At La IUPI, the growing interest of the students to create products & promote local brands is evident. The young entrepreneur, Joel Isaac Gasser Londoño, makes hammocks & sells them in campus to provide another alternative of commodity to the gallitos & jerezanas. With this student’s vision, we hope to show the manufacturing talent & creativity that resides inside the University of Puerto Rico students.
Name: Joel Isaac Gasser Londoño
Major: Modern Languages: French & Portuguese
Classification: Third year student
Relationship Status: I’m free!
Hometown: Born in Pennsylvania, USA. Raised in San Juan, PR.
Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, & French
Zodiac Sign: Virgo
HCUPR: Who is Jose I. Gasser?
Joel: I’m a happy person that tries to minimalize his concerns and tries not to worry about what people may say or think about me. My relationship with languages has a lot to do with how I identify myself as I am a creator of sounds.
HCUPR: Why did you choose to study Modern Languages?
Joel: I started to study French in high school & was interested in the language because my family knew how to speak it already. The result was that the language fascinated me so I decided to do a major on modern languages, concentrated in French. Before that experience, I thought I was going to end up studying something related to science. But when I started college, modern languages became what I wanted to study.
HCUPR: Why did you fall in love with French & Portuguese?
Joel: I love that the structure of French is altered to protect the phonetics. The thing I like about Portuguese is the nasal sounds and that the language sounds like it’s sung.
HCUPR: Who inspires you?
Joel: My stepmother inspires me because I’ve never met somebody with an ethic and moral structure as hers. She has taught me that one has to work, treat people with respect & be nice to them. She is a decent human being. Every person that goes to my house is impressed by her.
HCUPR: What part of learning a language is the most difficult and what part of the process do you like the most? Why?
Joel: My favorite part of the process is the beginning, when you only distinguish the basics, because your imagination is set to explore the meanings of the words you do not understand. When you speak and understand better the language, due to practice, your imagination turns off a little. The most difficult part would had to be the incorporation of the vocabulary to your life. The cultural utilization of some words may vary or may not apply to your culture, so you need to get used to it. The internet is the best tool to help you understand a language better.
HCUPR: How would knowing more than one language would help anybody (professionally, culturally, etc.)? Explain the importance of the language.
Joel: In a world as competitive as Earth, the more languages you know, more laboral opportunities will appear in front of you.
HCUPR: What advice do you give to students that want to execute an idea (merchandise wise), but are stuck in the brainstorming process?
Joel: The secret to a successful business is to start with something you are passionate about. Also, you need to be willing to dedicate a lot of time on the product. Don’t push yourself on doing something that will make you end up hating your idea and/or sacrificing other aspects of your life.
HCUPR: Favorite place at Rio Piedras and la IUPI:
Joel: My favorite place at Rio Piedras would be the Taquería Azteca, because it has great margaritas and I’ve made amazing memories with my friends in that restaurant. My favorite spot at la IUPI is the Luis Pales Matos (LPM) section in the Humanities faculty, specifically in front of the office of the Student Council because it’s a great spot where I can observe people and my surroundings. It also has a great place where I can hang my hammocks & lie down for a bit.
HCUPR: Define yourself with (3) words:
Joel: To describe myself in three words, can I say “soy yo el”?
Contributor: I see what you did there!
HCUPR: Have you traveled? Where? Tell us a funny traveling story:
Joel: Yes, I have traveled. For example, half of my family is Colombian, so I’ve been many summers in Colombia visiting the family. I have also traveled to Spain three times because my stepmom’s best friend is Spanish. Also my dad studied in Europe, so he has taken me to Paris, Holland, Belgium, etc. The funniest traveling experience for me was when I stayed in the south region of France with a group of people that liked skiing. I remember that one day we were snowball fighting. One of the guys ended up throwing a snowball at a bald Frenchman that was sitting at a picnic table, eating his lunch. The man was so angry that I decided to ask for forgiveness to calm the situation. The guilty snowball thrower did not understand anything the man was saying in French, so he was relaxed throughout the discussion. My favorite trip was my two weeks at the south region of France.
HCUPR: What is your favorite part of la IUPI?
Joel: One of the aspects I like about la IUPI is that you can meet people from different social backgrounds- its diversity.
HCUPR: When did you start sewing hammocks? How did you learn to sew?
Joel: I got into sewing by coincidence. One day, I went to a tailor and, when I learned that the clothes can be altered, my fascination for the sewing process began. That’s why for one of my birthdays I asked for a sewing machine & got it. Eventually, I got obsessed with hammocks & started to make them. I wanted to share my passion with the world, so that’s why I decided to sell them.
HCUPR: Does your merchandise has a name?
Joel: I’m against logos because if you’re selling a product, the merchandise does not have to take advantage of the client. The problem with logos is that people can start associating you with them.
HCUPR: What is the mission and purpose of producing the hammocks and selling them at the university?
Joel: What I’m trying to sell is an image of peace. It’s another alternative for the college student to relax on his/ her free time. You just have to find a tree in the area to hang the hammock, lie down, and use the time to study. It’s also a more private option.
HCUPR: What where your first thoughts before undertaking your business?
Joel: My first thought was: “Ahora soy un mini empresarista”! I felt excited like a little kid.
HCUPR: Why do you think college students at la IUPI are willing to produce any type of merchandise to receive an income?
Joel: There are happening two things: students are searching a way to express themselves and develop their techniques, and they are looking for opportunities to win income. The idea of becoming your own chief is amazing. Your time is flexible and you have the liberty to produce your product as you wish.
HCUPR: Who do you aspire to be as a worker?
Joel: I visualize myself in the future as a translator. I want to wake up in the morning, drink a good cup of coffee, open my laptop and start translating. I want a job where I have the liberty to take my laptop and go wherever I want.
HCUPR: Pros & Cons of making a product with or without a job:
Joel: At first, I fell from some of the hammocks that I made in the testing process. It hurts falling from a hammock you made, after you dedicated time to make it. But, falling is good because you learn from the mistakes you make in the process & search for new alternatives. I’m comfortable stating that none of this will happen to my clients. My product has been redesigned for the better. It even includes instructions that indicates how to hang the hammock correctly.
HCUPR: What is the best part of making the hammocks?
Joel: I like sending pictures of the hammocks when they’re finished to my clients to see there reactions. I also like the testing process, because I am always the one to lie down on every hammock I make.
HCUPR: To whom is it addressed your product?
Joel: I’ve selled to people outside the university, but the product is mainly addressed for the students. That’s why the price range of the hammocks is quite low- it makes it more accessible.
HCUPR: What is the price of the hammocks?
Joel: The price range is $54.00 – $65.00. It includes the hammock & the rope to hang it.
HCUPR: What are your next plans the business?
Joel: There are local companies that offer camping excursions. It would be nice to offer my hammocks to a broader number of customers, with the support of those companies. The local production needs more support in Puerto Rico.
HCUPR: Descriptions of the famous hammocks:
Joel: Close your eyes and wrap yourself in a soft like silk fabric. Those are Joel’s hammocks.
HCUPR: Are you ready for the midterms?
Joel: I don’t worry about tests. I was born ready to break any test in half!
HCUPR: What is the backstory of the hammocks?
Joel: The first time that it occurred to me that I needed a hammock was when I was with a friend and she told me joking that I needed a hammock in my room. The next day I already had one hanged in my bedroom. Then I realized I could make them my way- a minimalistic & practical touch.
Want to buy a hammock now? You can contact Joel at his Facebook page: Las Hamacas de Joel.
*Photos taken by contributor Angela G. Elliston.