23 October 2013

Savvy Entrepreneur Interview: Rebecca Smith, Better Life Bags // #31Days

Today's Savvy Entrepreneur interview is with Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags.  I had the joy of meeting Rebecca in person at this year's Influence Conference, and she is as sweet a person as her bags are in style!  From the moment I heard about Better Life Bags, I knew I wanted to support them because I believe so fully in their mission, which you get to learn about as Rebecca tells us her story below.

Better Life Bags is a custom handbag company that makes bags based on the customer's design from our website.  We also intentionally hire people from our immigrant community who have a hard time finding jobs outside their homes.  Not only does this help them become either the primary or secondary income provider in their homes, but provides them with much needed friendship and fellowship as we visit with them and invest in their lives as people. 

I attribute much of the course change of Better Life Bags to Kacia and Raechel.  They pushed me to try using genuine leather on the bags I was making for them and it really changed the direction of the business for the better.  Up until that point we had been making custom FABRIC bags.  The leather/fabric combo really sets us apart from other bag companies. 

1. Find something that you genuinely love doing/making.  I was naturally interested (aka: obsessed) with bags, so designing them and making them was easy for me.  You will spend hours upon hours in the start up phase of your business creating (and getting paid very little for it).  Make sure you love the product you are making!

2. Have a presence on social media.  Especially Instagram.  My Instagram followers are my favs (shhhhh - don't tell FB or Twitter).  It helps that I love Instagram myself, but my fans on there are genuine, encouraging, and my best customers.  I also think it's important to have a mix of your personal life and business on social media.  People like to get to know the person behind the business.  

3. Customer service is key.  A happy customer is much more likely to tell their friends, but an UNHAPPY customer will tell everyone they know!  

Trying to do it all yourself.  As soon as you are able, hire someone to help you do the things you hate: shipping, emails, etc...  Then as orders pick up (because you have more time to devote to your products and marketing and are generally more encouraged), hire more people to help you make/create the products until you've worked yourself into your dream job behind your business.

{Full disclosure: As the answer to this question, Rebecca asked me to select some pictures from her website. This bag's name is Brynnda, and I. LOVE. HER.  As soon as I can justify the purchase, she will be mine. And this will be her design (did you know you get to custom-design your bag?). So snazzy.}

In the fashion industry, I think it's important to stay ahead of trends.  I've phased out a few bags that I felt were too outdated and am constantly looking for new design ideas in fashion magazines and Pinterest.  It's important to be unique and to create something that no one else can.  Listen to your customers, too!  Some of my best selling bags have come from a suggestion from a customer.

For me, I never want to go into debt to start a business.  I will work for $2 an hour (for a period of time) before going into debt.  I also would have to have a passion and reason for starting the new business in the first place.  It would have to meet a need in my community (like jobs) and be something I'm so passionate about that it doesn't feel like work.

Ultimately, I think Passion + Perseverance = Success... whether or not your business succeeds in the world's eyes or makes as much money as you'd like.  Creating and trying is success enough!

If hearing Rebecca's own words weren't enough, I discovered this video on her website.  It really helps cast a vision for what they've got going on.  

Rebecca - thank you for your generosity in telling your story.  Thank you for your commitment to making your community a better place. And thank you for making beautiful bags we want to buy! 

Let's support what Rebecca is doing!

Having trouble viewing the video? Watch it HERE.

This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 9: Margin
Day 18: Make it Happen