Casa Bonita Lifestyle is not your usual homewares and fashion store. It’s a social enterprise started by Colombian expat Liliana Bravo that supports migrant women build businesses in Australia, as well as provide a retail channel for artisan goods and handicrafts from her homeland.
Liliana arrived from Colombia sixteen years ago and settled in West Footscray. It was while she was part of a mother’s group and participating in local Facebook groups for mums that she became inspired by the power of community. She realised that through her Colombian connections she had the potential to create opportunities for women, both in Colombia and in Australia.
Liliana started her social enterprise in 2019 wholesaling Colombian products, mainly artisan crafts. In January 2020 an opportunity came up to open a pop-up retail shop three days a week in Seddon and in June 2020 she took over the lease for a large shop front on Charles Street.
“It was really daunting quitting my corporate career and taking on such a big lease,” says Liliana. “But I reached out to my community and asked whether we could make the space work as a collaboration. Now we have four women-run businesses in this space, from a plant and pottery business to Indian jewellery.”
Casa Bonita Lifestyle’s bestselling items are the elegant Panama hats. The hats are made from iraca, a unique fibre that only grows in South America. Whole communities in Ecuador and Colombia are dedicated to making these hats and it can take two weeks to turn the palm into a fine, strong thread and weave it into a packable hat. The skillful artisans are often women; most are mothers and sole parents.
The rest of the bright and vibrant shop features clothing, accessories, crockery, plants, and more. There’s something eye-catching everywhere you look!
Better still, each purchase from Casa Bonita Lifestyle helps to support social change. The profits provide artisans, suppliers, and independent business owners with a steady, reliable income to enable them to plan, buy necessities, and to educate their children.
Liliana’s next plan is to host events at the Charles Street store in order to connect migrant women. “The events will give them an opportunity to share their culture and stories and to talk about their business in English, which is not their first language.”
Liliana beams “I tell my kids – look, because of Casa Bonita Lifestyle we can help women in Australia build a new life for themselves and at the same time we can create social impact on the other side of the world. That’s a powerful message.”