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Rags to Riches: From eBay to Mexican Tile Industry Leader in Manufacturing & Distribution



From eBay to Leader in Manufacturing & Distribution

15 years ago, I was a skinny, 26-year-old white girl who didn’t speak Spanish.  Living in South Texas, I sold Mexican tile on eBay for a local retail business. Today, my husband and I, own and operate the largest manufacturing & wholesale distribution operation for Mexican tile and stone.  Rustico Tile & Stone is based just outside Austin, Texas, our reach spans global distribution.

The 2 biggest roadblocks that I faced upon starting our company 14 years ago was

  1. Knowing nothing about my product, industry, or the changing technology
  2. Being a female in a male-dominated construction industry
  3. Starting a family and learning work-life balance

Early on, I partnered with my boyfriend (who is now my husband).  He’s the Spanish speaking side of my business. Then I made it my sole purpose to learn everything I could about:

  • how handmade Mexican tile is made (& how to make it better)
  • how to create a website & content-driven SEO & PPC & social media marketing
  • how to take product photos so customers can envision our tile in their home spaces
  • how to negotiate freight discounts
  • how to package pallets of tile weighing thousands of pounds
  • how to drive a forklift
  • how to get a new company off the ground without debt financing
  • how to read financial statements and make strategic decisions based on the numbers
  • how to lead and manage people (in office and remotely)
  • how to staff & manage personnel in Mexico
  • how to lead as a woman in an industry filled with men
  • how to take my MBA and put it to work for my family
  • how to be married & a parent with my business partner

We made many mistakes, and we continue to do so. Many. But with each mistake in our business, marriage, and parenting life, we tweak and tune our practices.  We are successful today because of hard work and grit to outwork our competitors.  Not only that, but we’re also successful because of God’s grace and a sense of humor.

From selling pieces of tile on eBay to leading the industry of Mexican tile and stone, I’ve become the expert. Our company was recently featured on World’s Greatest TV Show,, and on multiple home décor/improvement tv shows & interior design blogs. While I don’t pack pallets of tile anymore, given the opportunity of being in our warehouse, it’s still something that I love to do.  And that’s how I overcame the roadblocks to my business and industry. I got my hands dirty. I’m still a skinny, white girl who speaks enough Spanish to succeed in my industry… and to order Mexican food.

Hi! My name is Melanie Ocana. I’m co-owner of Rustico Tile and Stone (Texas-based online company). Rustico is the largest manufacturer/distributor for handmade Saltillo tile and other Mexican tile and stone varieties. Along with running the online tile business since our inception 15 years ago, I maintain our blog which is an interior design industry influencer. Rustico regularly works with big-name interior designers, architects, and celebrity notables. My company’s materials are featured on HGTV, Home & Garden, World’s Greatest TV, various AP media outlets,, and other home improvement tv shows throughout the years.