrant, beaded necklaces she bought from the same artisan. Soon, this became the brand’s trademark style—According to Amaya, “That’s how the story of AmaDa Artesania and her beaded hats began.”

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A Lasting Relationship

After this initial success, Amaya set up permanent partnerships with Mexican artisans, notably Juan Gerardo, her primary hat maker. Gerardo handmakes all his hats with suede material, hand stitching, and a variety of color schemes. Before meeting Amaya, he struggled to sustain his business.

“He barely made any money because he was pricing the hats at a very low price,” said Amaya. “He couldn’t believe I wanted to buy him a large amount, so we adjusted his price to allow him to earn a good amount and not ‘low ball’ his work.”

Now, since working with Amaya, Gerardo habits a full workshop and sells his hats to high-demand audiences in Colorado through AmaDa Artesania.

One Hat, Many Beads

Along with Gerardo’s one-of-a-kind hats, Amaya’s business unique, adorning beads are interchangeable. That way, a customer can buy multiple different sets in various colors and designs to match their outfits or moods.

While Gerardo crafts the hats, Amaya sources beaded necklaces of random shapes, sizes, and colors from Chipas, Mexico. Then, she molds them into the overlays for Gerardo’s hats.

“My strategy is, ‘Don’t get picky, don’t get bossy, be happy with what you get,’” said Amaya. “I owe my success to the artisans designing the beadwork, [so] how can I dare to ever pay them less than what they deserve and demand any color?” Amaya also beams about the fact that this variety in source materials makes her hats truly one-of-a-kind, an expression of both a buyer’s and artisan’s individual style.

Recently, Amaya has also been selling other accessories like statement necklaces and hand-painted leather phone cases. She has even sold jackets and facemasks alongside the hats, the products in which Amaya’s business truly thrives.

Photo courtesy of AmaDa Artesania

A Home in Denver

Though Amaya sells many artisanal items through Instagram (@amada_artesanias), she created a strong presence for herself by attending various pop-up markets in Denver’s metro area. Her success in both these mediums now has Amaya shipping products to places across the country.

Denver has hugged my business and loved it very much,” said Amaya. “I have not come across anyone who discriminates my handmade goods or made me feel like I don’t belong.”

With continuing appearances at pop-ups markets and a website underway, there is no stopping AmaDa Artesania.

“My business was born in a hard time and it did great, but maybe it will do better after,” said Amaya. “I’m happy I grew as an entrepreneur, [and] I’m sometimes able to provide work for other stay at home moms. I feel motivated to continue and do bigger projects.”

In the future, Amaya hopes to “help other women grow” and continually support and work with the artisans. As for her selling, her next step is setting up shop at Northside Market; she and two of her friends organized a Latino market with 23 different vendors that will be running on April 17 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.