Just in time for her 30th birthday, this week’s boss lady, Kelly Wynne Ferguson, is expanding her fashion empire of influence. She is several years in to growing her collection of fun, patterned and textured Kelly Wynne handbags, and her #DaretoDonate campaign, is also fashionably giving back to the community. Each month, as part of this campaign, Kelly picks a handbag and gives a portion of the sales from that bag to a charitable organization chosen by her team and customers. She’s a stylish lady with a heart of gold, and that’s why she’s our Women We Love this week!
What led you to start your own company?
Designing handbags has always been a dream of mine, but I felt like the fashion industry was untouchable – only for celebrity type people. I graduated from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 2009 and moved to Dallas to work for a public relations firm. After 3 years with this company, I quickly realized I needed to take the first step to pursuing my passion of design no matter how crazy it sounded to others. I had a mentor who really pushed me to just start sketching, just see what happens, so I did. Was designing handbags a realistic job with a clear-cut path? Definitely not, but I couldn’t shake the desire.
How did it go from an idea or dream, to the awesome reality it is now?
I spent my lunch breaks visiting fabric and leather shops and my nights sketching. Once I started sharing my goals and aspirations with others, this whole new world opened up to me. I was like a sponge, soaking up as much information as possible – meeting with anyone and everyone. I was introduced to the International Ambassador for the city of Dallas where I learned about production overseas vs the US. I was connected with manufacturing and production consultants. I met with fashion headhunters in NYC who introduced me to top leaders in the industry where I practiced pitching my brand. I’ve been up and down the back alleys of New Jersey all to gain information about how to break into the fashion industry from the ground up.
After 6 months of research, I found the perfect manufacturer in the USA, who took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. I worked closely with my leather and hardware suppliers to create my signature printed and embossed leathers, and used my graphic design background to design my iconic Kelly Wynne logo, a K sitting on top of a W on its side. After many sleepless nights (because ideas would come to me in the wee hours of the morning, of course), blood, sweat and tears, with an occasional scream from a moment of clarity, Kelly Wynne was born April 11, 2013.
How do you concept your line and keep updating your classic designs?
The fashion industry is always changing, and it’s important to keep up with its fast paced environment. My mind is constantly in design mode. I’m always thinking of ways to improve our product and fill a void in the market. The main reason I finally decided to start my own line of handbags 4 years ago is because there were zero fun printed, contemporary leather handbags on the market. There were too many boring, solid leather bags out there, and I needed a way to express myself. Because of this, I’m always thinking about my customer and what she needs. We like to describe Kelly Wynne bags as “classic with a twist”. We keep the shapes classic with an updated look.
How would you describe the “Kelly Wynne Woman”?
She is a bold, daring boss lady who knows herself and her style, and is not afraid to express it. She has a playful side, and loves the element of surprise that unique details create. She creates her own joy in life and always finds a way to celebrate the moments in between the moments.
What are five items every woman should have in their closet?
- Kelly Wynne bag: If I had to choose only 1, I’d pick the Paint the Town Tote – perfect for the working woman, mom or student)
- A pair of cute sneaks: Us boss ladies have to stay comfortable since we’re always on the go!
- Leather leggings: This is one of my favorite ways to dress up fall sweaters and booties.
- Lexicon of Style X Kelly Wynne silk scarf: A double #wynne since you can wear it on your neck or bag!
- High wasted, cropped jeans
What is the best part of your job?
There are so many “best” parts of my job, it’s hard to choose!
My top three…
- Having the opportunity to empower women to dare to wynne by sharing my story
- Meeting men and women who love the brand and believe in what we are trying to accomplish through Kelly Wynne
- Seeing someone in public, who I don’t know, wearing a KW bag after working for months designing, developing, producing and marketing that same product.
And the toughest?
Wearing all the hats, running the company, growing a brand, managing my team, and designing multiple lines at the same time… oh, and balancing my professional and personal life!
What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Behind every successful woman there is a tribe of boss ladies who have her back. It’s important to hire those who share the same values and mission as your company and whose strengths are your weaknesses. Likewise, it’s important to have a group of mentors lifting you up, encouraging you through the difficult times and celebrating with you during your successes. Surround yourself with a tribe of “balcony” people.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
Don’t let fear hold you back. Fear of failure, fear of disappointing those who believe in you, and just the fear of taking the first step is the hardest to overcome, but you will miss out on some incredible opportunities if you let it take over.
What’s next for the brand?
I opened my first retail store after being in business for less than 4 years! This was in my 5-10 year plan, so we’re growing quicker than I ever imagined. I’m currently developing product in new categories that our customers have been requesting. Can’t share the details quite yet, but I’m really excited about the future of Kelly Wynne.