Hometown & Current City
Santa Barbara, California
Communications and Creative Writing
What was your first job after college?
My first job out of college…aside from waiting tables…was working for Patagonia as a photo shoot stylist and copy editor. After Patagonia, I came on board at a sustainable clothing company, Stewart+Brown, doing marketing and P.R. I wore a lot of hats and learned more in the two years with them, than I ever learned in college. Now that I had an understanding for the world of wholesale, I went on to manage and assistant buy for a high-end boutique called Wendy Foster and Pierre Lafond in Montecito, CA where I learned the art of retail and visual merchandising.
What made you decide to start your own business?
I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My family has always run their own businesses and I witnessed the freedom, flexibility, and incredible work they put into their projects. I also witnessed the stress, the uncertainty, and grueling hours they spent building their businesses. I have always wanted to be my own boss, I just didn’t know what I wanted to be until my hobby turned into a business! Now, I use the tools I learned from my family to forge ahead and always improve not only myself, but my business practices.
What were the first steps in starting your own business?
I went a little backwards in starting E.R. Leather Goods. To this day I have no business plan, I have no lawyers, I have no employees. The only help I have is my book-keeper. E.R. Leather Goods morphed a hobby and craft into a business I loved; it was my creative outlet. Getting the support and interest from your family, friends, and co-workers is critical. If you can turn a passion into a career, you are a mile ahead of the rest of them!
What did you learn in your first job that’s helped in starting your own company?
Lead by example. All of the owners I have ever worked for…which ironically have been primarily husband and wife teams…have active daily participation in their business.
If there was one thing you’d wished you’d known before starting, what would that be?
Nothing! I think it’s very important to go through the motions of learning every step of the way. There is no elevator, you have to climb the stairs. I love that my gradual evolution has given me bumps in the road, trials by fire, lessons learned, and experiences had. One thing I feel strongly about is finding a good sounding board or mentor to bounce ideas off of.
Was there anything you wish you’d known when you first got started?
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries! I am a pleaser and I want my brand to thrive but I have said “yes” too many times! I have found that by setting boundaries, you are less likely to get taken advantage of as a small business.
What was the toughest part about starting your own business?
Long hours! The first 4 years of my business I was working 40-60 hours/week for another company. I came home from work and made bags. I had a weekend off and I made bags. Every extra moment of my time was dedicated to making bags. I missed a ton of activities and parties, but I had a focus and a priority. I wanted to be successful. Now that I am not working for anyone else, I make more time for fun and experience.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?
I over-commit. I always work it out, but I over-commit because I don’t want to turn away business. It can feel very challenging at times, then the project is complete and I feel super excited. Challenges are necessary for growth.
Who or what do you look to for support?
My friends and family! They have been amazingly supportive. I have a few mentors who have given my profound advise, but if it weren’t for the honest feedback from “my people” I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned since opening your business/shop?
Making time for a life. I didn’t do that the first 4-5 years I was in business but now I make a conscious effort to break away and have fun! It’s easy to let your company control your lifestyle, but tread lightly, the work will still be there tomorrow. Make time for the people in your life, and not make you life all about work.
What’s your favorite part about owning your own company?
Flexibility! I can make bags anywhere in the world!
What does the future hold for your handbag line?
I wish I had a crystal ball to see the future, but I prefer to stay present and focus on all the wonderful things happening now. That being said…I wouldn’t mind becoming Ralph one day!
Are all of your bags hand-sewn? How did you learn your trade?
All of my bags are either hand made (literally by my own two hands) or sewn on my Singer sewing machine. I am completely self-taught and to this day I don’t use patterns. My mom and grandmother were excellent sewers and masters of “arts and crafts.” I learned at a very young age the importance in trying to make something on your own and be creative. Some times you have to leave it up to trial and error!
What’s your favorite bag in your line?
My favorite bag is a toss up between the Bondurant and the Cheyenne. I love totes since I travel so much. The ease of having a cool tote bag just makes things a little more effortless.
The Molori/Sam Springbok Clutch is hands down my best seller! It’s so fun, what’s not to love?
You’ve collaborated with bloggers in the past, what did that do for your brand?
I love collaborating with smart and talented women. It’s empowering and inspirational. I had the sense the blogging world would blow up, and the idea of collaborating came a few years ago when I made Samantha from Could I Have That her Sam Clutch. It was an instant hit! Now I have collaborations with Alicia from Cheetah is the New Black and Sally and Molly Miller from A Piece of Toast. Working with daily bloggers opens up an entire network of savvy women who may or may not choose to snag one of my bags…but they are just a click away!