I often times get the same questions asked to me again and again. I'll answer them here!
Did you make these bags?
While an incredibly flatterning question, my skills in sewing, block printing, weaving cotton and spinning thread by hand are in no way up to par! All of our handbags and seasonal items are handmade in developing countries (currently Uganda, Cambodia, Tanzania, and India) by a group of artisans with limited employment opportunities.
How do you know that the artisans are being fairly compensated?
I work very hard to screen my wholesalers to make sure they are committed to non-discrimination, to environmental sustainability, to favorable work conditions and to fair compensation. I started by partnering with a good friend from graduate school who works with the groups of artisans in India. I only partner with groups that I have a personal relationship with and that I trust explicitly. I've met many of the artisans myself and have intentionally kept my wholesalers to four because I've not found other groups that I can ensure complete transparency and who carry the fashionable, affordable products that fit with the collection as a whole.
Why don't you sell Purse & Clutch bags at such and such retail store?
Because I partner with multiple wholesalers, there actually aren't "Purse & Clutch bags." In the same way most retail stores carry other brands and don't have a brand of their own. Example: Anthropologie. They carry a beautifully curated collection of other brands. So do we! Selling bags from my wholesalers to retail stores would make me an unnessary middle man. One of the reasons why Purse & Clutch has been so successful (and why it's kinda of a confusing concept) is that there aren't many other retailers selling only handmade and fair wage products that take into account the seasonal fashion trends and keep their costs affordable.
Do you do everything on the business side of things yourself?
Why yes, yes I do. BUT the amazing internet has so many helpful tools for small online business owners. See examples below:
*For inventory management, I useStitch Labs. $12 a month is a bargan for all that this web tool does. It links to my website and shows when an item is sold out. It runs amazing reports that makes reporting state sales tax a breeze. It gives me the big picture of what items I have and what items / colors / patterns are best sellers which helps me make sure that I order enough of a product that is popular.
*For customer service, I useOlark Chat. It's actually a free app through Shopify (my website platform) that allows customers on the website ask questions in real time.
*To keep track of income and expenses, I use the free version ofOutright. They send me a weekly email that shows my profit/loss statement and reminds me that as much fun as this is, and as many artisans that we're able to help, this is a business and we can only continue to help provide jobs if we're successful as a business.
*I useStripeas my secure credit card payment company. They have relatively low fees and usually make accurate assements as to how much of a risk factor purchases are. A stolen card was used on the site (who steels a credit card and buys button clutches?!!) and although it wasn't caught before I shipped the product, the helped me fight the disputed claim. (The card owner was reimbursed and I was out both the clutches and the sale - such is the life of a small business I suppose, but Stripe was very informative on the steps I should take).
Am I missing anything? Any burning questions I can answer? : )
And I love sharing what I've learned with fellow small business owners. Let me know if you'd like to chat!