Lessons Learned: Promoting Specialty Handbags Expensive

Las Vegas-based firm duo Christopher Nelson and Tamara Leuty created patented designer bags with built-in lighting that let you learn what’s inside. Then they started a business — Glass Handbag — in late 2010. They got U.S. and international patents for their own creation. They found appropriate designers and suppliers. And they found an attractive ecommerce site to sell their product.

That’s the excellent news.

The fantastic thing is that the partners have spent $500,000 on it all and have sold just 100 handbags, for approximately $15,000 in earnings. It is a costly lesson, in other words. But fortunately for us, they’ve agreed to share their experiences. And, admirably, they’re not giving up.

Christopher Nelson and Tamara Leuty.

Besides having a successful career as a real estate appraiser, Nelson is a serial entrepreneur. “I have started a few small companies since I was 12 when I provided knickknacks to my nearest and dearest.”

Despite his expertise in understanding that new goods are tough to market, Nelson says their lessons in creating and marketing their own distinctive handbag are costly ones.

In 2010 Leuty began to invent a handbag with an integrated lighting system, which she said people have been trying to make since the 1950s.

“Tamara tried to find suppliers in the U.S. but none would return her phone calls be favorable about giving signing and quotes non-disclosure agreements.”

But she persevered. She created designs, found suppliers, and got a prototype in 2011. She provided the first Glass Handbag product in December 2011.

In 2012 Glass Handbag has been given an international patent from WIPO — World Intellectual Property Organization — and it is going to have the U.S. patent, that’s been published but that is not yet official.

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Home page, GlassHandbag.com.

Shopping Carts, Order Management and Hosting

The company launched GlassHandbag.com in June 2011 with Volusion, the hosted shopping cart. Nelson is happy with Volusion’s comprehensive version.

“Volusion incorporates payment systems, order management and hosting. We have been happy with them for the preceding calendar year. With custom designing available, there are always more options for the web site. By Means of example, Tamara would prefer a sliding-picture home page”

Credit Card Payments

For his payment gateway, Nelson uses Authorize.Net because it is compatible with Volusion. But he is no fan of credit card processing companies generally, beyond payment gateways.

“They’re pure evil: they hold you to contracts and sneak them in, even when you don’t need them. They constantly have additional fees and typically charge a fantastic deal even if they say they are the cheapest.”

Glass Handbag Features payment via PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Discover. It included Square in July 2012 so buyers can purchase the purses in their mobile phones.

Search Engine Optimization

Nelson said Glass Handbag has tried Volusion’s search engine optimization service and, also, the services of Orange Soda, a consulting firm. But has had minimal opportunity thus far.

“They say you will need to give it six months to work. I am not sure I believe this, but we are using SEO services from Visible.net] [a shopping cart and advertising firm] at the current time.”

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Shipping

Leuty and Nelson send Glass Handbag’s products through USPS and FedEx.

Accounting Software

Glass Handbag uses the online version of QuickBooks, which Nelson said is useful, in comparison with the installed software version.

Social Media

Glass Handbag appears on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Nelson uses HootSuite — the social-media management platform — for Twitter and Facebook, posting twice each week, and boosting the company and handbag sales in only about 20 to 40 percent of the posts.

“Otherwise your followers get sick of you promoting products all the time.”

Customer Support

Nelson said he and Leuty don’t have a great deal of customer service experience yet as their product has not eliminated. But when it does, he will use an outsourced order fulfillment facility.

Glass Handbag has patents for the function of their handbag light.

Biggest Mistakes

Nelson cites four mistakes.

“The biggest mistake was spending $10,000 on a Yahoo! email marketing campaign that lasted only 1 month and introduced no earnings — yes, zero earnings. A total waste of money.”

Print advertising has proved equally disappointing.

“We paid $6,000 per month for a full-page ad within our regional high class magazine, VEGAS, for three months with minimal results and no earnings.”

The pair received photo coverage with celebrities from the television series Dancing with the Stars. But Nelson believes this wasn’t worth the $5,000 fee for celebrity photographs.

Finally, they also regretted getting a bricks-and-mortar showroom in Las Vegas too soon.

“We tried a retail spot for about seven months — from July 2011 to February 2012 — and fell about $70,000. It Wasn’t for us, [it had been ] too expensive to Keep and get traffic”

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Since then, the team have concentrated their efforts and resources on getting traffic to the website.

Largest Successes

Nelson cites five important successes for Glass Handbag.

The first was that the designer handbags. Nelson and Leuty appeared on a three-minute section on nationwide television show, Better TV. Second, they’ve been featured for two to three minutes with the regional Fox news tv series.

“The following is getting our first patent published. The foremost is that, really, everybody who sees the item, enjoys it.”

However, the best success of all is their most recent contract with CBS for its regular game show, The Price Is Right, letting the thing on air for as many as two times each month for a 12 month period.