DREAM CATCHER: CASSANDRA CONNORS
Necessity is the mother of invention (or entrepreneurship), as the saying goes. Bella Bag Founder and CEO Cassandra Connors got the idea to start her business as a twenty-something who was looking for a way to sell her vintage Gucci Boston bag to get money to pay her bills. She had a hard time finding a place that sold pre-owned designer handbags and would pay sellers outright instead of on consignment, so she decided to build it herself. She sold her car, bought enough inventory to get started, and ran the company out of her bedroom as an ebay-based business. She has successfully grown the operation into a multi-million dollar business that has doubled revenues every year since 2010 and has the largest privately held collection of authentic luxury handbags and accessories in the country. Bella Bag Retail launched with a pilot store in 2012 and will be opening a flagship location in Atlanta in September of this year. Cassandra has been nicknamed the “Purse Purist” by MSN.com, is the author of a Patent Pending “13-Point Authenticity Handbag Inspection”, was listed to the Power 30 under 30 in 2011, and was named an Atlanta Pacesetter Company in 2014. She’s an NYU alum now living in Atlanta with her family and is an avowed Goldendoodle enthusiast.
What are three words that best describe your company? Authentic, Innovative, Classic.
I wish someone would have told me… That in my early twenties, I was perfect just the way I was. It took me awhile to realize that there was no need for me to change for anyone else.
Five years from now I see myself and my company… As passionate and excited about our concept as we are today, but with a larger footprint and more friends and advocates.
I gave up ____ to pursue my dream: Going to an international MBA program.
The key to balancing it all is… Accepting the fact that you will never actually balance it all!
I funded my dream by… Selling my car and borrowing money at a 60% interest rate.
What makes you different from your competition? We are not consignment. We don’t ask customers to take the risk with us. No other type of business operates on a consignment model. When you go to eat at a restaurant, that business has taken 100% of the risk to be open and to provide you with food and service. Consignment stores don’t do that. They do not own their product and are essentially asking their clientele to get into bed with them in their business. I do not think this creates a good user experience – I know I don’t want to wait around for my handbag to sell on consignment and then receive a check a year later for (maybe) half of what it sold for! At Bella Bag, we also don’t simply resell a designer bag. We source the very best in luxury pieces from across the entire world. We have bags that come from Tokyo, London, Paris, right off the runways in New York and Milan. We have celebrities who hand over their once-worn pieces to us. We are able to offer a curated and edited selection of the finest in iconic handbags from the past 50 years. We sell the handbags that we feel are true investments, pieces that women can pass down to their daughters and granddaughters. And we never ask clients who come to us wanting to sell their handbags to wait around for months for a payment. If we accept a handbag, customers are paid immediately.
What piece of invaluable advice did you receive that you would like to pass on to women pursuing their dream? My father always told me that the harder he worked, the luckier he got. I believe that completely.
My biggest challenge is… The same as everyone else, I suppose: To continually believe in myself in the face of failure and adversity.
My best advice, in one sentence, for launching a venture is… Create a strong team and be open-minded about their thoughts and suggestions, but above all, follow your gut first.
LET’S GET PERSONAL:
What are three words that best describe you? Discerning, Generous, Stubborn.
When you go on vacation you always… Work!
My favorite food is… Gelato! Real gelato. Preferably pistachio. My mother’s side of the family is Italian. What can I say?
I am most proud of… Being a mother and an entrepreneur simultaneously. I hope my daughter will be proud of that too when she’s old enough to understand.
Lately I’m inspired by… Andrea Bocelli. I tend to go through different phases in my life with music. I went to school for theater, and I sang classical music for years. Because I chose not to pursue it professionally, it was almost like I had a falling out with it and I couldn’t listen for awhile. I’ve just recently started listening again, and it’s as if I have new ears. I find that it is motivating me and inspiring my thoughts in a new way. It’s been nice, like coming back to another part of myself that I had forgotten existed.
My favorite candy is… A Payday! My fave. I’m not a huge chocolate person, but I could eat like ten of these in a row.
My favorite scent is… Jasmine Oil from the bazaars in Tunis. I went to Tunisia about three years ago, and I stocked up. It’s delicious!
One thing I hope to pass along to my children is… It’s a toss-up: Either my business…or just lots of Chanel! One in the same on some days!