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Transforming Crisis Into Opportunity, Milwaukee Woman Creates Beauty Brand JoMaLu

Joan Mari Luciano Vargas
Joan Mari Luciano Vargas showcases her handmade earrings inspired by the Puerto Rican flag.

COVID-19 has disrupted life for everyone, including working women. The unemployment rate among working women jumped by more than 12 percentage points between February and April of 2020.

But Joan Mari Luciano Vargas saw the pandemic as a perfect time to become an entrepreneur and first-time businesswoman.

Today, she is the owner and creator of JoMaLu, a brand of beauty products and hair and fashion accessories in Milwaukee.

As part of our COVID Earners series focusing on how people of color who own small businesses have survived in the COVID-19 economy, WUWM's Angelina Mosher Salazar talks to Luciano Vargas about how she transformed the crisis into opportunity.

Luciano Vargas begins by describing how she felt early in the pandemic: “It just felt numb. It felt like nothingness. I started to pick up on things that I used to do, that I had just stopped doing and forgotten about. I used to sew. Well, I used to sew because of necessity because when I was smaller in Puerto Rico, you have to sew your own uniforms. When it came to my jewelry, it was also things that I would make for myself or for my family or for my friends.”

With this new time on her hands, doing those projects allowed her to immerse herself in something she really enjoyed. It wasn’t until her husband pointed out that her work was turning into business that she started to consider the idea of expanding her work.

As she has grown JoMaLu, Luciano Vargas continues to make every product by hand.

Joan Mari Luciano Vargas
Eyelashes that Joan Mari Luciano Vargas makes lash by lash.

“Most of the things that I make are focused on the adornment of us women. So, everything is earrings, necklaces, I also make headbands, face masks, turbans. And now I am just beginning to make beauty items as well like my very own eyelashes that I put together hair by hair. I make eyelash serums and eyebrow serums to help the growth of your hair. I'm also working on a serum for your face and my balm lip glosses,” she explains.

When it comes to support, Luciano Vargas says she is not only trying to grow her sales but promote the artistry of her work.

“If you choose to make a purchase, that is wonderful, but the most beautiful way that you can be able to support me is to be able to look at the things that I am making. If you like what you see, express it, share it with others,” she says.

You can find more of Luciano Vargas’ work on her website and her Instagram.

Angelina Mosher Salazar joined WUWM in 2018 as the Eric Von Broadcast Fellow. She was then a reporter with the station until 2021.
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