Start-ups are being encouraged to consider South America as a place to do business, after two local entrepreneurs celebrated the launch of their luxury leather bag line in Argentina.
ECEL, based in Buenos Aires, was founded by Alex Herlihy and Chloe Vandervord, both from Sydney. After 12 months of conceptualisation, the pair recently raised $7,000 on Kickstarter.
“The conceptualisation process for ECEL started well over a year ago now, with our own desire to be able to buy simple, unbranded leather bags at a price that we could afford,” Herilhy says.
“We have been uncompromising on the quality of production and the actual materials used, and are extremely proud of the prototypes we have made.”
“These include a weekend bag, a messenger, a backpack, a collection of patagonian sheep’s wool fly hats [and] a passport cover.”
Herlihy and Vandervord made the entire range themselves, including bronze fittings and vegetable leathers, with the help of local artisans.
“We have had to source every piece of hardware, make our own leather and kiss a lot of toads, shall we say, to find the right workshop to put us into production,” Herilhy told Anthill.
“This is easier said than done, especially in a second language and in a country where we weren’t familiar with the customs and business practices.”
Herilhy says the company decided to raise funds on Kickstarter because “they are definitely the global market leader and have the most through traffic”.
Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative professionals, allowing users to post their projects and find funding for them from the Kickstarter community.
It is powered by an all-or-nothing funding method, so projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.
“Without help from Kickstarter, we [would have been forced to] to make our bags out of inferior leathers or walk away from our last year’s worth of work,” Herlihy said.
“Crowd funding gave us a platform – we could turn around to all our friends and family and say ‘hi – this is what we’ve done and this is what we need to do to go forward’.”
ECEL is now planning to increase its range by about ten products a year – a plan that is much more achievable in a market like South America.
“We don’t have the same pressures as the clothing industry to turn out new seasons every few months – we can take our time and really nail a design for a specific purpose,” Herilhy said.
Last year, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor identified Buenos Aires as the Latin American city with the highest start-up rate per capital.
Buenos Aires was ranked seventh with regard to entrepreneurial activity, beating major cities such as New York and Paris.