From the looks of Denise Hernandez’s Instagram feed, she’s traveling the world and rocking the cutest outfits, but behind the scenes, she’s building a business that combines her love for art, math, home decor and travel.

Hernandez — better known as Dee — is the founder of Shop Jitana, an ethically sourced home decor brand that specializes in on-trend designs. She partners with local artisans from around the world to create unique products for her business. 

But, like many businesses, her success didn’t happen overnight. 

Hernandez’s journey into entrepreneurship began at San Francisco State University, where she double-majored in finance and economics. 

“Growing up, I always preferred the subject of math, so I pursued a numbers-based career,” Hernandez told mitú. “However, little did I know it would lead me to a buying career.”

After multiple internships, Hernandez landed her dream internship, one that combined her passion for fashion and numbers with the premium lifestyle brand, Revolve

Three months later, Revolve hired Hernandez as an assistant buyer responsible for their Australian brands. 

“My dream job was to be an international buyer, and in my mind, to achieve that, I had to live abroad,” said Hernandez. 

She moved to Australia and started working for Australia’s leading premium retailer, David Jones, to which Hernandez credits her extensive knowledge regarding international buying. 

“Living in Australia exposed me to so many different styles and ways of living which was the start of my interest in home decor.” 

Hernandez soon realized companies often imported furniture and home decor pieces from Bali, sparking her curiosity. So, she hopped on a plane headed to Bali and immediately fell in love.

“The people, the cities, the culture, I wanted to bring these treasures home, and I was able to do that by bringing pieces of decor to share with my friends from back home,” Hernandez explained. “I knew this was the place I wanted to source my collection from.”

The Making of Jitana.

Denise began working with local artisans to create the first Jitana collection in 2018. She took pride in hand-selecting the pieces knowing they would brighten her customers’ homes while also positively impacting the lives of the artisans.

“It’s during my travels that I create our collections, working closely with the artisans that craft our pieces,” Hernandez said. “I incorporate my style in our buys while curating a collection that tells a story.”

After the launch of Shop Jitana’s first collection, Hernandez has since expanded to Mexico. Shop Jitana partners with 15 artisans to create their new collections. “Our decorative pieces are works of art that can truly live in your home for years.”

Hernandez’s business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

1. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Hernandez told mitú that the most challenging step is taking that leap of faith to start your dream business. 

“Don’t live your life wondering about the ‘what-ifs.’ If there is something that you are passionate about, you must give it a try. If it doesn’t work out how you envisioned it, just know that you’re one step closer to discovering your true venture.”

2. Be original.

“There is no one like you in this world. Think about what makes you different, and that will set your brand aside from the rest.”

3. Be consistent.

“Owning a business is one giant roller coaster, but the little wins are all worth it,” Hernandez explained. “Give it your best each day, and that determination will transpire into success.”

4. Take big risks.

“One of the most important things I learned from my finance professor was, ‘The most successful business owners have taken the biggest risks,’ and that’s honestly something I’ve been living by since.”