Montie & Joie - A Desire to Connect
Our Desire to Connect
Everything behind the M&J brand has meaning and a story behind it. At our core, Montie & Joie is all about connection. It all started with a childhood connection that led Sydney to partner with her mother, Terrell, in this venture of making a difference and meeting wonderful people along the way.
In February 2018, Sydney made her way to Guatemala determined to learn Spanish. Her nanny (the type that feels like a second mother) was from Guatemala and as her English worsened, they were slowly losing touch. As the nanny approached her senior years, Sydney realized she had never really heard her story and was intrigued to inquire about it. This led Sydney to embark on a journey to learn Spanish in her nanny’s country of origin. Little did Sydney know that this little desire for connection with one special person would shift the trajectory of her life forever.
Once in Guatemala, Sydney found a rich community of talented artisans that inspired her to build M&J with the intention of creating opportunities for women in underdeveloped countries to inspire the world through their art while earning a better living for their families. Giving these women opportunities for worldwide connection has since been M&J’s purpose.
THE GUATEMALAN TEAM
Made up of a team of six women, in 2019 our Guatemalan team was the foretaste of what Montie & Joie is today. The first artisan in our project was Ana Maria (far right), who was later promoted to team manager. Four out of six women in our collective are Spanish teachers, one is Ana Maria’s daughter who is currently studying at a local University, and the last is a local mother of three with an extraordinary talent for sewing. They all live in the small town of San Pedro la Laguna located on stunning Lake Atitlan. The income from Montie & Joie helps them support their families as their alternative sources of income are not always consistent. M&J also provides a creative outlet for their incredible talents. We hope to soon expand our Guatemalan line and employ even more women from this area.
From Left to Right: Jaqueline Melynda Navichoc Rodríguez, Ligia Elena Par Castro, Miria Leticia Pirir de Navichoc, Emma Lucía González y González Ana María Rodríguez Ortíz
THE KENYAN TEAM
Jora Women Basket Weaver Group is one of 26 local craft organizations that are represented by Hadithi Craft Support Community Based Organization (CBO). Hadithi helps to financially empower about 500 local women through making connections to external markets, building capacity and improving product quality of local craft groups. Wildlife Works supports Hadithi by providing facilities and logistical assistance. This work helps to conserve threatened forests, home to elephants and cheetahs, by providing an alternative income to slash and burn agriculture and poaching of valuable wildlife.* Montie & Joie buys products directly from the women within this organization. Each basket weaver has complete design control over the baskets we purchase, and they send their baskets with their names written inside of them so that we have a direct connection with the artisan herself. We have successfully completed one site visit and intend to continue to make in person purchases in the future. Stay tuned for more individual stories of our Kenya team members in our blog page.
THE USA TEAM
Meet Sydney (Montie)
CEO and Co-Founder of Montie & Joie
Sydney’s middle name (Montgomery) was the inspiration for the “Montie” part of the brand. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Advertising with a Business Foundations Certificate at the University of Texas at Austin, Sydney went on to study Media and Global Change at the Salzburg Academy in Austria and earned an MBA from the Acton School of Business. Her travels through over 40 countries in combination with her upbringing in an entrepreneurial household helped inspire all of the work she does today.
Aside from being a Co-Founder and the CEO of M&J, she is the Co-Founder and CEO of The Etho, an online marketplace connecting conscious consumers with ethical brands and artisans where you can also find M&J’s products as well as a Co-Founder of Rocket Closet, a sustainable mountain sports storage company. Sydney is also the Co-Founder of Moon & Sun Eco-hostal, a sustainable beach house rental, and Jabel’ Juyu’, an Eco-Resort all located in Guatemala. She also currently invests in female run businesses, focusing on those who are trying to change the world. Sydney’s first business was Admin Boutique, which is still operating and pairs administrative assistants with local start-ups, nonprofits and other clients in the Austin, Texas area. Prior to starting her own businesses, Sydney worked for a small advertising company, Narrative Edge.
Sydney has been featured on 5 podcasts, countless articles, and won an award for Mogul — top 1,000 companies with the strongest female leaders. She has also volunteered with environmental and wildlife conservation organizations in Cambodia and throughout Texas and Mexico. She also mentored high school students through ChickTech, an Austin non-profit dedicated to retaining women in the technology workforce and increasing the number of women and girls pursuing technology-based careers. She currently mentors human trafficking survivors who want to start businesses through Restore, which exists to end sex trafficking in New York City, where Sydney resides part of the year with her Guatemalan husband and their precious little boy.
