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Name: Jen Lewis

Business: Purse & Clutch, a seller of handmade Fair Trade bags

Industry: Clothing & Accessories, E-Commerce

Location: Austin, Texas, U.S.

Reason for starting: Purse & Clutch was started as a hobby to help support a dear friend working with amazingly talented artisans in India. When I asked her how I could help, she mentioned that they didn’t have anyone selling their wares online. I quickly fell in love with the stories she would tell me of how these jobs were transforming lives and was hooked! I began expanding to other artisan groups around the world, curating the most beautiful textiles, styles, and patterns I could find.

Related: Read about another fashion entrepreneur making a positive difference in underdeveloped communities 

How do you define success? I define success as steady growth of the company’s cost of goods sold because the more handbags and women’s accessories we order, the more sustainable living wage jobs we are helping to create for artisans in developing countries with limited opportunities.

Biggest Success? Our biggest success to date has been opening a pop-up shop in an empty retail location in downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District. We were able to increase our cost of goods sold by 780% from 2012 to 2013 due mainly to Q4 sales at the 2 ½ month long Holiday Shop.

Related: Read about another e-commerce entrepreneur here. 

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our top challenge is marketing to new customers who don’t have an existing framework for what Fair Trade is. We are constantly fighting against the believe that Fair Trade products don’t have a place in the fashion world. We are partnering with fashion forward local publications to help get our brand into fresh markets to show just how fashionable Fair Trade can be.

Who is your most important role model? I look up to the late author Flannery O’Connor. As a young women growing up in a relatively sheltered environment in the South, she took what she knew and her unique storytelling ability and she new light on the nuances of human behavior.

Twitter   @purseandclutch

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Edited by The Story Exchange