Written by Andrew Seale

The inception of Insecta Shoes was a wild time for Barbara Mattivy. 

It was the end of 2013 and the Brazilian-born entrepreneur was in the midst of chasing her dream to immigrate to Canada and live in Toronto. At the same time, she’d just stumbled on the idea for Insecta Shoes, a line of sustainably-produced vegan shoes made from repurposed or recycled materials, and wanted to see if through. 

Mattivy, who ran a vintage shop in Brazil, had come up with the idea after she approached a friend who made shoes from scrap leather about repairing a dress she owned and loved. The friend suggested turning it into a pair of shoes, and the Insecta Shoes brand was born.

“For the first year and a half, I was doing everything remotely from Canada,” says Mattivy. “(But) it just became really hard… we were opening physical stores in Brazil, I had to build a team and train everybody.” 

Eventually, she realized she had to return to Brazil and get things in order.  She went back for three years to get her team aligned and able to work independently. But she knew in the back of her mind she was going to find her way to Toronto eventually. 

And she did. Last April, Mattivy moved back and brought Insecta Shoes with her. 

“We launched the online store for the North America market,” she says. “We are more mature, more organized, more experienced.” 

The shoes are 100 per cent vegan and made using vintage fabrics and a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. They also use leftover deadstock fabrics and recycled cotton.  

To set up her business in Canada, Mattivy leveraged resources from Toronto Global, an organization that helps international businesses expand into the Toronto region. 

“The Canadian consulate in São Paulo put us in touch with them,” she says. Toronto Global organized everything from meetings with lawyers and accountants to finding design and distribution partners. “I always joke that when you go through the experience of being an entrepreneur in Brazil, you can do everything in life because there's a lot of bureaucracy there,” she says. “It just feels easier to do it here.”

Currently, Mattivy calls Make Lemonade home. She found the space last September while on a trip to Toronto to meet with the Global Toronto team. “I knew that they had the same concept – a coworking space for women – in Brazil,” she says. Mattivy got a day pass but made a mental note to visit Make Lemonade when she was living here again. 

“It’s a good place to exchange ideas,” she says. “If I need a photographer, or I'm looking for a designer or a copywriter, I know Make Lemonade would be a good place to find this person.”

Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)