How Christine Syquia Started A Million Dollar Fashion Accessories Business

By Christine Syquia
31 Comments

Christine Syquia contacted me about starting a column on Entrepreneurs-Journey. I asked what business experience she brought to the table and she quickly impressed me with her story of starting a million dollar accessories business with her sister, with distribution in some of the largest fashion stores in the USA.

I know you’re going to enjoy what Christine has to offer because she has stories from running a real world business selling real physical products – fashion accessories. Christine has some great advice to share for any entrepreneur, and she’s starting today with a brief background story and some business mantras worth living by. Here we go…

Christine Syquia

Eight years ago, my sister and I began a journey which took us around the globe many times over and catapulted our product into the hands of many devoted fans. This is my story about my company and the invaluable lessons I learned along the way.

My name is Christine and I was the co-owner of a handbag company called charm and luck. My sister Jenny and I owned the company and in our official titles, she was the Designer and I was the Sales Director. Once we started growing and had a staff, I would privately refer to myself as the ‘babysitter’, but more on that in later posts.

Both of us had backgrounds in fashion. I worked in management for Nordstrom while I put myself through college. My sister took a job at Vogue Magazine after she graduated from college.

While working at Nordstrom, I felt as if my life was literally passing me by. It was mandatory that all management had to sell, so I would spend the majority of my time on the sales floor interacting with customers and overseeing my sales team. I was envious of the freedom of the customers who would breeze in and out of the store on a weekday afternoon. I could not stomach the thought that I could possibly spend my entire career working for one company.

Starting A Business

I always had wanted to have my own business so I could have the freedom to do whatever I wanted. From time to time, I would look into various opportunities – flipping real estate, buying a franchise, consulting – but ultimately they did not appeal to me for one reason or another.

It was during a trip to the Philippines that I began to think about importing to the US as I saw many handicrafts that were made and sold for pennies. I mentioned it to my sister Jenny, and soon after we decided to start our own business.

We chose to work with accessories because their fit is universal. Clothes need to be graded and the minimums per size can be high. Shoes are difficult and risky since they require experience to get the fit correct. With accessories, any woman can throw a purse over her shoulder, look in a mirror, and decide if she likes it or not. And it was a good time to enter the accessories market; when we started, the accessories market was enjoying double-digit growth increases year after year.

We picked a company name and were off and running. Our initial business plan included our major goals but we did not do profit projections because I personally felt that was a waste of time. We both knew where we wanted to be, but writing down on a piece of paper that we wanted to make $250K in Year 1 felt futile to me as mere speculation.

My partner and I were very clear on one thing: we wanted the company to make money so we could have financial freedom. We were devoted to doing whatever it took to get us to the next level, and that is part of the reason the company was successful. We sacrificed personally to see our company grow.

Business Mantras

As the company expanded, I would often see individuals or companies who were struggling to get off the ground. My general business mantras included the following:

Action Attracts Action

  • Even if your business plan is not ready, or your bio is not perfect, or your blog needs work, that does not mean you shouldn’t launch your company. I see many individuals who want to start their companies but hold back because their plans are not perfect. Things will never be perfect.During our first three years, we changed our logo three times. We re-did our website four times. We kept changing and improving when we had the funds and time to do so. But in the beginning, we knew we needed to get out there and get our company off the ground, so we hit the ground running. Many times we figured things out along the way.

Course Correct If You Need To

  • Do not be overly focused on doing a task one way. Often when running a business, a new technique, program or product will come up which can help you. Always listen and, if need be, change your course. If it can save you time, money or get you more sales, then try it out. I have observed many a business owner who is so rigid and not open to new ideas that it ultimately hurts them.
  • An example of us course correcting was a particular trade show in Boston. After I arrived and set up our booth, I realized that it was not the show for us to do. Unfortunately I was booked to work at that trade show for a week straight. I felt like I was back at my old management job with time passing me by.My partner called with news of a great opportunity to meet with a major buyer in New York immediately. I course corrected by paying my neighbor at the trade show to watch my booth and left for NY for a couple of days.Now, that is not something I recommend you do but I saw the opportunity for something I knew could be huge for us and I took it. I could have stayed at that dinky trade show and maybe made a couple hundred dollars or maybe a thousand. Who knows? But by going to NY, I sealed the deal of getting us into a major department store with locations throughout the US.

