published Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Small Biz: Three company values mark the fashion for Solo Viva

  • photo
    Leo Saballos shows some of the handbags made in Nicaragua that are sold by his Internet company Solo Viva. He hopes to give opportunities to up-and-coming fashion designers and fair-trade workers, and donate 10 percent of all profits to charitable organizations.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

• Name: Solo Viva

• Owner: Leo Saballos

• Location: Chattanooga

• Opened: November 2013

• Service: Fashion house

• How it started: Company founder Leo Saballos, a 27-year-old Covenant College grad, wanted to start a company built on three values: Promoting startup or small-time designers, upholding fair trade standards and supporting nonprofit organizations. Saballos decided three years ago to launch Solo Viva — which is a colloquial saying meaning “Just live” — but he didn’t have the money to put things in motion. Saballos worked three years to accrue the funds he needed, and the company launched late last year. Solo Viva currently features bags designed by another Covenant College graduate, Katie Jo Ramsey. The bags are made in Nicaragua by Zona Franca Mazili, an all-female company owned by the women who do all the actual work and who in turn decide their own salaries.

• Initial investment: $20,000

• Five-year goal: Saballos wants to launch a new fashion line every year. In five years, he wants Solo Viva to feature five active lines and be moved into a brick-and-mortar location in Chattanooga where “marketing and design can happen.”

• Why Chattanooga: After graduating from Covenant College, Saballos stayed in Chattanooga for work, and it became the launching point for his company.

• What is unique?: Solo Viva donates 10 percent of its profits to area nonprofit organizations. Currently, Saballos gives to LifeSpring Community Health, which aims to “demonstrate the love of Christ in word and deed by providing health education and promotion, medical services and community advocacy in urban Chattanooga,” according to LifeSpring’s website,

• Web site:

Compiled by Alex Green, who may be reached at 757-6480 or at

about Alex Green...

Alex joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 as a region business reporter. He is a native of Dayton, Tenn., located 35 miles north of Chattanooga, and he is a fifth-generation Dayton native. Alex came to the Times Free Press as an editorial intern in July 2013. He was previously a correspondent at The Herald-News, located in Dayton, through college and editor-in-chief of the Triangle, Bryan College's student-led media group. Alex was ...

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