May 23, 2013
At a Glance
Bio The path that led her to this point
I did Business at Canberra Uni (then CCAE) and started my career in Advertising with Mojo in Sydney.
After more than 20 years working on some fantastic brands and incredible creative campaigns - I could feel the industry changing and realised that the role of Account Management had changed dramatically from the one I had loved.
I had been a full-time working mother throughout my advertising career and my son leaving school gave me a chance to regroup and reassess.
Somewhere in my travels I came across an orange laptop bag. Its colour was its most redeeming quality!
I lost count of the number of times I was asked by women where I found it.
It seemed that other business women were sick of boring, expensive, business bags and accessories.
I was siting at my desk when I realised in a 'light bulb' moment that there could be a business idea in that orange laptop bag. So My Best Friend is a Bag was born.
The name came from the fact that a great business bag is just like your best friend.
Always by your side, shares all your secrets, keeps you on track and helps you look good!
All the preliminary work in determining whether the business was viable like researching the idea, developing the business plan, registering the name, designing and sourcing the manufacturer for the first range was done in my spare time.
Then in early 2012, I bit the bullet, gave up my paying job and I started working on the business full time.
Q&A Insider advice & tips
What's been your greatest achievement to date?
Putting everything I have learned in 20 years in Marketing and Advertising into practice with my own brand.
What's been your biggest challenge so far?
Definitely the sourcing and manufacturing.
There are no large scale leather bag manufactures still operating in Australia so we were forced to look off shore. With the help of a girlfriend who had importing experience, we ended up with a manufacturer in India.
Our first manufacturer was a disaster! We lost time and money but learned a lot!
Through a personal contact we found a second manufacturer in Kolkarta, India who has produced our current range.
Best lesson you've learned along the way?
If there is an area of the business that is not your area of expertise, hire an expert to help you.
We are currently sampling in China and this time I've used a company called China Blueprint in Sydney to help me find the factories. They do all the background checks and make sure there is a good match with your company before you start the whole process.
Had I used a company like this for India I know we would have been warned off our first manufacturer!
You need to be involved in every step of the production process. If you can't be on the factory floor during production, there are companies you can hire to represent you.
It's just too late to sight your products once they have been completed. Yes, you can reject them and demand to have things remade but you lose both time and money.
A website, book or resource that has helped you in your business or inspired you and why?
I live on the computer! There are so many different things that I couldn’t live without. Here are some of them.
- Fashion blogs: I need to know what’s trending in accessory shapes and colours. I subscribe to Women's Wear Daily but also get a daily dose of fashion blogs. I love Business Chic - Cheryl Lin’s blog is a daily advice column on what to wear to work.
- Business blogs and sites. I subscribe to a number of digital and social media marketing sites and blogs. With an online business, I am always looking for tips and things that I can be doing to keep my brand name out there and relevant in social media.
- Networking. I’m interested in any community that involves businesswomen. I am an active member of a number of them and am always on the lookout for opportunities to supply bags for competitions and fundraisers that involves working women.
- Organisational apps and tools: I couldn’t live without Dropbox and Evernote. It means I can access my files and notes wherever I am. I have 4 electronic devices (a desk top, a laptop and an iPad and a smart phone) and they are all linked. It means I never stop being actively involved in my business but that’s the price you pay for running your own business!
- YouTube! When I can’t work out how to do something, I go to YouTube and I know someone will have shot a video just for me!
Which person or brand do you most admire and why?
I know she polarises people but for me she’s a wonderful source of inspiration.
She’s reinvented herself more times than I’ve had hot breakfasts but her latest as a fashion designer and head of a hugely successful fashion brand has left me gasping in awe!
A lesser mortal would have crumbled before the barrage of contempt that she faced when she announced she was going to design a range of clothes. But look at her now. One of the most admired and respected Fashion Doyennes in the world. And a working mother (albeit with more help than us mere mortals!).
What advice would you give someone starting an independent business in your industry?
You need a business plan and a great, user friendly accountant. I’ve also hired a wonderful bookkeeper who comes once a month and keeps me up to date with all the Government and Taxation requirements.
If you don’t have a marketing background then you need to get some good basic marketing advice to establish your brand and set your brand parameters in place. It keeps you disciplined as you develop your product and your communications.
Be prepared to work hard. When you own your own business you don’t get to go home at night without a backward glance!
My best piece of advice if you are interested in starting a fashion business? Join the TFIA Hub - The Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia. It’s the best money I’ve spent. Their workshops and mentoring opportunities have been invaluable to me.
Finish this sentence
Everything changed for me when…
I gave up the daily routine of going into an office and working long hours for someone else!
I don't think the pleasure of owning my own business will ever wear off. The pride I feel when I look at my own products. The joy I feel when I get a repeat purchase from someone who has loved one of my bags so much that she wants another one, in another colour.
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