Co-Founders, Freda Salvador
Cristina Palomo-Nelson & Megan Papay
Cristina Palomo-Nelson and Megan Papay are the dynamic duo behind Freda Salvador shoes (FRĒDA). The shoes are fashion-forward but are also made with an eye on comfort and longevity, a combination that is hard to find and even harder to resist. Cristina and Megan are long-time friends and designers who are building a company with an enviable culture that they describe as "family." We had the opportunity to learn more about what inspires them and how they're building a company that encourages their employees to find meaning at work and at home.
You both designed shoes elsewhere before joining forces together as cofounders of Freda Salvador. You obviously share perspectives on design but also have different views; how do you divide the design work? Do you each design pieces start to finish or is it collaborative from the beginning for each shoe you all create?
Our design process is collaborative from start to finish! We feel like it’s a strength of our brand. We have such different personal style, so when we both work on a shoe, our perspectives of how we’d wear it or how it would fit into our closets are totally different. We feel like our differences makes our shoes unique, but also understandable to a larger group of women.
Now knowing what you know, what advice would you give your younger self when starting the business?
Get help sooner. We were so heads down and going, going, going, we didn’t realize how much we were stalling our growth by trying to do it all. By investing in great talent our business really went to the next level!
Do you have a favorite shoe from the current collection?
Cris: The Brooklyn and Dew woven sandals. They are so beautiful and comfortable.
Megan: I live in the Eda sneakers. They are more elevated than other sneakers in my closet, so I love dressing them up.
Where did you draw inspiration for the most recent collection?
Spain! Our most recent collection is all handwoven. We have had our Wish oxford and Keen mule in our collection for seasons now and they are always best sellers. The region of Spain where we make our shoes is known for impeccable handwoven. Women weave them in their homes and then deliver the uppers to the factories to last and construct. It’s such a beautiful art. We decided this season to add to our woven collection and really take full advantage of the opportunity we are fortunate enough to have. Each shoe takes a very long time to make, so production is small batch and special.
We have a pretty special company culture; we truly are a family. We need to protect that culture as we grow.
What is the hardest part of your day to day job?
That no day is ever the same! It’s hard to have the structure we crave to get work done. Things always come up and take us away from what we were doing. Design and marketing come naturally to us, but running the business is a large part of our days and it’s very demanding.
What do you prioritize when designing a shoe for work, for travel, and for everyday?
Pound the pavement wearability. Our shoes are functional and they are built to last. Women need to walk to work on them, chase their kids in them and everything in between to dominate their day.
How has your company changed and grown since inception? What have been the biggest challenges of that journey?
Our team has grown and that’s probably the biggest change; a for the better one, but a change nonetheless. A challenge would be the time it takes to find and hire the right people. We have a pretty special company culture; we truly are a family. We need to protect that culture as we grow.
How do you find balance between your work and personal life? What ticks, trips, and hacks help you manage that?
Ugh, we haven’t figured it out yet. We try to have balance, but owning a business is pretty much all-consuming. The good news is, we absolutely love what we do and it doesn’t feel like work. We both have young families and our kids have been part of FRĒDA every step of the way. They come to the office, they travel with us. It’s all they know and they seem to like it. They see us doing what we love and working hard, so hopefully that registers and they have our grit as they grow up.
We both are pretty adamant about family dinners. Sitting down together for an hour (although sometimes less) without phones or computers everyday. It’s what we look forward to.
Describe a typical Friday night after 6 pm. What do you do? Where do you go? What do you wear?
Cris: Usually Friday nights are at home. We have dinner with the kids and then once they go to bed we have drinks outside in our yard. Just relax and spend time together.
Megan: We go to the Sausalito Yacht Club every Friday night at 6:00pm. It’s bible in our family. We have the same table, sometimes we have friends and family with us and sometimes we are a threesome, but it marks the end of a long week! We have a gin tonic, then make our way home. My husband usually watches a movie and I fall asleep on the sofa!
What draws you to Mi Golondrina, and how do you style your Mi Golondrina pieces?
We love the handwork, embroidery and artisan details! The pieces are such statements, so they are very easy to style. All you need is a Mi Golondrina top or dress and jeans, shorts and FRĒDA’s :) The pieces make us feel polished, but they are also very effortless and comfortable, which is 100% our vibe!
Last meal on earth, what would you eat:
Both: Burritos and margaritas
Must-have for travel carry-on:
Cris: cashmere sweater
Megan: Hand sanitizer
You’re headed to a desert island with only one thing from your cosmetic bag, what do you take?
Any shoes from your childhood/adolescent years that you remember particularly fondly?
Cris: My family has been making shoes in El Salvador for over 70 years. It all started with a boot called the Burro Boot. My grandfather developed it so workers could have a safe and comfortable shoe to work in. There is a bronze sculpture of this boot in our factory and it was always special to me. What it symbolized.
Megan: I have always loved shoes. My mom would take me back to school shopping every August and it was always about the shoes: Kangaroos, Reebok, Tretorn, Jellies, Andre Agassi Nike, Doc Martens, Birkenstock. I think I could seriously tell you by school grade what shoes I had!