I have been told to dress for the job that you want, not the job you have. That said, at the time of this writing, I’m in lounge pants and a t-shirt. Under normal circumstances, though, I enjoy wearing things that make a unique statement. My wardrobe doesn’t have to be bold or flamboyant, but rather, refined and adventurous. Enter La Matera. I ran across the brand on social media several years ago and I was instantly drawn to it. Their logo sticker has been staring back at me from my garage mini-fridge for a couple of years now. I decided to track down the man behind the brand for an inside look at these unique travel inspired accessories.
I finally interviewed Stefan Bozik, owner of La Matera, after several months of trying to connect. Now, I’m more drawn to his brand and his vision than ever. Stefan is an enthusiastic businessman in his mid 30’s and has the type of personality that leaves you wondering. I’ve often thought of these types of poeple to be the most successful. They tell you just enough that you find yourself wanting to know more.
My interview with Stefan was relaxed and unrehearsed. I found him to be warm but structured, enthusiastic about his brand, and a hands on kind of guy. At the onset, he was interviewing me before I realized what was going on and turned the attention back to him. Meet Stefan Bozik, Owner and CEO of La Matera Brand.
What does La Matera mean and what inspired you to start the business?
It’s a slang word used in Argentina for a gathering of individuals to socialize and enjoy each other’s company. I purchased the business in 2015 from two brothers who had started it back in 2013. I just loved the style and thought that the products were of good quality. I love to travel and had been to Argentina a few times. I found La Matera to exude a distinct style that was rugged and sophisticated. I wanted to continue to build the brand around exploration. The designs were exciting and different and I wanted the challenge of building the brand.
Describe your target market or the demographic that “gets it” in terms of the La Matera concept.
People who love to explore and like to be outdoors and have a passion for experiences. I would say that our clientele is somewhere between the Dos Equis guy and James Bond. It [target market] is rugged and likes to be outdoors and appreciates the finer things in life along with buying products that have a story to tell.
What unexpected challenges have you faced?
It continues to amaze me at how challenging it is to have an ecommerce business. The work and knowledge of running an online business is more than I expected. It seems easy to sell products online but it’s actually quite difficult. Another challenge is in getting the quality of the product to be consistent across the board and make it repeatable. Sourcing materials and keeping a consistent supply chain has been difficult at times.
Are you heavily involved in the day to day of running the company?
Yes, I am an owner/operator. I sometimes take customer service calls just to hear the feedback first hand. How do you stay motivated?I simply enjoy building and problem solving. The work that we do with our artisans, the impact on their lives, and being able to share is also very rewarding. We try and get to know our partners and artisans on a personal level. Our families video conference together and we build personal relationships. The culture here at La Matera is easy to latch on to.
Also, I would say that my Spanish has certainly improved. That’s been helpful. Communicating has never been easier than it is today. I’ll be on a plane flying at 30,000 feet with Internet, using slack with my team and communicating with our artisans using WhatsApp. We know about their families and they know us. Finding long-term relationships is important.
Describe Stefan in a nutshell. Help me to get to know you.
I am passionate and excited about travel and exploration. I love experiencing new people, new places, and new cultures. I also love building something that doesn’t already exist and continuing to build on something once it’s established. I started my career as an investment banker on Wall Street for three years. After that I managed a department of 90 people at a warehouse for a couple of years and then went back to business school at Darden. That’s where I reconnected with my now wife. She decided to move to San Diego and I bought La Matera and moved the business to California. We have a ferocious Yorkie named Chief. My hobbies include surfing, podcasting, de-stressing at the batting cage, and running the business. I cook 4-5 days a week. Mexican, Argentine, and Thai are my favorites. This is important. What’s your favorite cocktail? I love tequila or mezcal (he chuckles)!
When you travel for pleasure, how do you choose a destination?
I love the beach. Blue water and good sand are my favorite. Name your favorite international spots off the cuff.The French Riviera, Prague, Guatemala, and Thailand. How about your favorite domestic spots? Kauai (Hawaii), New York City, Siesta Key (Florida), and Scottsdale (Arizona).
Describe your ideal trip. Flying into somewhere on the water and staying in an Airbnb. I like to explore and go where the locals go, mixing in some good local food. I still enjoy getting up early and doing my morning routine and then going for a workout. I’ll head out somewhere around 10am. I love dinner outside, enjoying local flavors, and going to local hangouts at night or hitting up a performance or festival. Sometimes I connect with a guide or a driver. It’s best just to drop in and figure it out as you go.
Stefan is the kind of guy you just want to have a beer with and get to know on a more personal level. He’s passionate about life and his company and is rather light-hearted despite what seems to be a rigid business background. He’s clearly motivated and seems to keep the kind of passion that most only desire.
I’m often drawn to companies that have a story to tell and that align with my general set of values or interests. Do yourself a favor and check out La Matera online (lamaterashop.com). I get a feeling of confidence and uniqueness when I put on one of their belts with a pair of jeans or khakis. My personal favorite is the green Bariloche Belt.
I hope to catch up with Stefan in person soon. Perhaps some tequila in San Diego, a beer in Nashville, or some rum in Guatemala will be in our future. Cheers!