SAN JOSE, Calif. — Flor de Maria Rivera has had four career changes in her life, and has lived across the country and traveled the world — but now she feels like she belongs.
“Everything in life happens as it should,” said the Los Gatos, Calif., local, who transitioned from sports reporting to shoe design.
Rivera was born in Peru and moved to South Bay with her family when she was 14. She went on to a successful career in television and public relations before launching her career in fashion, moving to New York and launching an eponymous shoe line.
Her colorful and fashionable shoes have lots of straps, so a pair can be worn in many different ways. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Megan Foxx, Saweetie and Jayda Pinkett Smith have worn Maria Rivera’s Flor designs.
Now back in Los Gatos, Rivera said she hopes to inspire others to take control of their lives and pursue their dreams.
“At the end of the day, I like to inspire women. I like to tell them that they can do anything and everything because I did it. I didn’t speak English, I wasn’t a shoe designer – I’ve changed careers three times in my life,” Rivera said. “If I can feel that I’ve inspired at least one or two people, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”
Despite the life that took her across the country and the world, Rivera always found her way back to Los Gatos.
“I went to college, lived in Los Angeles, lived in San Diego, lived in Manhattan and always came back here,” she said.
His journey has not been easy. Rivera said that at the start of her freshman year at Los Gatos High School, she didn’t speak English and didn’t know anyone. Fast forward 20 years and she was voted “most famous” among her classmates at her high school reunion.
“It was so funny, because when I got there, I didn’t really have any friends. And a lot of people wouldn’t talk to me and things like that, or they couldn’t even communicate,” Rivera said. “So life is fair, you never know what’s going to happen.”
After attending college at the University of San Diego, Rivera worked as a sports journalist in San Jose for seven years before making the first of several career changes.
Her father had just died of cancer, and she said she decided to take a step back and advertise the San Jose earthquakes.
“I felt like I couldn’t give 200%. Everything I do, I try to do it more than 200% and I put my heart and soul into it. I had to be honest with myself,” Rivera said.
Life threw Rivera another curve ball a few years later when a back injury prevented her from traveling with the football team. To keep busy, she started what was at the time one of the only bilingual fashion blogs.
“That’s why I say everything in life works out as it should,” Rivera said. “You don’t know at the moment, but later you will find out why. When I look back in my life, everything that happened to me, that I think was bad at the time, was such a learning experience, and I wouldn’t be here without those little mistakes. .
She quit her job with the earthquakes and moved to New York, where she began her career in fashion. She has worked with several brands and publications for taped TV segments on fashion advice and shoe trends.
Rivera said talking about footwear trends so often inspired her to create her own line in 2017.
She spent two and a half years preparing to launch her line. She studied shoemaking in Italy for a summer, took entrepreneurship classes at Stanford to learn about business, and pooled all of her savings to fund the project.
In the fall of 2019, she was ready to launch the line.
“It was such a risk. I had bet it all because I believed in myself and bet on myself,” Rivera said. “My business grew 90% during the pandemic, and it continues to grow nowadays. I reinvented myself, I changed the structure of my business to see what works.
She leveraged the Instagram she amassed as a fashion blogger, as well as her media and fashion industry connections, to spread the word about her shoes.
Rivera said she owned over 500 pairs of shoes before launching her own line.
“I wore everything from really cheap shoes to really expensive designer shoes, so I felt like I knew it all,” Rivera said. “For me, I’ve always wanted to create something that doesn’t exist and that I’ve always wanted.”
Her shoes range from $295 to $350 and can be purchased online at https://flordemariacollection.com.
“I think for me, they’re not just buying the shoes, they’re buying the dream. They buy the story behind it, because I’m very transparent with people about sharing my story and where I’m from,” Rivera said.
Los Gatos local Flora de Maria Rivera designed and launched a shoe line just before the pandemic hit. So far his business has grown 90% and his shoes have been worn by celebrities like Saweetie and Halle Bailey.