One of the many rewards in founding a female-led business is discovering, meeting and supporting other like-minded women who have successfully established an outstanding brand through their sheer determination and hard work – so it was a pure pleasure to catch up with the lovely and inspiring Sarah Haran recently. Sarah has built a prominent and successful brand creating luxury leather handbags – each one designed to help today’s multi-tasking women meet daily challenges as they move through work life. Every individually crafted bag embodies Sarah’s brand philosophy of functionality that doesn’t compromise style, together with the unique versatility of ‘two bags in one’ that take you from day to night seamlessly. Here Sarah tells us the inspiration behind her fabulous handbags and accessories, with an insight into a typical working day, as well as her take on ageism and a few confidence-boosting tips.
Tell us about Sarah Haran – your motivation behind the brand and how it all began?
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 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.
While 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.
Your range of luxury handbags are the perfect balance of function, versatility and beauty – where do you get your inspiration and ideas for these beautifully individual designs?
I am definitely inspired by function over form, and while I always want to design a beautiful product, I also want it to solve problems for the challenges that the modern women face in their day to day lives. My love of style and my need for functionality that doesn’t compromise quality or craftsmanship is really key to me. This inspires me to create a lasting product that is not only sustainable but something you can rely on every day and won’t fall to pieces. I also create a product that can be restyled to make the handbag look completely different by simply adding on different accessories.
Can you describe a typical working day at Sarah Haran?
One thing about running your own business that makes it exciting is the variety of each day! A typical day starts early. I try to get to the gym, and after that I check for any orders and start the day planning what I need to do. Then it’s catching up with the marketing team and also making sure that things are okay in the production. After this, I start to go through my ‘To Do’ list and tick off as many things as I can. At least once a week I also make sure that I attend to admin things like invoicing and paying bills. Keeping on top of these tasks means I can make sure that no surprises arise! Then it’s all about sales activity and marketing. Trying to come up with ideas to get our brand more well-known. I remind myself that I am not going to sell my handbags just sitting in my office!
As a mid-life woman who has successfully developed a second career, do you think we are beginning to see a positive shift in ageist attitudes when it comes to women in business?
Now this really is a loaded question! In many workplaces employees aged 50 and over are positively regarded as experienced, reliable and loyal, but they are also commonly represented as unproductive, demotivated, difficult to train and unwilling to learn. It’s such a contradiction! I think that when it comes to starting your own business the experience you already have can certainly stand you in good stead, particularly for women, who are often seen to be more considered and careful in their approach. Overall I think there is a more positive shift, but there is a road still to travel that I think exists generally for women in business. There is plenty of evidence of women reaching glass ceilings and often having to work twice as hard as men to get on to public boards or in more senior corporate positions. I think we all have to work hard to make sure that the workplace gives women opportunities based on their skills and experience. I am a great believer that we have to take the men with us on this issue to really help attitudes change.
Three positives for women to feel less invisible and more confident as they age?
I think that as you grow older you know your own mind more – it’s easier to make a decision.
You have more experience to draw upon so it makes you feel more confident.
Practice good posture! Lift your chin, throw your shoulders back and stand tall. My mother always said that you can shave off 20 llbs and 20 years standing tall!
Hardest challenge that you have had to overcome?
When I launched the business our route to market was through corporate companies and doing events for them. On the back of these we really established the business. Unfortunately, when Brexit came along it meant that most corporate events were cancelled and I had to pivot the business to be online. It was really like starting all over again! That was a challenge, but fortunately my skills from my previous IT role gave me some comfort in the changes that had to be made.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I think having the confidence to step out of my previous IT role and take the decision to actually start my own business was a huge accomplishment and something I am very proud of. Since then, the achievement of launching a brand that has received over 400 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, the 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!
If you could go back, what advice would you give your younger self?
Always have a ‘can do’ attitude. It really will give you opportunities that you should never turn away.
Look up and out. Every day is a school day and you will never be finished learning.
Be confident and go for it! Don’t hold yourself back and listen to your own heart.
How do you unwind and relax?
When I am not in the office I spend time with family, go out with friends and watch films. I also go into the studio and start a new project, which I find very relaxing and it’s a great way to inspire new handbags as I play with leather and different materials. My husband and children do remind me that going into the studio is work, but I honestly find it relaxing – it really doesn’t feel like work. It’s something that I am really passionate about.
I have been very lucky to have travelled a lot, seeing a range of different cultures and different lifestyles, but my favourite destination is Sarasota in Florida. I absolutely love the laid back lifestyle, beaches, and of course the weather!
Best travel tip?
Take a handbag with you that keeps you organised so you can find all your travel documents and easily get through security!
Top beauty ‘must have’ in your makeup bag?
A good lipstick and blusher!
Desert island disc, book and luxury item?
Disc - Ed Sheeren – Divide
Book – A business book on ecommerce!
Luxury item – a handbag of course!
And finally, your favourite quote?
“Do more of what makes you happy.”
YOUR CHANCE TO WIN
We have partnered with Sarah Haran to help bring some joy to people at a difficult time. Click HERE to enter for your chance to win some fabulous prizes from Studio 10 and Sarah Haran – good luck!