After being approached by a company interested in his lamp designs, Edson Enriquez thought his big break had finally come. Instead, his products were replicated and sold at lower prices, pushing him out of business.
As a college student in Guadalajara, suing the company for theft of intellectual property was not a realistic option. Instead, Enriquez shifted his focus to making jewelry for a school project that later became Limbo, a storefront business.
“My goal was to isolate myself by creating one-of-a-kind designs,” Enriquez said. “If you want to copy my work, I don’t care. I’m moving on to the next thing.”
After a positive response from his classmates and the flea markets in Mexico, Enriquez moved to San Antonio on a tourist visa in search of better opportunities and safety from the intellectual property theft he remained weary of.
“I was actually doing housekeeping and babysitting to make money,” Enriquez said. “I had some leftover jewelry that I brought, and I started selling it to my mom’s friends.”
After this positive reception and researching the San Antonio market, he began selling jewelry. Customers praised Enriquez on his price point but said his designs were too original.
“People were telling me, ‘You’re in the wrong market. You got to go to Austin,’” Enriquez said. “So, I grabbed what I had, put it in my car and drove over there.”
A handshake and $20 later, Enriquez rented a table on South Congress for the night and sold $600 worth of jewelry.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, there’s definitely potential here, I won’t be cleaning houses anymore,’” Enriquez said. “This is my new focus.”
After five years of selling out of a pop-up tent, Enriquez and his wife Anne Rutt-Enriquez bought a storefront downtown. It quickly became too small, and the couple moved back to South Congress and began renting a larger space. Luckily, they realized the extra space could be filled with products made by other local vendors.
Currently, Limbo supports over 100 local businesses and prioritizes Austin vendors, especially in the face of rising rent prices, Rutt-Enriquez said.
“It’s important to support local artists and artisans to keep Austin’s identity,” Rutt-Enriquez said. “If we get priced out and (national chains) move in, how are we different than any (other city)?”
With their first three storefronts located on South Congress, the increase in rent prompted Enriquez to open a store in the Domain, general manager Phoebe Morrin-Gross said.
“It’s a challenge to maintain ourselves in a growing and blooming Austin,” Morrin-Gross said. “There’s a fear of there not being a space for us for very much longer.”
Despite these challenges, Limbo continues to thrive. No longer making one-of-a-kind pieces, Enriquez said the business model became unsustainable after a few years because of sheer demand.
Now offering their classic or limited collections, Enriquez continues to pay tribute to the company and Enriquez’s origins through its name.
“It’s an homage to my mother,” Enriquez said. “Every time I was in the (creative) zone, I would completely disconnect and it would be hard for me to come back to reality. Since I was a kid, my mom always called my creative process ‘limbo.’”