Flor de Maria Rivera has had four career changes in her life, and has lived across the country and traveled around the world — but now she feels like she’s where she belongs.
“Everything in life works out the way it’s supposed to,’ said the Los Gatos, California local, who has gone from reporting sports to designing shoes.
Rivera was born in Peru and moved to the South Bay with her family when she was 14. She went on to have a successful career in television and public relations before kickstarting her fashion career, moving to New York City and launching an eponymous shoe line.
Her colorful, on trend shoes have lots of straps, so one pair can be worn several different ways. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Megan Foxx, Saweetie and Jayda Pinkett Smith have worn Flor de Maria Rivera designs.
Now back in Los Gatos, Rivera said she hopes to inspire others to take control of their life and go after their dreams.
“At the end of the day, I like to inspire women. I like to tell them that they can do everything and anything because I did it. I didn’t speak English, I was not a shoe designer — I switched careers three times in my life,” Rivera said. “If I can feel that I inspired at least one or two people, then I feel I’ve done my job.”
despite life pulling her across the country and around the world, Rivera has always found her way back to Los Gatos.
“I went to college, I lived in LA, I lived in San Diego, I lived in Manhattan, and always came back here,” she said.
Her journey has not been easy. Rivera said when she started her freshman year at Los Gatos High School, she couldn’t speak English and did not 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 first 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 just, you never know what’s going to happen.”
After attending college at the University of San Diego, Rivera worked as a sports reporter in San Jose for seven years before she made the first of several career changes.
Her father had just died of cancer, and she said she decided to take a step back and do publicity for the San Jose Earthquakes.
“I felt I couldn’t give 200%. Everything I do, I try to do more than 200% and I put my whole heart and soul into it. I had to be honest with myself,” Rivera said.
Life threw Rivera another curveball a few years later when a back injury kept her from being able to travel with the soccer team. To keep herself busy, she started what was one of the only bilingual fashion blogs at the time.
“That’s why I say everything in life works out the way it’s supposed to,” Rivera said. “You don’t know at the moment, but later on you find out why it is. As I look back into my life, everything that’s happened for me, whether I thought it was bad at the moment, has been such a learning experience, and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those little mistakes.”
She quit her job with the Earthquakes and moved to New York City, where she started her fashion career. She worked with several brands and publications for recorded TV segments about fashion advice and shoe trends.
Rivera said talking so often about shoe trends inspired her to start a line of her own in 2017.
She spent 2 1/2 years preparing to launch her line. She studied shoemaking in Italy for a summer, took entrepreneurship courses at Stanford to learn about business and pooled all her savings to fund the project.
By fall of 2019, she was ready to launch the line.
“It was such a risk. I had put everything on the line because I believed in and bet on myself,“ Rivera said. “My business grew 90% during the pandemic, and it’s still growing to this day. I reinvented myself, changed my business structure to see what works.”
She leveraged the Instagram following she accumulated as a fashion blogger, as well as her relationships with people in the media and the fashion industry, to get the word out on her shoes.
Rivera said she owned more than 500 pairs of shoes before she launched her own line.
“I wore everything from shoes that were really inexpensive to shoes that were very expensive designer shoes, so I felt like I knew everything,” Rivera said. “For me, I always wanted to create something that isn’t out there that I always wanted.”
Her shoes range from $295 to $350 and can be purchased online at https://flordemariacollection.com.
“I think for me, they don’t only buy the shoes, they buy the dream. They buy the story behind it, because I am very transparent with people in sharing my story and where I come from,” Rivera said.