business profile

I Run This: Sandra Manay, Luna Sundara

Name: Sandra Manay

Pronouns: She/her

Location: New York

What is the name of your business and what do you do?

Luna Sundara. We make sustainably-sourced aromatherapy products and handcrafted home decor items and empower Latin American artisans.

Describe yourself in three words.

I would describe myself as an ambitious, persistent and creative person. All three traits have been instrumental to my success.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?

I’ve always been entrepreneurial. As a teenager, I was selling my finds on eBay or auctioning clothes off to friends. During my time in undergrad, I was planning to launch my own clothing brand with traditional Peruvian textures, colors, and designs. But after graduating, I realized that many of my friends were gravitating towards popular Peruvian aromatherapy oils, which are often hard to come by in the U.S. Harnessing this need and understanding how to channel it in a way that spoke to my passions and heritage was the beginning of Luna.

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A post shared by Luna Sundara (@luna.sundara)

What was the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

Early on, I realized that not everyone is going to believe in your project. But if I’d listened to everyone who’d told me to work a traditional job because it guaranteed a steady income and benefits, I’d probably be working a job that made me unhappy.

How does running your own business make you feel? 

I feel incredibly grateful to own my own business. At times, it can even feel surreal. I started Luna with the hope that it might be able to provide me with financial independence, and also allow me to travel to Latin American communities, source new products, create jobs for artisans and offer unique products to my customers. I’m truly living my own dream, and I hope to be able to do so for many years to come.

What are some of the hurdles or roadblocks you’ve faced? 

When I first founded Luna, I quickly realized that I was no expert on my products. I knew I needed to educate myself in order to be of better service to my customers, so I began working with a couple who specialized in biology and agro-engineering. Together, we’ve been able to identify certain botanicals in Peru that can be turned into essential oils. Though lack of knowledge might feel like a roadblock, there’s no shame in seeking help from experts in the field who can teach you—in fact, the payoff is enormous.

Another hurdle I faced was gaining the trust of artisans within Latin American communities. Because many of these craftsmen have been exploited in the past, they’re slow to trust new people. I make it a priority to gain their trust by consistently visiting the communities in person, and ensuring that the artisans have the last word on pricing, who works on their team and how we all collaborate together.

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A post shared by Luna Sundara (@luna.sundara)

What are some challenges that Hispanic/LatinX small business owners face that others may not?

Like many other minorities in this country, Hispanics are often faced with insufficient start-up capital. For example, when I started Luna, I only had a total of $1,500 to cover inventory, packaging and shipping. My co-founder and I therefore handled things like web design, photography and marketing completely in-house. At the time, I tried to get a loan and was unsuccessful. Looking back now, I realize it was one of the best things that could have happened, because it meant I learned every aspect of the business myself.

What unique perspectives do you bring to the small business economy as a Hispanic/LatinX business owner? 

As a Hispanic/LatinX business owner, I have the privilege of showcasing products that are connected to my heritage. Growing up in Peru, I was fascinated by my country’s art, culture and history. Now, I channel meaningful aspects of my heritage within the products we produce at Luna. I’m also privileged to work alongside artisans and harvesters in Peru to create sustainable botanicals and home decor items. Much of the work we do together is a step in the right direction towards enabling a better life for these artisans.

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A post shared by Luna Sundara (@luna.sundara)

What are some of your major wins or accomplishments? What are your proudest moments? 

I’ve had many accomplishments and proud moments, however one of the best accomplishments I’ve had was to see my artisans and harvesters thrive and seeing their families succeed. Luna Sundara is a collective work between the community and us here in the US, seeing their lives improve because of our partnership has been one of the most satisfying things that could happen to any entrepreneur.

Besides seeing my community thrive, I’ve been able to employ members of my family here in the US, we’ve gone through a lot together and getting to this point has been a blessing.

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

Looking ahead, we’re expanding our product lineup, as well as the number of Latin American countries with whom we currently work. As of right now, we collaborate with artisans in Peru and Ecuador—but there is so much talent across Latin America, and one of my goals is to source and showcase their incredible work here in the states. It brings me so much joy to see people appreciate the work of these artisans, and to watch them grow and succeed.

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A post shared by Luna Sundara (@luna.sundara)

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

I’ve learned that I can’t control anyone or anything. All I can do is plan and prepare, and then hope that things go the way I planned. When things seem tough, I remind myself to keep going by looking on the positive side of any situation.

How can Hispanic/LatinX small businesses give back to their community? 

Businesses can give back by hiring members of the Hispanic/LatinX community wherever possible. For example, when I collaborate with photographers and videographers, I make sure to work with independent artists.

What advice would you give other Hispanic/Latino entrepreneurs just starting out? 

It’s important to embrace your heritage. Look for support from your community, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I was met with an outpouring of support from my community in the U.S., as well as back home in Peru. And—while I know it sounds cliché—it’s important to find something you’re passionate about when starting up a business. If you’re not truly passionate about it, you might be unwilling to dedicate the enormous amount of time, energy and resources that your business requires.

What’s your “power song” and why? (A song that always pumps you up and makes you feel powerful)

I like to blast “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” by Baccara. As soon as I put it on, the energy in the room changes. The beat makes me get up and dance. It makes me feel powerful, and like nothing else can interfere with my good energy.

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