the studio, 0ur mission

The story behind our mission of empowering women

4th March 2020

It is International Women’s Week and we are celebrating!

As you might know CREATIVA was founded by two women, myself (Maribel) & Vera, in 2014. We were both migrant women in New Zealand and when we met we realised that we shared more than our heritage and profession, we were struggling to find a job in our field and we were eager to get any opportunity to develop as professionals while looking after the family.

We left our countries with a dream: to widen our horizons, grow a bilingual family, live in a safer environment, discover the world, meet new cultures, etc. This move was one of the bravest and scariest things we’ve done, but it was also one of the best too, it was totally worth it.

Our kids know more than one language, and we all know the true value of community and diversity, the value of our background and the family effort and sacrifices. We’ve seen beautiful new places, we met and loved amazing people along the way, and experienced new traditions and cultures. Our families love their new country and our families have grown stronger since we left.

As life is compromised, we both struggled to find opportunities to develop our career path. While we were looking after the family our husbands had full-time jobs, we loved supporting their careers and seeing them develop as professionals, we were always happy to support them no matter what.

We also loved to have the opportunity to be at home while the kids were growing up and when they needed a parent close by for different reasons, we were there. This is what many migrant women share in common, we are the ones staying at home and supporting our husbands careers, but of course, this meant that we have to put our professional development on hold.

Most migrant women don’t have extended family around to give them a hand with the kids, so we have limited time to go out and work; we don’t have that local professional experience in our new countries, which is required to be seriously considered for a position, and we might also have an underdeveloped English skill: our opportunities are usually quite limited.

Here is where our self-esteem as a professional gets seriously damaged.

In my case (Maribel), I try to do whatever I could back then, I tried selling arts and crafts, I created personal projects in design and web, to stay at the top of the design trends and new technologies. But it wasn’t enough, I needed to do more, I wanted to do more, and I needed an opportunity. I wish I had an opportunity back then.

“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” Michelle Obama

Creating our own opportunities

After a few years struggling to find an opportunity, we took the leap and co-founded a Design Studio.

CREATIVA was born in 2014 with only a couple of old laptops working from home or a cafe, knowing nothing about business, about how to run a Studio or even how to get clients.

But we did it, and it’s been over five years and that small studio of 2, now is a team of 6 ladies.

6 ladies, 4 nationalities, living in 4 different countries, 2 different continents.

It was around our third year in business when we saw a close friend living the same story we lived before: she was a mum of a small kid, new in the country, struggling to learn the language, and find connections, and with a profession on her sleeve.

I invited her to work with us for a few hours a week while her kid was at kindy. When she told me how grateful she was and that I was making an impact on her life, it was a huge realisation for me; I saw myself in her and I was so happy to help her out because I knew what she was going through, I was in the same situation a few years back in my life.

Creating opportunities for others

Then the company started to get busier, getting bigger projects and better clients, and I saw the need for growing the team to offer other services and help out with the workload.

Here is where I realised that I had a great opportunity to fill these position with women only… ladies like me that needed flexible arrangements to get back to work, even if it was for a few hours a week on a contractor basis. I found my personal mission, I knew there were women out there going through the same struggles we had before.

In our team, five of the ladies are mums, most of them small children so they can’t go back to work full-time, we all have to juggle home, kids, activities, work, etc.

Five of the ladies are migrants in their current place they are living. And we all share similar stories, we left our countries to find new opportunities and improve our English, we all have a husband that works full time so a lot of the domestic tasks are taken by us.

And again, I am grateful for the opportunities in my life, as I know my team are as well with their experiences, but there is a point in your life as a homestay mum where you need something to do with your talents, even for a few hours a week, to take you back to your passions and your genius.

And they need something flexible because the kids get sick without planning or asking to add their sickness in your calendar. Our lives don’t work like that, it’s not planned and it’s full of unexpected circumstances.

Some might choose, or have the possibility to pay for childcare and go out to the workforce, which is great! but a lot of these women don’t have the same chances, not only because of money issues, because of the limited time they have available, the language barrier, the connections, the required experience, etc.

I believe that there are so many like me and like us, that are experiencing the same challenges today, trying to find a balance between being a mum and being a professional, and flexible contractor positions are a wonderful solution in these cases, not only for women but for companies as well.

Companies might benefit from this too, they might have temporary or seasonal needs that can be filled up with contractors, just a few hours per week or on a project basis.

This model is not new, there are many websites today where you can find a freelancer to do a small project for you, or work for you for a limited time, if we find a way to connect these projects to women who needs these jobs we would be making a huge impact on their lives.

In the picture the Wellington-based team. From left to right: Vera (Senior Designer), Victoria (Studio Assistant) & Maribel (Creative Director), working together from The Settlement in Petone.

Final thoughts

I don’t think this model will work with all employers or all companies, but for us it works very well and I know that it’s a great chance for these women, who are eager to work and can dedicate a few hours a week in what they do best.

I am very proud of my team the ladies are amazing and they are very grateful for the space we are creating for them. Thanks to this mission and the flexible model we provide they really value our company, and our company culture has grown to be like a family and a close-knit group of friends.

We support each other and we all know that the rest of the team will really understand our problems and struggles, because of our similar stories.

What we’re doing is a very small contribution to the big mission of empowering women, and it made me realise that we can’t just talk about it anymore, we have to do something to empower and support each other.

We can’t sit and wait for the system to change, even a very small contribution can create a huge impact on another woman’s life. The power is in us to gently force this change.