Inspiring women are go-getters. They make things happen. They live life with no regrets. They are learning about themselves and reaching their full potential. They are not afraid to take risks and just go for it. I talked to Sarah Haran from VVA, which is a luxury leather handbags label, who decided to set up her brand out of her personal experience and frustrations. A truly inspiring interview…
1. What has been your journey so far?
I came up with the VVA concept in 2011 but have really focused on the brand in the past year. It has been quite a journey as the idea developed from a combination of different influences in my life rather than from one idea. As a director of an AIM listed Cloud Computing company, travelling every week with meetings during the day and functions in the evening and being faced with baggage restrictions I knew first hand that having a multi-functional handbag would be useful. I saw an opportunity to address my travel frustrations by creating a handbag concept that could transform from travel to business to play.
My idea was to combine functionality and versatility with style – utilising the very best leather and metal components. I now have 12,000 followers across social media and have my handbags worn by more and more fans as well as some UK based celebrities. There is still much to be done though to grow our brand!
2. What is your mission with VVA?
VVA’s mission is to create a new concept in handbag design that offers the user more style, more functionality and therefore more enjoyment from using their handbag. VVA does this by designing individual, functional and versatile handbags that appeal to handbag lovers, who enjoy premium well-priced accessories.
We want to appeal to individuals, who value choice of use in the handbag products they use, and value handmade individual high quality products. We want our users to carry their life’s in style!
3. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
When I started VVA one of the objectives that I wanted for the business was to have handbags made in Britain. I never wanted to be designing handbags that ended up being made in high volume in faraway places. It was fine in the very beginning, when we had lower numbers of handbags needed and they were all produced in my home studio. However, this wasn’t sustainable, as demand grew, so we had to start to look for manufacturing.
The first big challenge was actually finding a manufacturer and once we did, it was the whole process of set up. The costs of production are higher than off-shoring to Europe or the far East, but the reward has been that we have full control over our supply chain and our manufacturing. If there are any discussions required we can feasibly pop along to see them! As we develop though, it is something that I am very aware of as there are not many handbag production/manufacturers in the UK.
4. How did you overcome the fear of failure and the insecurities you had when starting your business?
This one is a hard question to answer. Some days I wake up and actually think I have gone mad trying to launch a handbag company when there is just so much competition and some really large brands to compete with! But then I remember that I really love what I do and somehow this keeps me trying to push on. I really don’t want to give up!
I then tend to get very practical, make to do lists and ensure that they are in small bites so that I do not become totally over whelmed with what is needed! Then I try to make sure I time manage myself properly to attend to the stuff I don’t like doing that much – you know the finance, the follow ups, thinking up ways to get attention on the brand etc so that I can give myself quality time for designing our beautiful products.
5. What has been your biggest mistake and business lesson you learnt so far?
I am fortunate I guess in that I have worked in business for a while now so that has helped me avoid some of the more basic mistakes one can make. That said my business knowledge is very much around technology and so I have found myself swayed far too easily by listening to “experts” in fashion. It’s easy for this to happen when you don’t know what you don’t know, so this coming year I have signed myself up for a crash course in Fashion Brand building to ensure I widen my network and have far more reference points to fall back on. As they say each day is a school day and that’s what makes this so exciting!
“Each day is a school day and that’s what makes this so exciting.”
6. Where do you see your business going?
I want to continue with our mission of creating something new in handbag design that offers the user more style, more functionality and therefore more enjoyment. I think our brand appeals to professionals and fashion enthusiasts and I think we are starting to gain some traction that I can build on in the coming year. I am not looking for global domination but year on year progress as we further develop our handbag concept and potentially broaden our product range. I am really looking forward to 2017!