Haven't we all felt this way at one time or another? You hear about or see a product that someone else has already developed that's so terrific that you get that slap-your-head "why didn't I think of that?" feeling! So when the idea for a handbag with interchangeable outer covers was presented to me, I knew it was a concept that could potentially revolutionize the women's accessories market—and as an entrepreneur I wasn't going to let it get away.
In 2007—after a few starts and stops—my business partner Chris Seegmiller and I officially launched Miche Bag (pronounced Mee-Chee), a company named for the original inventor's nickname.
There was a lot of trial and error during that first year, but eventually we found a formula that not only works, but works extremely well both from a Sales Representative's as well as a customer's perspective.
In just three years, Miche has grown at an astounding rate—going from a company selling $21,000 in product per month to one selling well over $55 million a year nationwide and internationally. As an entrepreneur who started his first business at age 13, I've learned through experience that there are five tips for success necessary to lay a strong foundation and then bring a vision to life.
See a Need and Fill It
This concept is Business 101, but with Miche “see a need and fill it” seems to have hit the nail on the head. Just about every woman who sees a Miche Bag automatically sees the beauty in the idea and it hits them in an unusually visceral way—women really do hate moving all the contents from one purse to another every time they change their outfit. Buying just one "Base Bag" then collecting various colors and designs of covers (which we call “Shells”) to match their wardrobe or mood makes sense on many different basic levels: this product is economical, it's convenient and it's fashionable. It's a no-brainer because it's inherently marketable as a "must-have" product. And—conveniently for us—it appeals to consumers in the highest-spending demographic: women 18-55 years old.
Be Flexible During the Development Phase
The idea was terrific, but the product itself needed to be fine-tuned and made practical for mass-production. The main selling point of a Miche Bag is that the Base Bag remains the same so that a woman never has to remove the purse's contents when she wants a different look—she only needs to switch the outer Shell. We developed seamless, hidden magnetic attachment mechanisms that make changing Shells easy. Others have tried to do what we do, but with little success because our Shells can be changed in 3 seconds or less and they stay secure. Bottom line: without a structurally-sound, easy-to-use product, nothing else really matters; so spend plenty of time experimenting with and perfecting your marquee product or service. Don't get so caught up in "one way" (i.e., your way) of doing things that you automatically cut off more viable options.
Flexibility and experimentation in the earliest stages are absolutely essential.
Essential in Any Economy: Affordability and Effective Distribution Channels
In addition to being practical, the bags have to be affordable to appeal to our key demographic. We chose to have our design team make Shells using faux leather and other synthetic materials. Not only could women get fashion-forward looks, but they can get them for less—a plus in any economy, but especially so when times are tight. Know who your demographic is, and give them what they want.
We needed to find the best way to sell the Miche Bag. Retail was our first choice, but because the Miche concept is best sold through demonstration rather than display, this venue did not work as well as we'd hoped. We made the jump to the Home Party route and never looked back. This model is flourishing for us.
Get Your Own Hands Dirty, Then Delegate
At one point or another, everyone on our executive team has been involved in every aspect of our business—from design to production to warehousing to marketing to sales. We worked endless, hard hours laying the strong foundation for a successful company. We knew we had this amazing idea and we were very hands-on—especially in the beginning—to make sure we got it right.
Now we're to the point where we're releasing a lot of that tight personal control and delegating the day-to-day activities to a growing team of seasoned professionals at our Home Office. We love and value our Miche staff, trust their judgment and their skills, and have created a fun "family" type of environment where we work together to grow our company yet still recognize and respect the contributions of the individual. My office door is always open and the hugs are always free and plentiful. It works for us!
Listen, Listen, Then Listen Some More
We understand that the Distributors and Representatives who market our products and the customers they serve are the lifeblood of our business. It's essential to listen to what they have to say, take their concerns seriously, and then address them immediately when appropriate. Whenever possible, get out of your office and go to where the rubber hits the road—in our case it's out in the sales field all across the country and around the world. Our executive team is made up of kind, compassionate, enthusiastic and caring people who spend a considerable amount of time with our independent sales force, getting to know them as individuals, conducting training, and—most importantly—listening. That kind of personal attention not only fosters that "family feeling" among thousands of people who make Miche their living, but it also helps us to create better products and provide better service.
When you have a great idea, work hard, tie up any loose ends, and then surround yourself with amazing people who are as passionate about a product or service as you are, magic is bound to happen. Everyone involved with Miche loves the concept and believes in it passionately—and that kind of enthusiasm at every level is absolutely contagious.
Learn more about the story behind Miche Bag on "How I Made My Millions" which airs on CNBC, Thursday, March 10th 9p/12a ET
Corbin Church has been a successful entrepreneur in various types of businesses since he started a snow-cone franchise at the tender age of 13. Since Miche Bagwas founded in 2007 with a core group of only three employees, it has grown to include over 50 Home Office employees as well as more than 7,000 Independent Sales Representatives and business owners both domestically and internationally. As a company, Miche believes in giving back, and donated over $700,000 to cancer research last year through the sale of its Hope Shells.