Today we’d like to introduce you to Signa Machuca.
Signa, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I was growing up, my family owned several small businesses. Both of my parents were entrepreneurial, creative and full of energy. I was fortunate to grow up around two people who were happily engaged in their projects and who bonded through their work. I knew that someday when the timing was right, I would follow in their footsteps.
After college, I pursued a career in business development in a big company. But after 15 plus years, I became increasingly restless. I knew it was time to leave my corporate environment to start a business that was close to my heart. I knew my business would involve copper, the pink metal I always admired, gift-giving, a hobby I learned from my grandmother, and beautiful paper. I decided to launch a line of copper products. My first product would be an artisanal 100% copper Moscow Mule mug set, gift wrapped in gorgeous paper.
Copper mugs spoke to me at a visceral level, the rose gold color, the dimples created by hand hammering the walls, the shiny decorative appeal, and most important of all, the gift-giving potential.
My challenge was to create a thriving business based on artistry and fine craftsmanship during a time when the marketplace has been moving towards cheap, mass-produced, expendable products.
I learned all I could about the cocktail and its decades-long connection with the city that has been my home for almost two decades before designing the artwork and packaging. The Moscow Mule cocktail was created in 1941 in Los Angeles at a bar on the Sunset strip, hence the name of my company, Urban Vintage LA. It was served in unlined copper mugs – 100% copper, with no alloys or other metals. Copper has excellent conductivity and the Moscow Mule cocktail seems colder when served in pure copper mugs. It was important to me that my offering was as close to the original as possible.
I visited the old location of the Cock N Bull bar and tried to imagine myself there. I used fonts and design elements from the 40s and was as faithful as possible to the aesthetics of the time.
When my first set was created, I knew it was an important milestone, but I had no idea how well received it was about to become. I launched the first gift set on Amazon and within eight months it became the #2 best seller in its category. My biggest challenge during my first 12 months was keeping enough inventory in stock. The copper workshop I was working with could not produce enough mugs to meet my growing demand, and managing the day-to-day operations of my business prevented me from traveling to meet more artisans who could create more mugs for my brand.
I personally hand wrap every gift set. I have had customers tell me the gift wrap is so beautiful, they don’t want to open it. This motivates me to work even harder and to give my gift to the world, metaphorically speaking.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has now been two years since I started my home-based business. It has become increasingly difficult to compete with shoddy imitations that cost a fraction of the price. Even though my products have been selected as “Amazon Choice”, they have been displaced by lower-priced mugs that are not actually made of copper. They are merely copper-plated stainless-steel cups that are look-alikes and offer no benefit as far as temperature conductivity.
I work hard at educating customers about handcrafted products and about copper in general. The copper mugs I offer are artisanal products. Artisanal products are luxury items and should be treated as such. They require care and maintenance. Just like your grandparents polished their real silverware to keep it shiny, real copper mugs require polishing. Pure copper reacts with moisture and develops a patina. It needs to be polished from time-to-time. This is a ritual that people who understand copper accept and enjoy.
Urban Vintage LA – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My company, Urban Vintage LA, is based in Los Angeles, a stone throw’s away from The Sunset Strip, where the Moscow Mule cocktail was first created. I offer a line of artisanal copper mug gift sets and plan to launch other copper products in the future.
My mug sets are mainly purchased as a holiday, corporate and housewarming gifts, but are also very popular as Valentine’s, mother’s day, father’s day and anniversary presents. Did you know that copper is the 7th-anniversary gift?
What sets my brand apart from others is my focus on the customer. At the end of the day, it’s all about the customer. I never lose sight of that. Urban Vintage LA exists to provide premium copper gifts. Every decision regarding design and craftsmanship was made with the customer in mind, from the use of 100% copper to make the mugs, to the presentation in a high-quality gift box, down to the custom ultra-luxurious gift paper used, which you won’t find elsewhere.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I consider customer satisfaction to be the main marker of success. Again, it starts with the customer and ends with the customer. If the customer is not thrilled with their purchase, I have failed. I take note of product reviews and use that feedback to improve my product offering and level of customer care.