We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria M. Ruiz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria M., we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My desire for inspiration and self expression. In order for me to stay motivated, I need positive affirmations to remind me that I have it in me to achieve my goals. That’s how my first small business, CHIBILOULOU, began. I wanted to surround myself and others with inspirational quotes and poems, but create my own. I’m not interested in monetizing existing phrases or ideas written by someone else. Whenever I come up with a phrase or poem, I search online to ensure a version of it doesn’t exist. I always want to offer authenticity to my customers.
Dark Rabbit Society, my second small business, was inevitable. While CHIBILOULOU is light and optimistic, Dark Rabbit Society embraces our dark side – which I believe is just as important. It became unrealistic for me to only focus on positivity. I wanted and needed to tap into the sarcasm, the dark humor, and the thoughts that we often think but don’t say. Then I thought to myself that if I had this urge, perhaps others do as well. I started Dark Rabbit Society with dark-humored greeting cards, followed by t-shirts soon after.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Everything you see on CHIBILOULOU comes from my own imagination. I write, print, and sell inspirational quotes and poetry. All writing is original and all designs are hand-drawn. I print locally at Print 4 Humans (support small business!) and take pride in the details. Fonts, color, design, paper quality, packaging – it’s all meticulously conceptualized. As an added touch, when someone buys a product, they receive a personal hand-written note. I believe in the power of words and I hope that my words are inspirational.
Dark Rabbit Society greeting cards are original, witty, and dark-humored (but not crass) and can be given on occasions such as: new baby, birthday, wedding and engagement, social anxiety, and “twisted sympathy” (a fan favorite). You have to appreciate a certain type of humor to give – and receive – the cards. The website says it best: “We take care of the outside, but the inside’s up to you.” Meaning, the cards are purposely blank inside so you can salvage your friendship. Kidding! Well, sort of.
You can also wear your darkness on your sleeve… literally. Dark Rabbit Society t-shirts are available in must-have neutrals. They’re soft, unisex, and ideal for every day lounging. One of the things I’m most proud of with Dark Rabbit Society is the fact that it’s sustainable. All Dark Rabbit Society cards, envelopes, inserts, and stickers are printed locally on 100% recycled paper, without sacrificing any of the quality. Our shirts are made with eco-friendly dyes and less water. But we don’t stop there – our packaging is completely eco-friendly as well! I’m proud of both my brands and their core values and authenticity.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a really chill person that enjoys nature and wildlife. One of our days would be spent taking photos at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. I recently became a member and visit the charming estate often. We would – of course – go to Zoo Miami to see the animals and then hop on over to downtown Coral Gables to eat and drink. Apart from yummy restaurants, there are bookstores, like Books & Books, where we can read and enjoy coffee. We would then catch a performance at the Adrienne Arsht Center, see the latest exhibit at the Frost Art Museum, and then head to South Pointe, in South Beach, for sunset views.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Throughout my professional career, I’ve been fortunate to have leaders and mentors who believe in me and lift me up. Personally, my husband, family, and friends have been my biggest supporters. I feel blessed to have so many wonderful individuals in my life.
A book that’s had a huge impact on me is “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. If you’re a fellow introvert, or wish to understand your introverted loved ones more, I highly recommend this book. For so long, I thought something was wrong with me, but this book helped me understand myself and made me realize my strengths as an introvert. I’ve never felt more “seen.” Introverts are observant, great listeners, creative – and we make great leaders!