Rachel Sanches founded Joy Fabiano in Austin, Texas in 2009.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Joy Fabiano is an eco-friendly handbag line – I design handbags from repurposed materials. For example, I may find some great vintage pieces at local second-hand shops or receive some gently-used clothing donations or buy remnants of fabrics from textile companies. From these fabrics, I design unique handbags that I consider to be recycled. All the handbags are handmade in the USA and feature a hangtag made from re-used burlap sacks.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I came up with the idea to launch Joy Fabiano while cleaning out my closet last February. I had so many clothes that were in great condition that I didn't wear anymore that I would just be giving away, so I decided I'd try making something out of them, and what could be more nifty than a chic, recycled handbag!
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
This is my first business, before venturing into handbags I worked as a video editor at several news stations.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes I began operating my business out of my house and still do so. It's very beneficial for start-up companies to operate from home, because it's an easy way to save some cash especially when you're spending everything you have on getting your idea off the ground. I look forward to renting a studio in the near future, but nothing compares to the conveniences of working from home.
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
After I came up with the idea to start Joy Fabiano, I began looking for a business partner. I thought it would be a lot of work to handle on my own, so it might be a good idea to share the workload with someone. I ended up selecting a mutual friend of mine as my partner; she had recently achieved her Master's degree in a business related field and was not employed at the time. Things went well for the first month or so, but when she was forced to get a low-paying job to pay her bills everything went downhill. I ended up doing most, if not all the work and if there were any events or meetings to attend I was the only one who ever went. It soon became clear to me that her heart was not in the business any longer and I politely confronted her and asked that she leave the partnership. We came to an agreement and she was cooperative in leaving the partnership. After my experience, I would not recommend forming a partnership with anyone unless you are absolutely certain that they will do their share of the work. I was fortunate enough that she was willing to leave the partnership; if she hadn't been, I could have dealt with thousands in legal fees. Just be cautious.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
I highly recommend social networking as a cost-effective way to get your business out there. Facebook and Twitter are two easy ways to market your business and I rely on social marketing to generate most of my business.
Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?
I have hired temps/contractors for various tasks that I couldn't do myself. For one of my runway shows I hired a videographer. I have also provided some freelance work to a graphic designer for tasks such as designing flyers for runway shows. Currently I will be hiring several contract seamstresses to assist with my upcoming lines. Contractors are a great tool for start-up businesses and I definitely recommend them!
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
I would suggest building a team to assist you – you'll need help with marketing, public relations, design, manufacturing, retail, and so much more! I was lucky enough to have a background in communications, which has really helped me out! I also suggest establishing key connections through networking even before your business is off the ground – get to know your local news media, photographers, boutique owners, models, etc… There's no such thing as having too many connections!
Thanks for the great advice, Rachel! Good luck with your purse business.