Twins Diana & Julie Verdugo, Founders of Gemela Design
High School: Marian High School
College: University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Neighborhood/City: Bloomfield Hills
How they are making their mark on the city of Detroit:
“We are the co-founders and head designers of the accessory label Gemela Design, LLC which we founded in the Summer of 2009. We are currently selling in 11 stores around the Metro Detroit area, as well as online. We take a ‘fashion approach’ to our accessory label, consistently participating in various local fashion shows, photo shoots, style magazines and online publications.
Aside from our success as a relatively new ‘start-up’ we pride ourselves in the promotion of philanthropy, specifically in our case by donating a portion of our profits to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We believe that in doing this it not only creates awareness to a specific cause that is near and dear to us, but it promotes social responsibility in general.”
We execute everything from the design development, to the marketing plan, to product and brand advertising, though we really can’t take full credit, because we are so grateful to have the assistance of our very talented intern, Molly Jacques (from the College of Creative Studies), who helps us on marketing and design material, as well as the aid of a few other part-time contracted employees”.
On how they got their start:
“In February 2009, while we were both on assignment as engineers in South America, Diana was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and we immediately dropped our jobs, our ‘new’ Latin American lives, packed up our things and were back home with our family in Michigan within 24 hours of the diagnosis.
Through Diana’s bone marrow transplant in August we again found ourselves living in the hospital for the month and decided that despite the fact that Diana was in a very weak physical state, Julie could invest her time into something that could generate profits to be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). With some intense brainstorming sessions merging our time, creativity, technical business minds, worldly experiences and colorful cultural background (their Mother from Detroit and Father from Chile), Gemela (which means twin in Spanish and Italian) was born.
We’ve always been creative and artistic, despite our engineering backgrounds, and took this perceived drawback during trying circumstances as an opportunity to redirect our energies into something completely different than their past left brained experiences while helping other cancer patients and tapping into a developing Detroit market. We have also both always carried an entrepreneurial spirit that had never had the chance to develop.
Our design aesthetic is directly formed from nostalgia for our travels overseas, physically displaying reflections of our international experiences and the world’s beauty, ironically meshed with our industrial and technical backgrounds. Each unique piece is named after a different city in the world and are created with unconventional materials that bring an industrial edge to a normally delicate jewelry design industry. From there, one thing has lead to another and Gemela Design has organically created a thriving accessory label and business since August 2009, producing increasing profits since it’s first month”.
On why they choose to stay in Metro Detroit:
“Initially we were back in Metro Detroit for the support of friends and family as well as the medical care. During Diana’s road to recovery we had the option of moving to a larger city, but instead we saw the potential of building our business in Detroit and really began aggressively developing Gemela, step by step, without putting limits to our goals.
We believe that in combination with our passion and determination, added with the growing Detroit fashion scene and the increasing support of local business, we really are finding our niche here.”
Their favorite things about Detroit:
“Our favorite thing about Detroit is the strong opportunity that it holds and we are convinced that we could not have found anywhere else. With the recent growth of local artists in Detroit, there is a sense of camaraderie among all of us, it seems that each artist is pursuing his or her artistic passion as much for himself or herself as for the community.
This has lead to so much support from other great local sources, especially Styleline Magazine. This magazine, we believe, has single handedly changed that face of fashion for Detroit. Instead of being considered as merely an industrial city, Detroit is now on the map as a fashionable and creative one too. We were so honored to be Styleline’s Featured Designer’s of the Month in the February 2010 issue, and don’t miss an issue because of all the great insight on local fashion designers, local hotspots and local events that it provides.”
On what they wish you knew about Detroit:
“The talent and ambition that Detroiters possess! There is more than potential here, young people are making things happen. We noticed this especially tapping into the Detroit Fashion Scene this past year. There are so many accomplished entrepreneurs, designers and artists that have been such an inspiration for us – setting precedences, breaking barriers. We believe in ‘power in numbers’ and as long as young Detroit minds stick together, wonderful ideas will continue to generate!”
On future plans:
“We are determined to continue cultivating, promoting, breaking barriers and inspiring young entrepreneurs in the merging of left and right brain skill-sets, especially in difficult situations, by turning adversities into opportunities. We look to promote Detroit as a city above and beyond its industrial image and replace its persona with one of creativity, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. We also plan to earn MBA’s to fully cultivate our business skills. With a strong technical business background, a passion for fashion and design, and a drive to spread LLS awareness, we see no sign of slowing down!”
Their words of wisdom:
“The most important lesson we have learned from our entrepreneurial ventures is to always look for opportunity in difficult situations. in the case of Detroit, we see people losing jobs and finding themselves in difficult situations economically. It is in these trying times, that true opportunity for success exists, you just have to follow your instinct to uncover the potential.”