She designs distinctive bags, exports her products around the world, and is mom to a teen and preschooler. Mompreneur Lou Harvey of Lou Harvey Bags is one of our favourite businesswomen and answered some of our questions in this series.
Q. How old are your kids and where do you live?
Alec is six and Izzy is 18, and we live in Durban.
Q. What five words describe your parenting style?
Firm, fair, fun, generous, kind.
Q. When did you start your business and how? What is your background?
The Lou Harvey range grew out of a simple desire to fulfil a need of my own – to create fun and stylish accessories for moms that were pretty yet practical. After studying fashion design and interiors, I began designing cushions for Wetherlys and Home Fabrics, where I learnt many tricks of the trade.
I then saw an opportunity to buy a business that made bags and slowly moulded and developed the business into what I envisioned. After giving birth to my daughter, Izzy, I noticed there was a desperate need for beautiful mummy-friendly accessories that were fashionable, yet practical. I started selling at open days and flea markets but my big break happened at the St Ledger Christmas Fair in Jozi. Today, the business has really grown and boasts an entirely local production from the fabrics to the employees and the production process.
“I’m obsessed with the new yoga bag and tennis racquet cover! I’m also doing another collab with Mr Price Home, which will be launched soon.”
Q. Describe your business today.
We have stores in KwaZulu-Natal and two stores in Joburg, as well as a successful online business. We also have various stockists at independent retailers around the country.
Currently, distribution sees products going as far as Australia, United States, Israel, Dubai, United Kingdom, Norway, Kenya and New Zealand. Our international distribution accounts for almost 50% of our sales.
Q. What are your plans for business this year?
My new collection is just coming out of production and will be available soon with gorgeous new designs. I’m obsessed with the new yoga bag and tennis racquet cover! I’m also doing another collab with Mr Price Home, which will be launched soon.
Q. What is always in your handbag?
I don’t actually carry a handbag! I carry a key ring (obviously one of mine) that has a bank card, some cash and a lipstick inside.
Q. What is always in your fridge?
Eggs, cheese and tons of veggies!
Q. What is the best business advice you ever received?
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and don’t be afraid to embrace change.
Q. What was the worst advice?
No advice is really bad advice. I take heed of the advice I receive from people I respect.
Q. What is the one thing people might not know about you?
I have dreams of writing a novel one day!
Q. What is the last joke you heard? (just for something different)
Too many Coronavirus jokes at the moment to remember!
Q. What would you tell moms looking to start their own business?
Make sure you get the best possible financial advice, especially if you are not particularly savvy when it comes to your finances. Research, research, research.
Everything from location to demand for your product to costing – know what you’re getting into before taking the plunge! Surround yourself with a positive and hardworking team. It’s tough being a working mom, so support is a must!
Q. What does a typical day look like?
Some mornings I love to walk along the promenade in Umhlanga with Alec (Izzy is a school boarder) and then we’ll have breakfast before I drop him at school. It’s then off to the factory to check production and designs. I’m always playing with new product ideas.
We recently moved the factory to be closer to home, which means I can pop in and out and run errands on the way, which has honestly changed my life. I also have an amazing team who work closely with me and ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Q. What are the apps you can’t do without?
Pinterest and Netflix, NY Times and EWN.