After I made my first few handbags, I took some of them to a local boutique that sells all Texas designed and mostly handmade stuff (Parts & Labour). One of the owners, Lizelle, said she would consign my few bags and see how they did. Well, would you believe that I sold most of them within the next few weeks! I was shocked to say the least. I really couldn't believe that people liked my stuff well enough to spend their money on it. But boy did they!
After those first few bags sold, I used the money I made to purchase more fabric and supplies and then got to work creating new styles and playing around with my sewing machine. You see I have no formal design training, and I only learned to sew in my high school theater department. So, I had to teach myself how to create and design. I looked at bags in every store I went in order to learn construction techniques. I will definitely admit that the bags I made for the first few months were quite a joke (well at least compared to my product line now), but I had to start somewhere.
Over time I learned little tricks of the trade and was able to hone my sewing skills. I also began branching out from just bags and started to make headbands, belts, and jewelry. Then in early 2007, after two years of craft shows and direct marketing to boutiques, I decided it was time to test the waters of real trade show.
My first show was at the Dallas Market Center (March 2007, Apparel Market). I figured it was best to start out small with the show closest to where I live. I drove up there and set up my booth for all 4 days.
At the end of the show I had somewhere between 10-15 new wholesale accounts and I was excited about my prospects of actually being able to quit my day job and be fully employed by my business. Up until this time (starting about three months after I quit my out of college job) I was working as an engineer a the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This day job at TCEQ had allowed me to continually reinvest my earnings from Kailo Chic back into the business and grow it all the more quickly.
After the trade show was over and I was back at home, I got an email that would change my Kailo Chic into what it is today. I was contacted by the local laptop bag and mobile technology case company Pacific Design. They said that they had seen some of my work at Parts & Labour and where interested in joining forces to create a line of fashionable laptop bags for women. WOW! They wanted me to design the bags and then they would get my designs manufactured and sell them to large big box retailers (Staples and Office Max) as well as to online retailers(Ebags.com, Kohls.com, JcPenny.com) and I would get royalties for all the bags they sold! Are you kidding me! This was awesome! Of course I said "Yes!".
Well, based on how I did at the trade show and this new opportunity with Pacific Design, I decided it was time to make the leap. I quit my day job and became fully self employed! Ah.... no more boss. It was magical. And still is.
My business continued to grow. I gained more wholesale accounts, I started to get press in magazines (Seventeen, Brides, etc..), and in Fall 2007 my laptop bag line with Pacific Design launched to great reviews and sales. Since then, Pacific Design went out of business (May 2008), but I have continued to create laptop bag designs and joined up with Nuo (started by the head designer at Pacific Design) to create even more mobile tech cases and bags. Laptop bags now account for about half of my business, and it is all thanks to Pacific Design for opening my eyes to the untapped world of fashionable laptop totes for women.
On a more personal note, my husband (Brandon) was able to quit his day job to come help with the business in January of 2008. I really needed his help as I wasn't able to keep up with everything all on my own. In October of last year we had our adorable little girl, Madeline.
I knew having a baby would mean another change to my business and how I operate it, and boy has it been. It really is quite a learning experience trying to run and operate a business while taking care of a little one.
And I am still trying to figure it all out. And this my friends is why I have created this blog. To make public my daily struggles of running a successful handbag and accessory company and raising a baby. Getting everything done I need to while not feeling like I am missing out on Madeline's infancy and growth. So expect posts on everything from new designs to Madeline moments to what I made for dinner. Cause hey, it sure feels good to get your thoughts out, even if they are to an imaginary audience.