Girlbosses of Great Britain : The One With The Handbags with Sarah Haran

Sarah Haran is the founder and creative director behind her brand of the same name. Something that launched on the back of her hobby, she was inspired to make a handbag that not only looked the part but it kept you organised whilst on the move too. Now, making waves in the industry, craftsmanship is at the forefront of the brand and Sarah Haran is one to watch. 

We spent some time with her to find out more…

Tell us about the journey that lead you to launching your brand, Sarah Haran…

As Founder, Creative Director and Mum of two, what started as a hobby –  when I taught myself how to make handbags, became a passion that I finally turned into my career! I was inspired to create the perfect handbag to ensure I was completely organised when on the move and was carrying a bag that worked easily with the wardrobe I travelled with. I also wanted to be confident and “look the part” in every situation. 

Whilst working full time as Chief Operating Officer of a publicly listed company, iomart, I learned how to design and produce handbags myself. Following an apprenticeship with the ex Creative Director of Mulberry, I designed the Dahlia. This beautifully functional tote bag soon became my every day bag and as friends and colleagues began requesting their own, the Sarah Haran brand was born

True craftsmanship is at the forefront of your brand, why is that important to you?

My love of style and my need for functionality that didn’t compromise quality or craftsmanship was really key to me. I wanted to create a lasting product that was not only sustainable but was something you could rely on every day and would not fall to pieces. I also wanted to create a product that could be restyled to make the handbag look completely different by simply adding on different accessories.

As I grew my brand it was no longer feasible to produce every handbag personally, so I began my hunt for the perfect partners who understood the craftsmanship values I wanted to bring to my brand. I wanted craftsmen and women who understood the need to create a product that would last.

Preferring family-run businesses, rather than big, faceless factories it took me ages to find the right partners. I literally researched for hours online and then travelled around Europe and found small factories in England, Spain and Turkey, with over 100 years of experience in producing handbags and small leather goods.

You only work with small partners, opposed to faceless factories that have a high turnover. We really respect this and would love to know, what are your views with regards to fast fashion?

I have always loved the skills and craftsmanship associated with smaller artisan led family-run production businesses, rather than faceless factories, When I was in my teen years I designed my own clothes and was fascinated by the skills of the local tailors (I lived in the Middle East at the time). My mother taught me to sew and I really enjoyed it – sourcing fabrics and trims was much cheaper then, than buying ready-made clothes. 

Whilst you might never want to be seen twice in an outfit I think you would have made more effort to try to restyle an outfit in the past but with the advent of fast fashion you can literally purchase another outfit for such a low cost that there is no encouragement to restyle or reuse. 

Thankfully, I think that we are all now so much more aware that it is time for us to all make more considered purchases that have a greater longevity and help reduce the impact on our planet. Whilst I truly respect everyone’s decision on how they purchase I do think the fashion industry has a responsibility to do better and enable us all to be able to buy better. Our handbags have deliberately been designed so that you can restyle them to look different thus ensuring your look can be easily changed with an accessory. They come with a lifetime guarantee as well so we are really standing behind the life of our products.

Since launching the brand, what has been your biggest achievement?

I think having the confidence to step out of my previous IT role and take the decision to actually start my business was a huge achievement. Since then the achievement of launching a brand that has received over 350 5 star endorsements and how we have changed the lives of our customers really is my biggest achievement. Reaching our second year in business and achieving our sales goals has also been a highlight, as well as being recognised for having a seriously excellent product by the Observer, The Guardian, Daily Mail You Magazine, Sunday Express, Marie Claire and Homes & Interiors, Good Housekeeping, and various online publications. It gives me confidence to keep pushing on!

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

It’s always so hard when you start a new business, particularly when you change career and sector, you just don’t know what you don’t know. I was easily swayed at the start as I really did not know how to present my brand, so if I was to change anything it would be to really have stuck to my guns on what my brand is about. I think I probably stuck to long with a PR agency because it’s so easy to be sold the dream of quick success. If I could go back I would definitely change them out sooner!

Your bags are stunning and practicality is at the forefront of what you do. Do you plan on launching other products down the line?

Yes, ultimately I would like to design a range of beautiful products that really are functional and will aid women in their day to day life’s. We already have plans afoot for this and this year have already launched our first Merino & Cashmere wraps. Watch this space

What does 2020 look like for you?

2020 is full of opportunity I am sure. My brand has gained more traction, more reviews and we have a great team in place now to help us really grow the brand. We have new designs we are working on and I am really excited to enter the 20’s with a roar. We are here and we want to continue to empower women with beautifully functional products!

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I have been very lucky to have travelled a lot seeing a range of different cultures and life’s. Next on my list would be going to Vietnam or the Cayman Islands. Both very different places but both hold a sense of a different life to my normal every day so definitely on my bucket list.

What’s a piece of advice you have received that has stuck with you?

I think a key bit of advice I have received is that you should always be willing to be easy to do business with. There are so many opportunities out there and everyone approaches them differently but the lesson of being willing to listen, to take on advice and to provide an excellent service makes you easy to do business with. 

I have found that making our brand customer focussed and easy to deal with has given our customers a high quality experience. This has led to over 350 5-star reviews for our products with a net promoter score of +98%.

For anyone wanting to launch a fashion brand, what advice would you give?

Stick to what you believe your brand is all about and try not to be swayed by other ideas or input from others. You started your brand inspired by your own story or experiences and its often easy to get distracted.

Make sure you know who your customer is inside out, it really will make things so much easier.

Finally, I think you must also be sure you love what you do – you spend more time working on your brand so you must be passionate about it. Some days will be tough! Be willing to hustle as people simply may not take you seriously at the start. You have think out of the box to get their support. Hustle to get sales as well, that’s the true lifeblood of your business.

Find out more…

www.sarahharan.com

#sarahharanuk on facebook, twitter and instagram

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