Behind the Scenes: How Rejection and Heartache Led to Launching Azulina Home

Azulina Home started with two rejection letters from my dream MBA programs.

At the time, I was 26 and working as a management consultant in Chicago and dreaming of a different future. My heart was set on a career in social impact in South America, where I had studied as a foreign exchange student in high school. The weekly grind of endless Powerpoints and 5am flights was like a wet blanket on my fire, and I was conditioned to think the only way out was an MBA to leapfrog to my next career.

After I was rejected from the only two schools I applied to, I felt like my dream future was out of reach, as I continued the Up in the Air lifestyle. I practically lived in hotels. In fact, a hotel in Columbus, Ohio sent me a cake on my birthday. Sweet! And also depressing.

My dad’s advice to get over my sulking was to get out of town and have a change in scenery.

He sagely advised “no matter where you go, as soon as you physically get your body into a new environment, you’ll get a new perspective.”

At his urging, I called up my globe-trotting uncle, a writer and economist, to join him on his next trip to Latin America. As luck would have it, he had a trip planned to Colombia a few months out. Without hesitate, I booked my airfare.

That trip to Colombia blasted open my eyes and my heart. Not only did it change my perspective, it reminded me that there are millions of different paths we can take to seek out our dreams.

That trip inspired a second trip to Colombia, which eventually led to a one-way ticket to Medellín.


I got lucky and landed a job for a Canadian company when I first arrived, which kept me busy until I stumbled on what would become the first iteration of Azulina, which were the beautiful, hand-painted ceramics of El Carmen de Viboral.

From 2013 to 2016 Azulina was in fact, a ceramics company: Azulina Ceramics. I’ll share more about the transition from ceramics to pillows in a future post, but for now I’ll note that while the product we create today is vastly different from our origins, the mission has always remained the same: to create beautiful products for the home, while respecting heritage artisan techniques and supporting the global artisan sector in tandem.

After 6+ years of living in Colombia, and a prior volunteer experience supporting cacao farmers in Honduras with Technoserve, I have experienced first hand the value in supporting local producers and makers. Investing in heritage artisan techniques, is one of the most impactful and sustainable economic engines for growth. It’s also wildly fun.

It’s been 12 years since I got those heart-sinking rejection letters, but I think it’s fair to say that I still managed to pursue my dream of social entrepreneurship in South America.

If you happen to have had your hopes dashed or feel a fire deep inside, I trust that you’ll find a way to make your dreams happen. Take my dad’s advice, and get the heck outta town!