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Maria Casey Wants to Help You Make Better Choices

Maria Casey Wants to Help You Make Better Choices

portrait of Tricia Ismail
Tricia Ismail
Senior Editor

At ThirdLove, we’ve made a huge effort to divert our gently used bras away from the landfill and into a second life through donations and recycle programs. But we know we can’t make change happen alone, and that is why we are especially excited to celebrate a like-minded brand and founder, Maria Casey of BUHO.

Maria Casey, founder of sustainable and ethically sourced fashion brand BUHO.

Dedicated to breaking the cycle of waste in the fashion and garment industry, Maria Casey saw that the real barrier between people making good choices when it came to shopping was accessibility. And so, BUHO was born. 

Multiple brands, styles, and even an easy-to-shop curated vintage selection, BUHO brings sustainable, ethically-made, and locally-sourced products into one place, giving consumers the chance to get what they need and support a greater cause.

When did you start your company? *

March 2019

Why did you start your company? *

I noticed a gap in the marketplace. There wasn’t one place where I could go to buy sustainable items for various aspects of my life, so I decided to build one central platform to make sustainable and ethical buying choices much more accessible for consumers across the globe.

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up with an international family. My mother is from a large Ecuadorian family and met my father while he was in the Peace Corps in a village close to her family’s farm. After graduating with a BA from Miami University, I followed suit and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh. Once I returned to the States, I started my career in Advertising & Digital Media in New York. Last summer, I went out on my own and the idea for BUHO came about. I’ve always wanted to do something in my career where I could combine my international development experience with business acumen, and now, I finally am.

What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company?

Funding. It’s expensive to open an e-commerce company. We needed to buy the inventory, so it was beyond just getting a $10k friends and family round of investment for a prototype – I needed about 25x that amount to start our store. Thanks to my incredibly supportive family, I was able to secure that and start building the company and the platform. 

Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?

EVERYONE close to me. No joke. I am so lucky to have an incredible support network who saw my passion and believed in my vision. Once the train started going, there was no stopping me. I’ve worked in so many different company cultures, that I knew the type of environment I wanted to create for BUHO. I’ve also had bosses who are still dear friends and those that would likely not want to hear from me ever again. As we grow, I’m pulling those life experiences into our company to ensure everyone’s voices can be heard.  

What are some of the ways entrepreneurs today can help raise and inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs?

It’s tough. Strong women still get the labels that men never would, so it’s all about balance. A friend who also just started her own HR consulting company put it in perspective for me: it’s no longer work-life balance, it needs to be looked at as work-life integration. That hit home. 

As women, we shouldn’t have to hide our personal life for fear of losing out on that promotion or opportunity. I’m a mom. I’m tired sometimes. I get stressed. I’m emotional. Sometimes I cry. Most of the time I laugh. But our culture should be one where anyone is comfortable feeling and being any of those things. 

Why is it important for entrepreneurs to put time into helping the next generation of women founders?

Our future is going to be about collaboration and consolidation. It’s a lonely path to try to do it alone. And why would you want to? If we can empower our next generation and serve as mentors and examples to rising women, we need to honor that responsibility. 

Woman modeling hot pink jacket with wide lapels, a graphic t-shirt, and black jeans for sustainable fashion brand BUHO.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Work in progress.

What’s something most people might not assume about you at first glance?

I’ve been told my whole life that I’m intimidating. I always thought it was just my black hair among a sea of blondes. Also that I have resting-bitch face. But I’m actually really sensitive, and a closet nerd. 

What quality do you love most about yourself?

I am loyal and spontaneous. Loyal to a fault at times – it’s burned me more than once in both my professional and personal life, but I never wanted to stray too far from what was always in my gut. I stand by what I believe is the right thing, even when it comes at a high cost.  

When do you feel most beautiful and/or confident?

When I’m happy or have just reached one of my goals. I’m a Sagittarius and we’re stubborn, impatient, and all sorts of fiery things. But we’re also very passionate and I have a lot of initiative. So when I see those ideas take shape and bring positive impact to other people, I shine. I wear my emotions on my sleeves most days – for better or worse. 

When and where are you happiest?

With family and friends sharing a good meal, a good drink, or a good laugh. At the beach, in nature, or in the mountains; or traveling and exploring new cities. I need space to think, assess and take stock of the bigger picture. Traveling has always been a central part of my life to do just that.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?

Tranquillo. Chill out, be kind, keep working hard, and don’t get distracted by the fleeting moments and people that come and go. 

What’s the top song on your playlist right now?

