I started my business at 18 years old while in college. As a knitter, I saw the growing popularity of the craft among young women. But, there was a lack of fashionable bags for carrying one's knitting project in. So, I designed a bag that looked like a purse, but had the pockets and features of a knitting bag. My original plan was to make the bags myself. I did months of researching only to conclude that manufacturing the bags myself was just not feasible. As a last effort of getting the business going, I contacted a manufacturer. I was told I would have to place a minimum order of 300 bags. This was a huge and scary number, as I had only wanted to start with 12 bags.
I decided to take the chance. I believed in the product and that I could sell it. Today I am 21 years old and have graduated from college. The product line is growing, as is my customer reach. My bags are sold in over 200 shops in the US, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. Minimum orders of 300 bags no longer scare me because they're too low to meet demand. It's been a hard 3 and a half years, with a lot of learning mistakes. I've enjoyed every bit of it and am excited about the future.
What would you say was the toughest challenge about starting your own business?
There have been many challenges, but the challenge that frustrated me the most was gaining respect. I was 18 years old when I started the business and probably looked about 14. When I approached various suppliers and manufacturers, many didnít take me seriously. They didnít even want to hear my product ideas or spend time with me discussing what services they offered. Some would talk down to me. I had to catch on fast to those who were trying to take advantage of me. Iíve become very good at holding strong to what I know is right. I may be young, but Iím certainly not dumb. I wonít let anyone push me around.
Where did you come up with the money to finance your first few orders of bags to be manufactured?
I am very fortunate to have the support of my parents. When I approached them with my idea, they encouraged me without hesitation. My first order was for 300 purses, of which they paid for half and I the other.
Who or what was most helpful in getting your business launched? A mentor? An inspiring Daring Female? Friends who pitched in?
My family has been the most helpful and not just because they provided the financial means to get my business started. Theyíve been there for me during the highs and the lows. My parents are my cheerleaders; when it gets tough, they encourage me and wonít let me just give up. If I didnít have that encouragement I probably would have closed up my business years ago.
Theyíve also given a lot of hours to the business. My sister models for my photo shoots and hand writes the addresses on all of my mailings. My dad builds my displays for the shows, helps me with my website and gives me great advice on new ways to improve how I operate the business. My mom is the best salesperson for my products. She gets even more excited and impressed with the features of the bags than I do. She always works in my booth at the shows. And, she helps me look at challenges as a positive opportunity, as only a mother can.
What were some mistakes that you made while starting and growing your business?
Many people work for others before deciding to start their own business. I didnít have this experience, so everything was new to me. Iíd often been told that people in business are tough and that you always need to have written contracts. I was naÔve in this area. I thought asking someone to sign a contract was a poor way to start a business relationship because it showed I didnít trust him. Unfortunately, I learned the hard and costly way that having a written contract is essential. Now I get everything in writing.
Was starting your own business your biggest life Dare?
Yes, it is. When I began the business it didnít start out as such a big dare. I was just going to make a few bags and see how the market responded. But, the opportunity was present for me to make it a bigger business by having the purses manufactured. That decision was certainly my biggest dare.
What piece of advice would you offer to other Daring Females who dream of starting and running their own business?
Owning a business is very rewarding and has many benefits. I wouldnít give it up to work for someone else. I encourage women with dreams of their own businesses to go for it. With that said, I also encourage research. Entrepreneurship isnít for everyone and it isnít what many think it is. Iíve spoken with people who think that owning a business means you have more time to vacation or do what you want because youíre the boss. This isnít true at all. Owning a business is 24/7 hard work. When there are problems, theyíre youíre problems. You canít just quit and find a new job. And, youíre not on salary, so make sure youíre financially stable to survive when a month of sales is low. Whatever type of business you choose, love it. Itíll be everything you do and everything you think about.
When you do take the dare to start your own business, enjoy the journey. Instant success doesnít exist, but thatís okay. The highs and lows you face when striving to reach your goal is what makes the accomplished goal so great. As a knitter, I compare it knitting a sweater. I could go to the store and instantly have a sweater. But, I knit because I enjoy the act of knitting, even when I mess up, and the sense of accomplishment when the sweater is done.
To learn more about Jordana and her products, check out www.JordanaPaige.com.