We had the good fortune of connecting with Gianna Malatrasi and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Gianna, looking back, what do you think was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?
Throughout our journey in life, I think there are numerous difficult decisions that one must make. These moments undoubtedly, not define, but certainly shape the person we become.  

When I was 12 years old my mother go diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a very aggressive type of cancer, after four years it had reached her brain and the battle became to intense for her. 

In her last days, while in the hospital she had gone into a coma. I vividly remember that Saturday, I opened her hospital’s bedroom door and I encounter the priest standing at the end of the bed. As expected, my heart just dropped. I asked him and everyone else in the room to kindly step out. As I approached her bedside, I clearly remember all the tubes, cables and machines beeping just to keep her alive. Somewhere between the beeping and the sound of the breathing machine, I realized this was not a ‘way to live’. This person lying in front of me was not the vibrant woman that used to be my mother. This cancer had slowly chipped away, piece by piece, the life out of her. Those four years of treatment and pain had destroyed her fragile body. Leaving behind the shell of the person that used to be. 

My mother needed peace, she needed not to live in constant pain and fear, trapped in a body that just would not heal. She needed to be free. So, I pulled up a chair, grab her hand and told her to ‘let go’, to run free again without fear or pain. ‘Not to worry about me, as I would find my way and I would be ok’. That was the last time I saw her. She passed away two days later, during one of the biggest hurricanes the island had seen in the last few decades. Even now, after almost 23 years, I still wonder if she ever heard me? If she found the peace she truly needed? If her pain finally ceased? Regardless of many the unanswered questions, I knew it was correct thing to do. Because for her to let go, I had to let her go first.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Art and design are just a part of who I am and how I see the world. Growing up, I was fortunate to be surrounded by art, design, and the vibrant culture of Puerto Rico. I was exposed to world cultures through art, music, travel and food from a very young age. Design, in one way or another was the family business. It was not a shock to anyone who knew me, that I would be attending college to earn my degree in art, design and art history. Throughout my career I’ve worked in many facets of the design spectrum. From magazine editor’s assistant, graphic designer, interior designer, stager, art exhibit designer to art director, etc. A design multi-tool of some sorts. One thing I’m certain of is, that all the knowledge gained throughout each project (of course…most of which I’ve learned by making mistakes and fixing them), has led me to have the confidence and ability to create The Panza from the ground up. From the design of the panza stick itself, to the name, image, branding, website, etc. In a way, it has been a culmination of years of study, learning and experience. And still, I continue to evolve and grow as a human being each day.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, for starters they would need the “Welcome to CO, here’s your 5280+ survival kit”. Which includes lip balm, sunscreen, hydrating lotion, O2 pump and water…lots of water. With a handwritten note that says “for every drink that’s downed, and glass of water is needed…or you’ll get the worse hangover of your life. Love you! G.” I’ve done this survival kit, because I still remember my first hangover in the mile high and that was almost 9 years ago. Yes, it was that bad! Then the trip should be divided between the city and the mountains. Start off by doing the Denver classic. Visit downtown, walk Larimer Square, go the DAM, see as much street art as possible, visit LoDo, Highlands, Five Points, 16th St Mall (The cabaret show at the clock tower is a MUST SEE!) and Union Station. Eat anywhere you find appetizing…there are so many delicious choices. Go brewery and dispensary hopping, the list is endless! Next day visit any other museum, the zoo or even the Cherry Creek Mall area. Next head north to Boulder, the city and surrounding areas are as interesting as the people you’ll find anywhere in the city. Hike the Flatirons, eat and shop at Pearl St Mall, check out the new Google campus and even head up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Check out the food and music festivals around town and a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Then up to the mountains! See the buffalos on I-70, stunning driving views, the Continental Divide, the tunnels and then finally arrive to the ski resorts and mountain cities. Night skiing at Keystone and dinner at Alpenglow Stube. The ice castles at Dillon Lake, walking around Breck and of course SKIING!!! The amazing thing about Colorado is that there’s always something interesting to do!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout goes to my business partner and husband, Roberto. From day one he as been my biggest supporter, confidant and partner. He always knew there was something special in the original Panza recipe and encourage me to develop it. As as third generation beverage manufacturer, Roberto has the business mind-set and industry knowledge that I lacked. He manages to canalize my creative mind when I go into overdrive, and envisions how to funnel my crazy ideas into a concrete, real-world products, businesses, etc. On top of that, Roberto has been a dedicated stay-at-home-dad for the last five years to our daughter. And just for that, I will always give him the biggest shoutout possible. Without his endless support, patience, and true dedication to everything he does, we as a family and as a  business would not be where we are now. 

Website: https://thepanza.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_panza_/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/panzasticks

Other: https://www.pinterest.com/panzasticks/

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.