How By Maria Began?


I’m Catalina Jossen Cardozo, and I want to share with you part of my story, so that you can understand the origins of By Maria, and how it all began.

I’m from Bogota, Colombia. My mother was a lawyer and social sciences teacher, who is my right hand and pillar. My father, a linguist by profession, who passed away in 2011, was a principled man taught me to live a responsible and humble life.

Both lovers of literature, up-to-date on the latest social and political issues, they were bothanalytical and critical thinkers. My brother, who was also my best friend and supported me in achieving my dreams during several years, also passed away when I was only 15 years old.

The beginning of an entrepreneur life.

In 2006 after my studies in Industrial Design at Andes University, I initiated a startup company in Bogota, Colombia with my good friend Carlos Bautista, called BEO. We designed clothes and shoes for both women and men, in our studio in la Macarena1. Though we developed exclusive and unique clothing, outsourcing the creation of the production, but we faced numerous difficulties and could sell up to three pieces per month. Being “famous” and “successful” is not easy!

During the first stage at BEO, we began to discover a well known area in Bogota, El Restrepo2, where leather, textiles, manufacturing and suppliers converge, creating an ideal environment to develop footwear and leather goods, with such an agglomeration of raw materials. We also had the opportunity to meet and design footwear for some medium sized manufacturers.

When we were finally convinced that our current model was not working, we decided to alter our approach and change our business model towards mass production. We soon set up a small factory in El Restrepo2 with a production capacity of 500 pairs of footwear per month, and focused our efforts on production processing, suppliers, efficiency and establishing a clientele. Our naive and lack of experience with business in general, showed us the grim reality of the sector: monopolies, corruption, personnel management and unreliable suppliers and clients.

After three years of constant struggle, but learning the realities of the shoemaking industry and living through the injustices that many talk about, but few have actually experienced, BEO closed its doors in 2012, to avoid bankruptcy,

Despite these challenges, I quickly turned the page and began pursuing further studies in Product Design at the National University, and eventually wrote my dissertation on, “Removable High Heels for Women for Multiple Role in their Daily Lives”.

What I learn but at that momento I was not aware.

After returning to well-established companies, notably KASSANI and EZGO, that both design furniture for the corporate sector, I began to learn from the knowledge gained to apply it to my own, personal project. I began analyzing value chains including all stakeholders involved. In EZGO the concept of quality “service” stood out as a unique element, in a market that concentrates most of their efforts on product development.


Time for love,and put all learned together and design.

In 2013, I met my husband Philipp Jossen, when I was working in marketing. We had a long distance relationship, that resulted with me moving to live in Switzerland and pursue a master’s degree in Service Design in the Luzern University of Applied Science and Arts (HSLU).

My thesis topic I eventually chose was, the “Shoe Industry.” I decided to explore the Europe industry and analyze its supply chain to compare it with my practical experience in Colombia. The result: we face the same problem; monopolies, inequality, and unlivable wages. After exploring supply chains and identifying commonalities in the main stakeholders, I kept in mind the niche and need to develop a “Service”.

It is then when the idea and current project, By Maria, was contemplated, but the motivation was new in that I was going to establish something RELEVANT. These inspiring words from Voltaire kept reoccurring in my thoughts, “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do”.

The more I learned, the more I developed a sense of responsibility. Thinking about the shoemaker who used to work for me in Colombia, his house and his dire conditions, made me reflect, and think from a different, altered perspective. Also of inspiration was my own story, those of my colleagues struggling to survive, handling the uncertainties of the unknown, and thoughts of despair and desire to give up.

All these elements plus the time to research other companies around the globe led me to the conclusion that the solution and nice was to set up a service oriented company that exists and addresses the need of the client for an existing company. This idea would tackle the real problems and existing gaps in the market.

As result By Maria or, “Walking With Sense”, as I called the project during my studies, was established; as an alternative to the current supply chain of shoemakers, that directly connects shoemakers, designers and its clients, while simultaneously decreasing the need for inventories management, establishing fixed costs through the supply chain.

In June 2016, I presented By Maria, as my Master Thesis and in September 2016 “By Maria” was awarded the prestigious “Revolution Prize” as the best thesis of Luzern University.

On December 12th 2016, I applied to the BRIDGE proof of concept, SNF program, supported by the HSLU and the Competence Center Design and Management. The first call received 102 applicants and 11 projects were funded, and By Maria was one of them. With this grantt of 129.000 CHF I’ve been perfecting the concept, developing my team, and together we have been setting up By Maria’s platform, in the form of its first workshop in Colombia. The first collection of 40 new designs hailing from seven designers around the world, and will include other lines and products.

1. Bogotá, Colombia Neighbourhood

2. Bogotá, Colombia Neighbourhood

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