Calling All 'Bag Ladies' - An Interview with Jordana Paige

I have been looking for a new 'knitting bag'. Well, when I say knitting bag, what I really mean is a nice handbag which is also good for carrying knitting... plus all the other things I need. And so began a journey which has resulted in (virtually) meeting  a very inspiring woman,  a new affiliation* for the blog and a generous discount for any readers also wanting to go on a shopping spree. Her name is synonymous with two of my favourite things - knitting and handbags. I hope you will enjoy finding out more about Jordana Paige, and reading her advice to aspiring designers. 

Cora, crossbody handbag with detachable evening clutch in dove gray; Shop handbags by Jordana Paige
Jordana modeling 'Cora' in Dove Grey

I'm delighted to have you on the blog. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Can you tell us how you got started in business?
I was eighteen years old and in my first year of college. I had picked up knitting in high school. This was the early 2000's when everyone and her mother (mine included) was knitting. I wanted a knitting bag that looked like a nice handbag, but had pockets for organizing a project, tools and daily items inside. I couldn't find what I wanted. I realized that with the popularity of knitting, I probably wasn't the only knitter wanting a more stylish and functional option. I pitched the idea to my parents and got to work figuring out how to get the first bag made.

Quinn, large handbag, shoulder straps; Shop handbags by Jordana Paige
'Quinn' in Cranberry - a spacious bag, which is great to carry larger projects

What were the biggest challenges for you in the early days?
Everything was a challenge! I had zero experience in every category so I was learning every piece of running a business - sourcing, manufacturing, customer service, finances, website, marketing - you name it. Plus, I was going to school and working a part-time job.

Sourcing and getting the manufacturing done was the biggest challenge though. Without the product in my hands, I didn't have much of a business. I was originally going to make the bags myself. After a year of trying to source materials, not being able to meet the large minimum orders and not being taken seriously as a young woman, I decided to research manufacturing. 

That was scary and full of its own challenges. I didn't know how to sketch a tech drawing. I didn't know much about materials, costs, the manufacturing process or what elements to avoid or include in a good handbag design. The learning curve was steep.

How has this changed over the years?
The challenges still abound, but everything I listed above is now much easier. I didn't learn everything at once. I learned through my experiences and developed myself as a designer and business owner by tackling each new challenge head on.

One of the businesswomen I enjoy following is Marie Forleo. Her mantra is "everything is figureoutable." And it is. You just have to want to figure it out.

Cora, crossbody handbag with detachable evening clutch; Shop handbags by Jordana Paige
'Cora' (in dark green) can be used over the body,  in hand, or as a (zip off) clutch
Where do you get your inspiration for new designs?
I design from the inside out. I usually start with how I want the bag to function - how it will be used in a day and what it will carry. This dictates the size. I consider both how I personally use handbags and also what customers tell me. From there I play with shapes - combining elements and details I've seen in other designs with my personal aesthetic. It all comes back to function though. If I start on a design that doesn't make sense for how the bag would be used, I start over.

You call yourself a solo-preneur - what does a typical day look like for you now?
My tasks each day vary, so I can't say there's really a typical day. I usually start with answering customer emails. Some days I work on creating content for my blog and analyzing website traffic, other days I'm scheduling social media posts and contacting bloggers for collaborations. Some of my favorite days are spent taking photos for the blog and social media. I no longer live in the same city as my warehouse so a few days a week I drive an hour to ship orders and sneak in some rock climbing with a friend. There's variety in the work. That's what I love so much.

Bella, small vegan leather, woven handbag by Jordana Paige
'Bella' - a small woven vegan leather bag
Do you get much time to knit?
Not really, but right now it's by choice. After years of being on deadline to knit samples and write patterns, the relaxing, enjoyable part of knitting faded for me. I still love the craft, but it's not my nightly ritual like it used to be. When I do knit, it's what I call brainless knitting. I'm not keeping notes to turn it into a pattern to sell. I'm knitting a pre-written pattern that I don't have to pay much attention to as I go. That brings the relaxation element back for me.

What is next for Jordana Paige, personally and as 'a brand'?
Personally, this year is a big one for me. I just got engaged (yay!). I will be moving from California to Michigan to be with my fiance in May. It's a lot of change, planning and coordinating happening all at once.

As for the brand, I'm working to expand my target by offering handbags designed for all women, not only knitters. The handbag industry is highly competitive. The new direction is pushing and challenging me like when I started the business. 

Finally, what would you say to someone with aspirations to be a designer? Do you have any advice?
If it's your passion, always be designing. The more you design, the better you'll become. It takes a lot of "bleh" work before you really find your style and voice. I look back on some of the things I designed early on and cringe. I'm sure ten years from now I could look back and think the same of today's work. That's to be expected. The more you pump out, the better you will become. Everything takes practice.

You can find Jordana's knitting designs on Ravelry. She also has a great blog and a Facebook groupIf you'd like to get your hands on any of her gorgeous handbags, she is offering 20% discount to Crafts from the Cwtch readers, until 15th June 2015. Simply use the code CWTCH at checkout. (International shipping options are available.)

*Affiliate links are included in this post. Find more about affiliate links & blog sponsorship here. 

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