Today we have the privilege of hearing about Liz Frandsen's journey as a small business owner! She designs handbags and small leather goods for women. Liz is based out of her home studio in Lancaster, PA and has been in business for three years. Her business name, Liz Riden, is her maiden name, since it has more of a "designer" ring to it! She currently designs, cuts, and sew ALL of her bags by hand! And they are SO beautiful!
Why did you decide to start your own business?
In college I had the opportunity to work for some pretty big designers in New York City. It was one of the most incredible learning experiences of my life, but also really made me realize how much I would love to create my own brand and product, and ultimately not work for a big corporation. The flexibility was a major draw for me!
What do you wish you had known when you were starting out?
Something that I'm still learning today. That success isn't overnight, and that being a small business owner often means working WAY more than most jobs. But, that the payoff is totally worth it to get to be your own boss and pursue your dream.
For other product-based business owners, how would you recommend finding a manufacturer?
Finding manufacturing partners that you can trust to create your vision to the right quality is really key to scaling your business. There are several things I recommend.
Maker's Row is a fantastic resource for product based brands to find factories and sources. While it's mostly for fashion, there are many factories that are skilled in many types of products!
Also, when it comes to manufacturing, the industry is still pretty old school. I've found most of my insider sources simply by a Google search and going to the garment district in New York! Always meet with them or set up a call to discuss their work and make sure it's a good fit. Chances are, if they know other great resources they will be willing to share them too!
What does your process look like from concept to completion?
My design process from concept to completion starts with sketching and pattern making. I am a very hands on designer, so I like to start by drawing my ideas out and drafting a pattern on paper to see how it fits together.
Flat pattern drafting basically involves measuring out the dimensions and pieces in a two dimensional way, and then piecing them together to make the three dimensional final product.
Once the pattern pieces are measured, I cut them out from cheap vinyl material and sew it together. I use vinyl for the first draft because it's cheaper than genuine leather and allows for mistakes to be made.
Typically, my pattern process takes 2-3 revisions before it's exactly where I want it to be.
Once the pattern is perfected, I make the sample in real leather to photograph. Currently, all of my bags are made to measure, so I will make one sample and then create orders as they come in!
What has been the most effective strategy for selling more products?
For my product-based business, Instagram has been an absolute game changer in the way I do sales. I've found that not surprisingly, the more I share my work, the more it generates sales.
In addition, I've started expanding my wholesale division of my brand. I've found that being spread out across the country has grown my customer base quickly and that once customers shop in stores, they connect on Instagram and then that also grows future e-commerce sales.
What has been the best financial investment you've made in your business?
The best investment I've made in my business has been quality equipment. I started off my business with very cheap machinery because it's what I had and could afford.
Now, having the proper equipment allows my workflow to be more efficient, and the quality to be immensely better. Also, having proper leather working equipment has allowed me to do freelance work for other brands and designers who may not have those resources.
What's your favorite business book, blog, or podcast?
I can't get enough of the podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz. It's so good! It's encouraging to hear about MEGA brands that got started from humble beginnings and all about how they did it. I wouldn't be lying if I said I secretly hope to be on it some day.
How do you rest, recharge, and find inspiration?
As a small business owner and mom, rest is something that's hard to come by! But recharging and inspiration are not. I'm fueled by lots of coffee and good company. I find inspiration in short day trips, art and art history.
Thanks so much for sharing, Liz! To view more of her gorgeous products and make a purchase, head right this way >>