Tell us about your journey!
My business partner, Regina Bauman, and I were both born Amish, which is a small sub culture of people in the United States. We grew up in a very simple life — growing and raising our own food to live from the land. We wore dresses and lived without technology. Today we're no longer Amish, but we are grateful for our upbringing. We are passionate about empowering women through our lifestyle brand of leather bags, Urban Southern. We infuse our content with the language of friendship and encouragement. As women, we are prone to competing with each other and comparing amongst ourselves, but those actions will never empower us.
We believe fashion can be a tool for change and we are committed that belief. Besides empowering women, we want to bring honest goodness into the world with our leather bags. Our leather is ethically sourced here in the U.S.A. and each bag is handcrafted here in the heart of Tennessee. Last December, we were discovered on Instagram and invited to New York Fashion Week for the Spring show in February. We designed and created a completely new line of leather bags for the runway and flew to New York, excited and nervous to accessorize a couple shows. Most recently, we launched a line of black leather bags.
What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
Urban Southern began three years ago when Regina's husband handmade a leather tote as a Christmas Gift for her. The idea of a lifestyle brand was born. Regina's husband is a third generation leather craftsman, so his knowledge and experience with leather backs every single one of Regina's bag designs. Last year, Regina and I decided to join forces. I left my career in Graphic Design to help her build this brand and I haven't looked back.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdles have been finances and lack of health care coverage. I have learned to budget tightly and save as much money as I can for times when I might need a cushion. I also found an inexpensive health care plan that will help in an emergency. We work nonstop, constantly creating inventory and executing ways to market Urban Southern in a way that reaches more people while also deepening the relationship we have with existing customers.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Our families have been very supportive! They are so proud of us.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Social Media. Instagram and Facebook are amazing platforms to grow your business. Most of our sales come through visits from Facebook, but our largest amount of brand awareness happens on Instagram. We have developed our own influencer program and that has been very successful! We have also invested in valuable mentorships to help us make the best decisions for this brand.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
It takes so much consistency and patience to build a company. Stop trying to figure out the next fancy trend and focus on refining what you are already doing. Stay very focused. Be present on social media every day to offer value, no matter how slow or fast things are going. Deepen your relationships with your existing audience as your first priority every single day, then broaden your reach.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Have a plan before taking the leap! Build your business on the side. Use your existing job to bring in an income as you build an audience and refine your product or services. Save as much money as possible. Make sure you have a good handle on your personal finances and get good at living below your means. I highly recommend taking the Financial Peace University course with Dave Ramsey if you live in the United States. Stay humble when you have some amount of success and never stop working. There is no point of "arriving" because if you stop working, you will lose what you have built.