Chicago, Mexico City, London, Argentina, Spain. Despite what it may look like, this is not a bucket list of cities/countries to travel to. Rather, it is a list of all of the places that Luisa Mancera has called home before returning this past June to Cincinnati to work as the lead designer at Roadtrippers
, a Cincinnati-based startup that helps users discover, plan and book the best road trips customized to their own individual preferences.
“For many years, I was always the one in my friend group that was leaving,” Mancera says. She lived in Mexico City for the past three years, working as a designer for a few different companies before eventually teaming up with her cousin to start their own branding and design studio there called Malaca
“Life in Mexico City was very fast-paced, and I enjoyed befriending people from all over the world,” Mancera recounts. “But it was also very transient, and I think that’s what got to me. I wanted something a little more stable.”
Having grown up in Cincinnati from age 8 through 17, Mancera considers her roots to be here in Cincinnati. “I was back in April for a wedding, and at that point I was considering coming back to Cincinnati for the summer, working remotely and just getting the lay of the land to see how I felt here.”
One of the things she put on her to-do list while in town was to check out the Brandery
, which she had not only read about online, but also heard good things from friends.
“I spoke with (Brandery office manager) Mike Bott, and he offered me a free place to work at their office because he thought I could potentially be a resource to the startups there,” Mancera says. “Soon after that ,James Fisher, who started Roadtrippers, was looking to hire a designer and went through the Brandery to look. Mike put us in touch and it just snowballed from there.”
Fast forward to the present, and Mancera is now living in Cincinnati for the first time since her teenage years. “Even though I was excited to come back, I was also a little bit weary,” she admits. “I thought that it might be a little boring or uninteresting, but it’s been very much the opposite. There’s a diversity of experience here that I was not expecting.”
“The biggest surprise is just how incredibly welcoming people are here. … And I think that’s the biggest difference between Cincinnati and anywhere else I’ve lived,” she says.
Mancera has jumped right into the thick of things with Roadtrippers and is happy to be part of a team that is constantly developing new ideas that challenge her along the way.
“Right now, we’re doing a lot of user interface design, which is actually new to me, but James knows a lot about it. It is really exciting work, and we’re growing very quickly. It’s neat to be a part of that. I think it will be a cool process to be a part of the transition from scruffy little startup to something that’s a little more structured, organized and grown up. I feel like that’s sort of what I’m going through as a person too,” Mancera says with a chuckle.
Mancera is also looking forward to witnessing the continued growth of the city and hopes that it continues to bring more young people into the fold. “I’d like to see people from other parts of the country moving to Cincinnati. I think it adds to this scene," she says. "If someone from a city like Seattle is moving to Cincinnati, it’s a big deal because it means there’s something here that’s catching the interest of people on a national level. It’s exciting to think about.”
If and when that person makes the move, you can count on Luisa to plan them the best road trip possible.
By Michael Sarason