When Marcia Robinson bought a handbag it changed her life. Most of us have owned a piece of arm candy that we love so much we can’t bear to put it down, but for Marcia this particular handbag meant a whole new career. A yellow O Bag that she’d bought in a Brighton shop, Marcia received so many compliments and comments about it over the course of that weekend that she knew it was something special.
Within six months she’d ditched her City job in technology training and launched the first ever O Bags store in the UK, O Bags North London in Crouch End.
O Bags is an Italian brand that allows customers the freedom to express their personality, style and character through customising. “It’s like ‘build-a-bear’ but instead you ‘build-a-bag’. It’s a genius idea and one that’s never been seen before in any other fashion accessories range,” says Marcia.
You select your bag body from over 30 colours, pick handles from a variety of textures, colours and lengths, an inner zipped lining to keep your valuables safe, and a trim in twisted wool, quilt, or whatever you fancy. Then when you are ready for a change you simply switch your handles or trims and you have a whole new look.
So from functional work bag, or gym bag, or even baby bag by day (it’s waterproof and wipe-clean), you can turn your O Bag into a glamorous evening accessory with a few stylish tweaks, like gold handles and a fake fur trim. It’s a brilliant idea for bag lovers that has had huge international success and press coverage in the likes of Vanity Fair and Italian Vogue, and now O Bags are set to do storming business in the UK.
So how did Marcia create a thriving business so quickly and with limited business experience? Here she reveals a few things that worked for her:
1. Be passionate about your business idea
“For years I wanted to have my own business but really didn’t know what in. I came across the O Bag concept by fluke, but once I’d bought one I was hooked. From then on I lived and breathed O Bags, I trawled the Internet for everything I could find about the products and the company who made them. I went to Italy and spent time with other O Bag retailers, to really improve my product knowledge. I was genuinely in awe of the brand and felt passionate about spreading O Bag love within the UK. ?And that passion has sustained and kept me motivated through the ups and downs of launching my business.”
2. Create a vision board of all the things you want in life.
“This really helps to see how your future will look, it gives you things to strive to achieve and seems to make them more tangible. I believe that if you visualise it, you work harder to achieve it, and it just makes things feel more real and achievable. I’m constantly updating my vision board with new things, and I get great pleasure in seeing things on it that have come to fruition, like owning my own store, getting press coverage and throwing a launch party. And most of all, living a life I love.”
3. Test the market
“If you are unsure about taking the plunge then test the market on a small scale. In my case, I opened a pop-up shop in trendy Old Street Underground station. It helped me to identify my target market, and assess their appetite for spending on fashion accessories. It also meant I had an opportunity to get a head start on trading and really get a feel for it. ?There are several companies out there who make having a pop-up shop cost effective and hassle-free. I used a company called AppearHere, where you pay one set weekly fee and everything is included – rent, rates, utilities etc. The process was so seamless. And the successes and challenges of the pop-up gave me the confidence to open my shop in March – and I haven’t looked back since.”
4. Get a handle on social media
“Start early in setting up social media pages for your new business, and start to create a buzz long before you launch. News travels so much faster using social media than through advertising or traditional media – within a day you can get loads of new followers. On the other hand don’t overdo it as your messages must be engaging and interesting, so that future customers will be left wanting more – bombarding your followers can be off-putting. If social media is not your thing, engage the services of a specialist and maybe take some training so you understand what form(s) of social media are right for your business. One size doesn’t always fit all.”
5. Enlist help from friends and family
“I always knew I had talented friends and family around me, but I’d never needed to leverage their skills in a work capacity before. But all that has changed, and it’s been an eye-opener. Don’t be too shy to reach out to your friends and loved ones with expertise in various areas, as it can save you so much time and money. What’s more you’re relying on people you trust and respect, and sharing the successes, trials and tribulations of launching a business with them. I’ve had incredible help and support from Graphic Designers, HR consultants, Marketing Managers, Editors, Admin support, IT specialists etc… and they are all friends and family.”
To find out more about O Bags head down to O Bag Factory North London at 15 Topsfield Parade, London N8 8PR or call 0207-993 4260.