Business ideas can strike at the strangest of times – even when undertaking a build-a-bear workshop at Bondi Junction.
At least, this is how Lana Hopkins had the idea for Mon Purse, a luxury handbag and leather goods business that allows customers to monogram, customise and design their purchases themselves.
In the past three months Mon Purse has turned over more than $1 million, and Mon Purse co-founder Andrew Shub told SmartCompany the business expects to turnover in excess of $10 million by the end of 2016.
“If it wasn’t for Christmas we still would’ve done over a $1 million,” he says.
When Hopkins, 32, was building a teddy bear for her nephew in January 2014, she was coincidentally looking for a high-quality handbag at the same time.
Hopkins found looking for a classic bag she can keep for years was difficult. She might like the look of one bag but would wish it had gold zips or accents to better match her skin.
“[It was] always little things I’d been thinking about that made a bag not quite right for me,” she says.
Price was always the other issue for Hopkins, with luxury European bags retailing for $4000-5000 dollars, yet she found the cheaper mid-range bags usually fell apart within a few months.
Hopkins took inspiration from other businesses that offer customised products – including teddy bears – and thought why not apply the same model to handbags?
The result is Mon Purse, which uses 3D technology to allow customers to build and design their own bags online.
“Lots [of other businesses] are doing monogramming but this is next level, it’s not just monogramming it’s customising the bag to how you want it,” Hopkins says.
Hopkins says building the Mon Purse platform took a lengthy six-to-nine months. But at the time, Hopkins was running another startup, smartphone case and accessories business iCoverLover. She sold iCoverLover early last year.
After a successful website launch for Mon Purse in September 2014, Hopkins met her co-founder and retail specialist Andrew Shub.
“Lana and I actually met interestingly enough by a mutual friend utilising LinkedIn,” he says.
Shub had just sold a business and was interested in how technology was disrupting the fashion industry. Hopkins was looking for a co-founder and once the pair joined forces, Mon Purse began to take off.
Mon Purse’s first retail outlet opened in the Sydney suburb of Paddington in October last year and in the same month, Hopkins and Shub opened a concierge store in Myer in Melbourne, with an outlet in Myer in Sydney following in December.
SmartCompany caught up with Hopkins to find out how the Myer and Mon Purse partnership came about and why taking Mon Purse global is her next goal.
What does a typical morning look like for Hopkins?
“I wish there was such a thing,” she laughs.
Most mornings Hopkins is up by 5.30am, catching up on her emails and setting her focus for the day.
“Usually by 6.15am I’ve grabbed my banana and I’m out the door,” she says.
Then it’s onto one of her many fitness activities – going for a run, having a session with her personal trainer or doing pilates.
Mornings are hectic and Hopkins tries to squeeze in a coffee by 10am before jumping into a “whole bunch of calls” and preparing presentations for the day.
Hopkins describes Mon Purse as an “omnichannel retailer”, which is something she says Shub helped move the business towards.
While more than 50% of the company’s sales come from online, the duo have prioritised creating an unique in-store experience for customers as well.
“How do we make sure people walk into our stores and smell the leather?” she says.
“[We] give them the option to monogram [a bag] on the spot or go to the next level and customise.”
Days are always busy for Hopkins, and like many entrepreneurs, she travels a lot for work.
“I love to travel, I’m a big traveller that’s one thing I love about this opportunity that I’ve got,” she says.
But Hopkins days are set to get even busier in the next six months as Mon Purse rolls out into an additional six Myer stores.
Mon Purse has an exclusive retail agreement with Myer in Australia and Hopkins says the deal came about after she was invited to speak on a panel at an online retailing conference in July 2015.
As part of the conference, Hopkins and Shub attended a leaders breakfast event and it was there they met Myer chief executive Richard Umbers, who became very interested in the Mon Purse business model.
The expansion of the Mon Purse business also means Hopkins is busy relocating to larger premises, with the company having out grown its current space.
Mon Purse currently employs around 30 employees, with more positions opening up as the company continues to grow.
In her downtime, Hopkins enjoys catching up with family and friends.
Her parents live in Coffs Harbour and her in-laws are in Southern Highlands meaning her and her husband frequently travel to see them.
She is also a keen reader.
“I love reading I recently renewed my passion for reading and I love exercise,” she says.
“On weekends I usually go for long walks. I think it helps me to really think about things and catch up with family and friends.”
Some of her favourite walks around Sydney’s eastern suburbs include anything along the coast, such as walking along Watsons Bay or from Rushcutters Bay to Manly.
When it comes to the future of Mon Purse, Hopkins isn’t thinking small.
“The sky’s the limit, right?”
“We’re really focused on the momentum and the momentum we have right now is absolutely incredible,” she says.
This year Hopkins’ focus is on creating and cementing the Mon Purse brand.
This is also the year Mon Purse looks global, with impending launches for the brand overseas.
According to Shub, the company’s strong online sales and its relationship with Myer means Mon Purse is well-placed to succeed internationally.
“[The] arrangement and relationship with Myer is very strong and with top management, we believe we’re a good case study with Myer that proves we can operate globally with a level of humility,” he says.
Shub says Mon Purse’s strategy of not discounting is also a strength.
“We don’t go on sale at all,” he says.
“The success of this business is we’re never on sale. We’re giving you an offer of a range of items which you can customise and adjust to your preference.”
For Hopkins, at its core is about creating an unforgettable customer experience and continuing to innovate by combining fashion with technology.
Hopkins is continuing to utilise tech development and the tech engineering space to create unique custom designed products.
“We stand on our European factory floor…thousands of bags all different, being produced at the same time,” she says.
“We couldn’t imagine in our wildest dreams to be sitting where we are.”
This article was originally published on SmartCompany.
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