Maggie O’Reilly is the founder and owner of MAYTA Collection – a boutique ethical fashion brand inspired by a love of travel, culture, and tradition. She is also an entrepreneur, meeting and event planner, mother, wife, travel lover and a LOT more living in Chicago. Read her interview to learn how Latin America stole her heart and stoked her love of exploration, how she balances running a business with a job (and kids!) and her favorite way to learn/explore while traveling.
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- Name: Maggie O’Reilly
- Location: Chicago, IL
- Role: Owner/Founder of MAYTA Collection
- Reason for Waking Up Every Day: Connecting with others
- Go-To Learning Resource: How I Built This Podcast & the MasterClass series
- Favorite Place in Chicago: Walden Parkway – a go-to for womxn-owned shops in Beverly
- Find Out More + Shop MAYTA Collection: www.maytacollection.com
Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are now.
I graduated college with a minor in Spanish; in order to complete my minor, I spent some time in Mexico – and that is where the passion of travel, culture and languages really surfaced. I felt so connected with the people of Mexico as I learned the language, visited all the small towns and had cultural experiences in the country. From there I spent time in Argentina; understanding their culture and really seeing Latin America – it was my first time going to that continent.
Once I returned from those experiences, I knew that all I wanted to do was to travel and to focus on visiting other countries getting to know the ins/outs of how people live outside of the US. I really fell in love with the Latin American culture, food, music and speaking Spanish – and that lead me to my husband, who is from Peru.
I knew from the moment I visited his country there was a way for me to connect my creative, entrepreneurship skills with culture and travel. MAYTA Collection was born out of a desire to bring the craftsmanship of a country to the US as well as demonstrate to my children, who were not born yet, that their history and heritage is rich and complex.
What has been a challenge you’ve overcome on your way to where you are now?
Scaling MAYTA Collection has really been a challenge. As a small business, we do not have the resources to push out ads and hire experts in marketing, content strategy and website building. With this, we have had to be creative with how we operate things and hire people. We also keep our inventory tight – we don’t hold hundreds of products and instead focus on small batches of product. That has worked well with our business model thus far.
What gets you excited to wake up every day? Why?
Connecting with others. I have always been someone who enjoys talking with others and connecting – I am definitely not an introvert! I have used social media to collaborate, connect and learn new skills. I think that if you use social media as the bridge to business you can really connect with others that you might not have the opportunity to meet in your world. I am a true believer in if you push out positive energy and really genuinely work together – it will come back to benefit you in one way or another.
Favorite resources for ongoing learning? Why?
I love the podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz – it’s a great way to feel inspired and to learn how successful business people have made it.
Also, the MasterClass series – it has a lot of stories about how to learn new skills related to business, writing, interior design, bread making… you name it!
What’s your favorite spot where you currently live & why?
Walden Parkway, in the southside Chicago neighborhood of Beverly. Did you know that each of the businesses on Walden Parkway is woman-owned and many opened during the pandemic?! Can you believe it? A few of my favorites:
- Two Mile – delicious coffee
- Oak and Bloom – vintage goods and pretty bouquets
- Joplin Marley – a creative space that displays art
- Turkey – a small boutique that carries really unique brands (like jewelry from Barcelona)
- Beverly Dry Goods – known for their candles that pay homage to all the popular places in the Beverly Community
- Tranquility – a lifestyle salon that not only cuts hair but also hosts outdoor concerts, pop up markets and meditation sessions
- City Grange – a beautiful plant shop originally from the north side that now calls an old gas station home
I really want to showcase Beverly, in the south side of Chicago, in a good way – I want other people in Chicago to be curious and excited about our neighborhood and all the good things here – including many, many small, family-owned businesses.
What’s your favorite travel memory? Why does it stand out?
My favorite travel memory – if I can pick #1 – going to Rio de Janeiro with a 7-month pregnant belly! 😊 #2 on my first trip to Peru with my husband to meet his family we took a flight to Cusco – as I arrived into the Cusco airport and started walking off the plane, I passed out from the altitude – they had to come and grab me and give me oxygen – haha!
What’s your least favorite/worst travel memory – why? Did you learn anything from it?
It was actually this past summer to Nashville, TN – we were on our way home from the Smokey Mountains with the kids and my son wanted to go to the Johnny Cash Museum. We thought we would take a detour to Nashville, but it was during COVID-19 – so things were restricted, shut down early and some things were not open at all.
It was hot, humid and not an ideal place for kids – lesson learned, sometimes forcing a trip with kids makes experiencing things difficult and not fun. Next time we will go without the kids and hopefully it will not be 100 F degrees!
How does travel inspire you?
I am a curious person, I love to ask questions and learn more about things – in particular languages, cuisine, traditions etc. I enjoy trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible so that I can relate to people.
I feel like sometimes here in the US we are sheltered from how things are outside of the country and some people believe that what we do here is RIGHT – yet that is not always the case. Keeping an open mind, being patient and respecting others is going to help you grow in life and travel is a firsthand experience in the right direction.
What’s your favorite thing to learn/explore when traveling?
I really enjoy finding shops, restaurants and other small businesses outside the regularly-suggested places in a guide book. I usually look up areas before I go and do research to try and discover new things.
What’s the best thing you’ve ‘brought home’ from a trip – whether an actual souvenir, an idea, an attitude, a perspective, relationship, etc.?
When I went to Argentina, I got fitted for a beautiful leather skirt – to this day it still fits (thank god) and it is in great condition. Every time I put it on it brings back memories.
Out of all the places you’ve been, which has been your favorite, and why?
My most unexpected trip that I ended up enjoying was to Seoul, South Korea – the food was not my favorite – but I really enjoyed the layout of the city. I had never been to Asia before so everything was new and different and I loved the feeling of learning about a new city.
They are known to really specialize in skincare, and since I was in Seoul by myself – I spent two entire days going in and out of all the skincare shops. I came home literally with a suitcase full of Korean skincare products!
Related: fellow travel lover Courtney Vondran of Courtney The Explorer also loves South Korea – read her interview for the low-down on her teaching abroad experience there and much more! Read the interview >>
Where have you traveled you feel you’ve learned the most and why?
Mexico, this country has a special place in my heart – it was the first time I had ever stayed in a country for an extended period of time. I was in my early 20s and knew no one – and barely knew Spanish. I had to learn the bus routes, figure out how to buy groceries – got to travel to some great cities and try foods that I had never heard of. I got hands on experience of living and interacting with Mexican families. It’s a memory that I will always hold close to my heart.
Do you have any tips for learning while traveling?
Yes! Break free from the hotel – and the guide book. Do your own research and don’t be afraid to explore on your own (safely of course). I feel so invigorated when I go somewhere on my own – my own time, own agenda, own decisions on where to eat and explore.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and often I find myself saying to myself “oh I wish the kids and husband could see this/experience this”. But then I feel so blessed that I am fortunate to learn and grow as a female entrepreneur on my own.
Photos courtesy of Maggie O’Reilly & MAYTA Collection.
What’s one thing people may not know about you?
I originally wanted to be a veterinarian – I grew up volunteering at the Shedd Aquarium, worked at a clinic, watched National Geographic and made notes of all the different animals and worked at a pet shop in my teens. However, when I got into college and started taking the classes to be a vet – I realized it was not for me!
About MAYTA Collection
MAYTA Collection is a boutique ethical fashion brand inspired by a love of travel, culture, and tradition. Their collections are designed in Chicago and brought to life in Morocco and Peru. The company works with artisan partners to manifest their mission of focusing on high quality materials, cultural traditions and family values.