Yep, it’s a long one… Mix yourself a cocktail 😉
It started with a date. A Groupon painting class which offered a 20″x20″ canvas, brushes & palette knives, all the paints you could possibly want, wine, crackers, cheese, and fruit snacks, plus a live DJ making the atmosphere completely creative. I signed Scott and me up, and for three hours on a spring Saturday afternoon in 2008, I painted for the first time in my life.
When I was finished with my work, I wanted to cut the canvas away from the frame and trifold it into a clutch handbag. I mean I SAW IT… immediately. Hit like a lightening bolt, I could feel this beautiful artistic item on my arm, and I’ve never been the same since.
Wendistry originally started in the summer of 2008 and ran into Q2 of 2009 under the name “bolarti” (two Italian words combined to literally mean “purse” “art”). Over that year, I did everything wrong… spent money on full-page magazine ads, paid three figures for countless fashion show tickets, gave bags away as charity donations, looked up and had $50,000+ into the business, and I was angry.
To the point that I ditched the whole thing, threw almost all of these handbags into a dumpster, and went back to online marketing and digital consulting work full-time. I thought I would be thrilled to have this albatross free from my neck. Nope.
You people all over Dallas – family, friends, friends of friends, strangers – would walk up to me and ask me about those painted bags. Now, mind you, almost ALL of these people had bought zero/zip/nada from me, or given me any indication that they were interested in my product on social media, but they had to gall to ask me why I “quit.” PEOPLE… we love them; we hate them; eventually, we see the truth through them. Other people kept this handbag idea in the back of my mind almost constantly.
From 2009 to April 2015, I went back to work full time… as head of marketing for a premier iOS app development company, a Digital Strategy Sr. Manager at a decent sized consulting firm, a Director of Strategy at another technology consulting firm, and finally as a VP of Strategy at a customer loyalty solutions firm.
All this ladder climbing, that I thought would make me happy, made me the most miserable I’ve ever been in my life. Through it all, Scott and I dated and were married on November 1, 2012. By April 2015, his consulting business had grown enough for me to stop the misery and leave corporate America for the last time which allowed me the summer of last year to focus on what the handbags needed to become.
Through a complete fluke occurrence in the Anthropologie store in Northpark Centre, I landed a 20-minute meeting with Anthropologie’s VP & Head of Accessories Buyer Department in July 2015. During that meeting, I stressed that I was not interested in her buying my bags as they were currently designed under the “bolarti” label. I simply asked her:
IF I did want you to buy this bag for the stores, what would that clutch design look like to make your customers happy?”
Over the next 10 minutes, she sketched and designed the bag you see in my Shop today. The zipper closure, the double snaps, the wristlet strap, the suede interior… All design ideas from her and I am FOREVER grateful because she completely changed the game for me.
Getting to work painting from July through August, and then finding Julie McCullough and her MAKE+MADE sewing workroom to sew and produce what I painted, I launched my first collection, Fall/Winter 2015, on November 4th last year at the Dallas “Flea Style” Fall event.
The attendees at the show, for the most part, were probably not my customer. I knew this going into it. Most of the other vendors were selling items from $5 to $50, which is quite a price distance from my product. However, the booth was only $250, and for me, it was market research… a chance to see women react to the bags, touch them, and give me their honest feedback on my designs. I ended up selling two which covered the cost of my day and put a little money in my pocket. Success!
Into December, the fashion gods smiled on me in a HUGE way… I was asked to participate with another Dallas couture designer, Binzario Couture, in New York Fashion Week in February 2016. You see those images from the show in the video on my home page.
#OMG #LifetimeBucketList accomplished, I came home and was asked to be featured on some local morning TV shows and Wendistry has rolled forward from there. Through events, relationships, and sometimes just cold-emailing, Wendistry handbags are now sold in two boutiques, through a styling company called Front Door Fashion, and through several personal stylists.
I’ve found that the key, and most importantly – MY market differentiator – is to take the conversation ABOVE just handbags to “Adorn Differently.” That way my focus can be on numerous, broad-reaching topics:
- Women who have unique style,
- Fashion trends as they arise,
- Interesting materials in fashion,
- Colors and the messages they send,
- Why “getting dressed” matters, and more!
Today, I’m proud to be different from other fashion and accessory designers who are constantly messaging: “Buy my _______ (dress, lingerie, pants, jacket, purse, etc.) NOW!” I take pride in elevating the fashion conversation to sharing tips and tricks that teach women how to stand out in an occasion-appropriate way, but always with an eye-catching handbag! 😉
But, what’s YOUR story?
- Have you thought about starting something outside of your 9-to-5?
- Are you trying to turn your side hustle into a full-time effort?
- Do you have a website/program/mentor you turn to for advice about your startup?
- Someone who encourages you through the doubts and the setbacks?
Let me know in the Comments below…
Are you living your FULL life
with all the creative satisfaction that entails?
(and if you’re not sure how, SIGN UP for my email list!)
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