Boss Ladies

Boss Ladies | Freda Salvador – Cristina Palomo Nelson and Megan Papay



Photos C/O Emily Scott

Growing up I really wanted to be
Cristina: An art teacher.
Megan: a mom

One thing people don’t know about me is
CPN: My first language is Spanish. I lived in El Salvador until I was 15.
MP: I played ice hockey with a bunch of Navy boys when I lived in Hawaii.

I don’t know how I ever lived without
CPN: My son, Luca. He is the funniest little soul and brings my husband and me so much happiness!

If I had a neon sign, it would read
MP: Check for poo on your shoes.  (We have chickens and dogs!)

The hardest thing about my work is
CPN: Learning to shut off. When you own a business it’s difficult to draw the line between personal life and work. I am often split between trying to be a present mom and a successful business owner. There is a place for both, but it’s hard to maintain a healthy balance.

My real life heroes are 
MP: My parents gave me the best childhood imaginable… I felt loved and supported, but also free to be the person I am.  They fostered curiosity, independence, and wanderlust.


I wish I could tell my younger self
CPN: Slow down! Be easier on yourself. Done is better than perfect!

Tell us about a mentor who set you down this path?
MP: My college advisor Kathryn Rohe is an amazing costume designer.  She knew I wanted to work in fashion, and gave me books on designers and fashion movements.  She taught inspiring classes that sparked creativity in design. She also taught me about the psychology of dress, and it’s interesting to design shoes with that in mind…the story they tell, and what they say about the person.

How I got started with my current career
CPN: My father is a shoemaker and my grandfather before him. Once I became interested in fashion, I knew footwear was my calling! I went to business school, got into personal styling after graduation, and went back for an MFA degree. I met Megan while working for a Bay Area footwear designer.

MP: I studied Costume Design at the University of Virginia and moved to New York after graduation.  My first job was in celebrity styling at Calvin Klein.   I liked styling, but wanted to get into design.  In 2001 I started an accessories line, Megan James, and when my husband, Michael, and I moved to San Francisco in 2005 I looked for other design-related jobs.  I ended up in footwear and have been obsessed with it ever since.

The dumbest thing we did when starting out
MP: We spent a lot of money on a website because we wanted it to look legitimate. We quickly learned there are  tools like Shopify, where you can build a site and have full control of the look and messaging.
CPN: Thinking this would be easy and I’d be designing all day, every day. Just kidding. But really…

Freda.Salvador.Boss.Ladies.2 My typical day looks like
CPN: I wake up around 6:15am and check my email – our factory is 9 hours ahead so to catch them prior to the end of their day is crucial. We all have breakfast together before we get out for the day. I get to the office at 9am and dive straight in.  I get home at 5pm and throw dinner together for Luca. We play for a while before his bath and bed time at 7! Then I cook dinner for my husband and me. We catch up on each other’s day, relax and watch tv (if we are lucky) or catch up on a bit more work (if we are crazed)! I am not a night person so I am typically out by 9pm!

MP: I wake up at 7:00, feed the animals, get ready, drop my daughter Piper at school and head into our Sausalito design studio.   At 4:00 I picked her up and bring her back to the office.  Once she is settled with art supplies I am back at my desk until 6:00.  Then we head home for dinner, and Piper is in bed by 8:30.  Then Michael and I have some wine, conversation, (at times cheesy tv shows) and go back to work on the sofa.  He has a start-up as well, so we are in the same boat…could use about 48 hours in every day!

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
CPN: I catch myself on my phone reading emails while my son is playing solo next to me. I quickly silence my phone, put it away and give him my undivided attention.

An example of when I had to push through my fear was when
MP: I had insecurities before we started FREDA and wondered how it would change my life.  Once we decided it was a ‘go’, we haven’t looked back.  There is no time for fear…we work hard and charge forward every day.  The daily wins and losses barely hit our radar because we are focused on making FREDA the best it can be.

The last time I created something I was proud of was
MP: When we launched our first Capsule Collection, featuring our favorite styles in Metallic leather. It was gorgeous and sold out almost immediately!  I am excited to continue to design these special interim Capsules.  They give us a chance to test the boundaries with our creativity and offer our customers unique shoes that we love!
CPN: I am so proud of what we have created with FREDA SALVADOR. Megan and I have an incredible team. We are constantly blown away by the support of our loyal customers! Every day is better than the last and as we grow and tap into new markets, our eyes get wider and wider with endless possibilities!

My current definition of success is
MP: Getting emails from customers who love their shoes. It means the world to us and gives us so much energy to keep going!

The legacy I hope to leave is
CPN: Never stop learning. I am a true believer in absorbing as much information as possible. I don’t see a limit to what can be self-taught. I tend to think, “If you can do it, I can do it,” so why not try?

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