While I am constantly working on new styles in my head and tweaking them on paper, what I am working on currently is a tougher project than I have encountered in my 2.5 years of running a full time business: The Process Of Expansion! I figured this would be a great time to talk about the challenges and the second guessing I have been putting myself through the past few months. What does it look like when your hobby-turned-business gets into the, “I can’t possibly keep doing this all by myself” territory?
Neva Opet started as a hobby during the Fall of 2013. I picked up sewing at a young age to alter all of my thrift store finds (but mostly to sew all of my “rad” band patches on my denim jacket). Later, I found myself in an unfulfilling job after college. I needed a creative outlet after work, so I continued to sew, experimenting with different fabrics and shapes. With a strong desire to challenge myself, I and decided to switch from fabric to leather and quickly dove into all things leather.
Working with leather became my passion. I started Neva Opet as a side hobby and by mid-2014 I found myself with enough work from retail sales and wholesale accounts to support myself full-time. For the next two years, I steadily worked 7 days a week and an average of 8-14 hours a day. I fooled myself into thinking I could maintain such madness. . . it was my new normal. I have always been hesitant to expand too quickly and possibly let my product quality and customer service suffer. By the end of 2017, I acquired over 30 new wholesale accounts during the holiday season, and moved into a large studio space. I felt I could no longer run this business completely by myself while relying on the occasional holiday help from friends and family.
After weighing the pros and cons of outsourcing vs. keeping all manufacturing in-house; I have decided to continue to create all items in-house. I will be able to oversee quality and relay accurate lead times to all customers. This year, I am taking on the task of expanding the team, investing in additional machinery, organizing my new space, and creating a community behind the brand.
I have made it a goal for myself to share with our customers more behind the scenes practices. I aim to create greater transparency in my studio and business practices so women can make a more thoughtful consumption purchase in this current rebellion of fast fashion practices. I plan to start a monthly series featuring women creatives and small business owners (starting here in Atlanta) and how they wear their Neva Opet bag.
This pivotal time of expansion is exciting and terrifying. I hope that with this strategic and thoughtful expansion, we can help women feel great about their purchase and who they are supporting. Our bags take time to construct but it won’t fall apart or go out of style in a year. This is the team that makes your bag, you are supporting women that have thoughtfully designed and produced a bag that you can carry for years.