Meet Terrell (Joie)
CFO and Co-Founder of Montie & Joie
Terrell Sherman was the inspiration for the “Joie'' part of the brand. As a rambunctious four year old who insisted on being called Cowboy Joe, she refused to go to school without her bolero and cowboy boots to keep her character alive. The nickname was given a twist that resembles the French word for joy (joie). And thus the Montie & Joie name was born with rhyming words to make it stick!
Terrell and her husband have started, sold and invested in over 50 companies starting in 1987 with a kitchen and bath design studio: Allmilmo, that expanded into the design and building of over 50 homes. They have also invested in businesses spanning real estate in the US and EU, banking (Bank of Houston, Pioneer Bank Austin and Keystone Bank), the spirits industry (San Luis Spirits, which owns Dripping Springs Vodka and Gin), numerous technology businesses, a medical device company, and a restaurant in Paris named Treize to name a few.
Terrell comes from a long line of interior designers and has worked with textiles, furniture and design for the last 30 years. She also worked with a fashion designer in Houston, designing clothing and running fashion shows in the Houston market.. She has been working in start-up businesses for 30+ years and has the skills to lead teams in many different sectors.
She has served on the board of numerous non-profits in the Houston and Austin areas, several School Boards, Austin Recovery, and Teen and Family Services of both Houston and Austin.
Before taking over Montie & Joie full time, Terrell most recently was the Chief Curator & Co-Founder at The Etho. As the curator, Terrell chose products and sellers for The Etho and worked with sellers to help expand their reach by improving and growing their brands. She also designed and purchased some of the Etho lines in order to further support the incredible businesses making a difference all over the world. She has always had a passion for design and loves putting her skills towards supporting the artisans M&J works with today.
Creative Director of Montie & Joie
After pursuing a BFA in Fashion Design at Parsons the New School of Design in NYC, Jacqueline pursued her life dream of creating her own startup; Jacqueline Suriano, an ethically driven handbag company that focuses on its unique design and excelling in its overall good quality.
JS aims to create hand-crafted high quality handbags that combine intriguing angles and color combinations that create pieces far from a conventional bag. She works with artisans from El Salvador that have more than 10 years of experience working with leather. Even though they are quite experienced, they try to perfect their craft even more each day. Jacqueline has also created the campaign #PURSEuingOpp.An educational program in El Salvador that provides youth with necessary tools to rebuild and/or strengthen their self-esteem, helping them to effectively transform their future and surroundings through ethically paid jobs, workshops and collaborating with them in projects. In 2016, Jacqueline won The Most Socially Responsible Handbag from the Independent Handbag Designers Awards in New York.
She is a multidisciplinary designer, avid traveler and color enthusiast that loves to turn raw ideas into clean, simple, yet bold and effective solutions.
Director of Operations of Montie & Joie
Santiago began his career in the hospitality industry at the age of 18 as a waiter in a Thai restaurant in Guatemala. He decided to study Business Administration with the dream of owning his own enterprises. He obtained an administrative position in the Dunkin Donuts restaurant chain, where for four years he developed his professional career and became manager of eight restaurants.
His dream of owning his own business was still alive and growing––now in addition to restaurants he became interested in hotels and hostels after his father bought a piece of land in Lake Atitlan where he would rent out bungalows. In 2019 he opened his first restaurant with his family in San Pedro la Laguna located on Lake Atitlan which has been considered one of the most outstanding tourist attractions in Latin America. A year after starting El Gato Perdido, he opened a second restaurant and started a hostel in the same town which is scheduled to open its doors in April of 2022.
At the same time, he and one of his older brothers decided to follow their father's dream and transform the bungalow concept into a bigger project and start an Eco-Resort. Currently the project is progressing and is at 45% completion.
When Santiago moved to San Pedro la Laguna in Lake Atitlan, he began to have contact with the local culture (Tz'utujil). He quickly felt the desire to support the community in some way. This is when he met Sydney who had already been working with the local community for three years. Santiago began to support Montie & Joie with the local operations including communicating with the artisans, the M&J pricing strategy, and overall business development. Today he holds the position of Director of Operations for Montie & Joie while also continuing to operate his restaurants and hospitality businesses in Guatemala.