Sunflower by Post Malone – It’s the first on my daughter’s playlist and wakes us up every morning. 

What is your motto?

“With books and flowers how can anyone be unhappy?” – Oscar Wilde

“As women, we shouldn’t have to hide our personal life for fear of losing out on that promotion or opportunity. I’m a mom. I’m tired sometimes. I get stressed. I’m emotional. Sometimes I cry. Most of the time I laugh. But our culture should be one where anyone is comfortable feeling and being any of those things.”

What are the advantages or benefits of being a founder that many people may not realize or know about?

You have the opportunity to turn your vision into something tangible that strangers can feel and touch, and there is really nothing better than that. 

Why is it important to understand both the challenges and benefits of being a founder?

It is the wildest ride I’ve been on and it’s just the beginning. Being a founder tests everything I’ve learned in my 16 years of business experience and pushes every boundary I thought I had. It’s hard. Going into this, I knew it was going to be hard, but nothing can quite prepare you for launching your own company. 

Do you think founders should take time to reflect on the pros, even if they’re constantly putting out fires?

OMG Yes! If we didn’t, then what’s the point of doing this crazy ride in the first place? Starting a company is no joke, so despite what hits the fan throughout the day, one of my main responsibilities as a founder is to lead and inspire the team. 

I consider myself pretty good at multitasking, but if I’m spending all of my time putting out fires, and forget to stop to recognize what we accomplished, the last thing I would be is motivating to anyone. Instead, you’d probably find me hiding under my desk with a glass of wine. 

What did success mean to you when you first started your company? How has your definition of success changed since then?

Reach and revenue, and that hasn’t changed. It’s taking longer than I would like (as expected) to hit our reach and revenue targets, but everything is growing in the right direction. As an e-commerce business, those metrics are the most important. Our sustainable and social good-business elements are thankfully running at full steam because all of us live it on a daily basis. 

Thinking about your time as an entrepreneur, what do you believe is one of the most challenging hurdles women entrepreneurs have to overcome?

Being authentic. It’s challenging to balance deadlines, to grow a startup and manage overhead while employing friends and a team of all women. I know there are times when I haven’t been the best version of myself or haven’t reacted in the best way to challenging situations and I try to learn from that and grow as a mentor along the way. But sometimes, we just need to get sh*t done.

Can you share what happened when you finally felt like you were on the other side of the struggle?

Maybe you can ask me this in a year? 😉

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

Scaled our team slower. We were top-heavy because I didn’t want to turn away brilliant people from joining the company, but creating roles just didn’t seem to make sense. Eventually, it worked itself out and we’re now set with a team that works the best since we’ve started. 

Woman modeling army green short-sleeve, crop button top; with olive green satin long-sleeve button-up; white belt; and green patterned cargo pants for sustainable fashion brand BUHO.

What does your morning routine look like?

I’m a mom, so it’s manic. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was an avid SoulCycler at the 6am classes 4 times a week. Now, I’m up at 6 with coffee to check in with my developers, or walk the dog to check the surf, or snooze for 30 minutes before our morning scramble begins. My daughter’s school is blocks from my office, but regardless of how early I wake up, we’re still running to catch the bell. And then there are those Mondays when I don’t feel like doing any of it, so we all sleep in a little (and we’re still late). One of these days I’m getting back to Soul Cycle…

What motivates you to keep going in the toughest of times?

My daughter. We were in a tight financial spot (one of several) and I was talking to my husband about what our options were and couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was in a dark place and couldn’t bear to think that I just gambled away our family savings. That day, my daughter walked over to me and handed me a bunch of coins telling me this was all that she had in her little purse, but wanted me to have it because BUHO needed it more than her. She’s so much cooler than I am.

What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?

My early morning beach walks with the dog are my favorite these days. It’s still very quiet and peaceful with only a handful of people up and I love it. The Pacific is such a vast body of water, I am fueled by its energy and those mornings I cherish before my family wakes up. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Be flexible. An advisor told me the key to any successful startup is the ability to pivot. There are core values that I will not change, but the fluidity of our business is key to our growth. And the flexibility to change directions, marketing tactics, customer reach, our team, etc have been crucial to our success to date. 

What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?

Watching my team grow into themselves, working with our non-profit partners, and the overwhelming response from our customers and our brand partners. People needed a solution like BUHO. So we built it. Our business is truly built on making sustainable and conscious shopping decisions easier for consumers and keeping clothing out of landfills. So now we’re working on scaling it and making it even easier for consumers to access.

Visit BUHO for sustainable fashion for women, men, kids, and home. Discover BUHO on Instagram.

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