1. What is your business?
JCLA designs and manufactures casual couture totes that give back to animal rescue organizations. Our bags emphasize attention to detail. From the jeweled pet silhouettes, 2 snap out washable linings, to the golden paw purse feet, my designs are guided by what the customer loves and needs.
2. Why did you launch this business?
It was a combination of my love for animals and recognizing an unfulfilled need. I purchased a bag with a cat silhouette on it and people kept asking me if I had one with a dog on it. I explained that I was an actor and that I did not design or sell handbags. The constant inquiries sparked my imagination. I put together some designs and worked up the nerve to investigate what it would take to make my own bags. Joining SMARTY was one of the steps I took to educate myself and surround myself with like minded entrepreneurs.
3. What gives you your greatest pleasure in your business?
Donating to animal rescue organizations and seeing how happy Rescue Me totes make my customers.
4. Where have you run into challenges in your business?
Manufacturing and importing was no walk in the park. My hunger for learning every aspect of this business has kept me going. Also launching my line in November 2010 (due to manufacturing glitches) was not ideal. Retail stores complete their holiday buying in August. Fortunately, my product was unique enough that 18 stores in LA said yes. My sales “team” was comprised of: me, walking door to door and selling them myself. Funds for sales reps, publicity, etc is a challenge after my manufacturing expenses. I am self funded.
5. What is a key resource that has helped you and might also help other business owners?
Networking (with SMARTY Master Event panelists) and HARO. Since I do not have a budget for press I take advantage of any free press I can get. Help A Reporter Out emails queries each day for gift bag opportunities and press opportunities. My submissions have gotten me into Runway Magazine’s Holiday gift guide, Rave reviews by some prominent bloggers, and the SAG awards gift bag to name a few.