Ground Floor: Miss Violetta travels the world for unique finds

Online store curates items from global artisans

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MARION — Susan Wildes’ new business combines two of her favorite things: travel and shopping.

Wildes developed a love of travel as a child, trekking across the country on family vacations in a wood-paneled station wagon. As an adult, the Marion native traveled extensively in Europe and spent time living in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“I loved discovering new artisans and exploring the local markets and shops everywhere I went,” she said.

It was during a four-month sabbatical in Mexico and Central America in 2014 that Wildes conceived of the idea for her new business.

“The local markets were full of brilliant jewelry and bags made by local artisans,” she said. “I was seeing all this great talent and meeting all of these people who otherwise had nowhere to sell their goods.”

Wildes, who used to write a blog called Miss Do-Gooder about people doing good things in the world, decided she could do some good herself by helping enterprising artisans and small makers find a global market.

In December, Wildes launched an online store — called — featuring handmade goods from around the world. The carefully-curated collection includes one-of-a-kind items such as statement rings and earrings made by a husband and wife team in Jaipur, India, colorful tassel handbags made in Istanbul, Turkey, and silver jewelry handcrafted in Mexico. Some local Iowa artisans also are featured.

Wildes said she continually scours the globe for new items to add to her collection.

“That’s my favorite part — finding new people to work with,” she said. “The big thing is that I don’t want to sell anything I wouldn’t purchase for myself. It’s all stuff I would buy, wear, or carry. That’s a way to keep it exciting for me.”

While Wildes has found many of the items that are featured in her store during her travels, she learned about others via word-of-mouth or through online research and reached out to the makers directly. She said her goal is to maintain long-term, personal relationships with the artisans whose work she sells.

She adds new items to the store at least every two weeks but said she is selective with each addition.

“I don’t want the site to become too big with thousands of items so that it’s overwhelming to people,” she said. “I want it to be easily navigable.”

Wildes’ future plans for Miss Violetta include adding clothing and eventually collaborating with others to create her own line of clothing or handbags.

At a Glance

Owner: Susan Wildes

Business: Miss Violetta

Phone: (323) 356-6115

Know a company or manager who has been in business for less than a year that would be ideal for “Ground Floor”? Contact Francie Williamson at

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