Several years ago I had a handbag line called Denney Bags. Denney Bags was a passion project of mine over the course of a couple years.
My original vision for the company was to have a line of colorful, unique leather briefcase bags for trendy, fashionable women. So not your typical black briefcase bag, but something more cute and funky. Here are a couple of my designs:
I had a vision for the line, so I was off to a good start. I got my designs together, found a manufacturer in New York to produce some samples and I was on my way. I knew my handbag line was headed for Bergdorf’s or Nordstrom’s!
But there were three major flaws in my journey to launch this business. These flaws ended up being the downfall of my handbag empire.
It’s okay, I’ve recovered since then, but I want to share these flaws so I can help you avoid the same potential pitfalls in your own journey to building a product line.
#1 Flaw: Doubting Myself & My Vision
I had a vision in the beginning, but before I even went to market I started to question my designs, especially as I looked more at other designer’s lines. My original vision of unique business bags started to evolve into something I didn’t even recognize. My insecurities were creeping in.
I hid behind designing new bags and getting new samples made. That was safe. Getting them out into the world was a whole different story. Unfortunately I was stuck in the expensive part of launching a line. Selling is where you actually make money!
I ended up with a bunch of expensive samples and no real cohesive style or brand. I was stuck in the mode of making new bags and new designs because I was afraid to put them out into the world and see if anyone would actually buy them.
Looking back, my early, original designs, the ones I had before my insecurities crept in, were the best ones.
I wasn’t committed to my vision. I started to doubt my product. That can’t happen if you want to succeed.
#2 Flaw: Lack of Capital
Number 1 above led to a serious lack of capital. I wasted money on too many designs, too many “development” type things because working in that area kept me in the safe zone. And the truth is, if you want to develop a product or a line of products, you need some upfront capital.
You may not need hundreds of thousands of dollars, but if you want to hire a manufacturer to make your products, you need samples, packaging and a way to get the word out about your products, such as trade shows or traveling to meet with buyers.
Today, you can develop a line of handmade products with very little cost thanks to Etsy, but if you are trying to build a larger brand with sales reps and distribution channels, then you must be prepared to spend some money.
Once I had samples, I figured I needed to apply for industry trade shows. But I couldn’t afford any of them! Each one I looked into would’ve cost around $5K each not including travel.
Looking back, I could’ve found other ways to get the word out about my line, but at the time, I figured no trade show, no business. So that led to #3 below…
#3 FATAL Flaw: I Gave Up
This was the worst flaw of all (actually #1 is probably the worst). I gave up. I started doubting myself, my product and my ability to make it happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t go deeper into debt and jeopardize my home for this business. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. But if I had believed in it, I would’ve found a way to make it happen without jeopardizing my home.
I could’ve gotten creative, been smarter and spent my money wiser, produced less styles and focused on only a couple in the beginning and pounded the payment to meet with buyers instead of doing expensive trade shows.
There are always other ways to make things happen.
Hindsight is 20/20
I spent a lot of years kicking myself over these mistakes I made, but eventually I learned to love my failures. I learned SO much from this experience and have grown much wiser because of it.
I don’t tell you these things to discourage you. Quite the opposite actually. I want you to realize that you must BELIEVE in what you are doing. Without that, you should stop before you spend another dime on your product.
Be smarter than I was. Trust yourself. Trust your gut. Make a plan. Execute. Don’t spend all your time and money tweaking your product. Get out there and start selling sooner rather than later.
And by all means, please share your success story with me and SBAB!!
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