Who says business and friendship can’t mix? Co-founders Ana Neto and Daniela Marques of bag brand Maria Maleta have proven nay-sayers wrong. These two childhood friends started their very own handbag brand and it’s been a huge success. And to top it off – they have redefined career and friendship goals.

Ana and Daniela grew up together in São João da Madeira, Portugal, where both of their families worked in the footwear industry. Ana and Daniela had gone to the same college and lived together for a long time, but it wasn’t until 2013 that they started working toward their dream business together. That year saw an economic crisis worldwide, and the two gal pals knew they had to do something to help earn them some extra cash. It couldn’t just be about money, though. It had to be a project that allowed both women to express their creative sides.

At first, Ana and Daniela thought footwear was the way to go since both of their families were connected to the industry, but it didn’t feel quite right. They wanted to do something new but at the same time still have a sense of home. Their solution: create products using leather goods.

Growing up in a shoe factory helped Ana and Daniela learn the ins and outs of handling leather. Together they worked through trial and error and came up with several sketch ideas that eventually led to their first product: a clutch! From then on, handbags became their MO.

While friendship is at the core of Ana and Daniela’s brand, sustainability is too. Ana and Daniela remind us that it’s important to shop green when you can from legit companies. Some advice from our fave co-founders on how to figure out if a company is legit? Google it! Browsing the internet is a good way to find out which products are authentically eco-friendly and sustainable. Maria Maleta is available on the Wolf & Badger marketplace, an online eco-friendly hub known for representing independent and sustainable brands. If you don’t know where to start your search for eco-friendly and sustainable products, this is a good place to start.

There’s a ton of items we love from Maria Maleta, but of course we had to ask the two besties what they recommend from their line. Ana tells us that her current fav from Maria Maleta is their new phone bag. It’s practical and cute, two musts for bags during the sunny months! Daniela’s favorite is their weekend bag in nude. It has a laptop secure sleeve which is perfect for a workaholic like herself. 

Ana and Daniela stuck together throughout their entire career and it paid off. They hope other women will be inspired to support each other and work together like they have been all these years. The two remind us just how important friendship is, even when it comes to business! You can get through a lot with a real one at your side, even when it comes to starting your own business. 

You may have heard others say that working with your close friends isn’t a good idea. Creative differences can clash and little business can get done. But Ana and Daniela are doing more than fine, thank you very much. They’ve shown us friendship and business is more than possible, it can actually lead to an extremely successful business partnership. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! The two have built a successful, thriving sustainable brand and we’re obsessed. Check out the Maria Maleta website to look at their handbags and grab some for all your sunny day plans when quarantine is over. Don’t forget to check out their Instagram @maria_maleta! #siscode!, too, for some handbag inspo.