Research Your Competitors

  • This is something a lot of new companies do not do. You need to figure out who your competition is and what they are doing.Business plans always look at the top three or five competitors, but I urge you to take a hard look at your top twenty competitors. Look at their distribution, their branding, their website, their customers and especially their sales funnels. Do your research online and see what keywords pop up for the website and see how many hits they get monthly from Alexa.We always checked out our handbag competitors to see who was buying their product, which sales reps were repping them, who their publicists were, etc. This type of research was invaluable as we were able to model the processes that other larger companies had in place to help us with our growth strategies.

Starting a business can be the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your life. It can also be the biggest mistake. I would urge you to really examine your life, personality and most importantly, your work ethic and be real with yourself to see if you are truly up for the task.

It requires an enormous amount of effort, discipline and self-motivation to be your own boss. But, as I wrote, for me it was the most amazing experience as I was able to visit places, meet people that I would not have met and ultimately, grew personally in ways I would never have dreamed of. This would not have happened if I had stayed on my management career path.

Next I will be writing on how we chose our company name and the adventure I went on to have our first products made.

Christine Syquia

 

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About Christine Syquia

Christine Syquia is the owner of the Accessory Business 101. Get her free 30-page report which discusses how one can start a product based company with little to no experience. You can access the free report here. In addition to working with designers, Christine also enjoys working with local businesses as a business and expansion consultant in Santa Monica, California where she lives.

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31 Comments

  • Thank you for sharing Christine’s journey! I too just dove in when I started my first business and totally agree with your statement that action attracts action. Nothing will ever be perfect, so sometime you just gotta dive right in. Don’t over-analyze things all the time, don’t get analysis paralysis. Just DO! Get to work!

    It’s funny how you say that you’ll cover how you came up with your business name in a later post. I’m looking forward to it. To be honest, in my first business the name just came out of my mouth right before I went to sleep one night. It might not have been the best name to choose…but it worked, and customers know us for it.

    Again…thanks for sharing this experience. It is so encouraging. 🙂

  • Really enjoyed this articel and I’m looking forward to reading more from Christine. It’s good to get a slant on running a business with a female target market. My target market is also femaie and I find that much of the advice available on running an Internet business doesn’t always fit perfectly with a female audience. It will be good to get some advice that i probably won’t need to tweak or filter to suit my market.

    • Jon

      I agree, nice reading. Indeed, it’s always good to read about someone passionate that starts its own business becoming its own boss!

  • Very good article Christine. Good insights on the business mantra’s. Things start getting shape once we start taking action. If we wait for things to get perfect and by the time they become perfect things would passed away.

    Once we start, we start learning from our mistakes and nothing teaches us better than our mistakes. We also start getting valuable inputs from our audience, which would again help in improving ourselves. Action definitely attracts action.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Its is really encouraging, especially to starters.

    Prajwal Shinde

  • this is a really good story. and very well written too. the world is training us to be very good employees. what they should be teaching people is how to be an entrepreneur. start your own business… thanks for sharing Christine’s story. love it.

  • I’m just starting my journey as an entrepeneur so I am always interested in hearing how others made it happen. I’ve learned the most from listening to others who have been down the path already. I’m also of the mindset get going and ask question along the way. If you are in the right business for your purpose and passion then everything you need will unfold in front of you! I look forward to hearing more details of your adventures of being an entrepreneur.

  • Thanks for the article Christine! It’s really funny how so many people still believe they can start a website and the business will just come. I like your point about “Course Correct”, I think having a strategy is critical but you must be open to new tactics and flexible along the way. After all, the journey is half the fun!

  • Great story, Christine. Congrats on the success you and your sister have found. I think you’ve definitely highlighted some of the most important aspects of being a successful entrepreneur. Getting things off the ground is definitely very important in finding those first baby steps. And being able to study the market and spot trends then acclimatize yourself and your business accordingly is essential to keeping up with the demands and assuring yourself continued success.

  • Thanks for sharing yours here. Going into business is a hard decision although if you are positive one then it is no problem to you. Your success depends on you so if you are aggressive and give your best in everything most likely your market will notice you. With the right promotion and right product surely you will succeed.

  • Awesome success story! Very inspiring!

  • As someone who is just starting a business it is nice to read about those who have blaze a trail before me. Thanks for a great story.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, when I started my business 4 years ago I was making mistakes left and right, few times I even gave up, but I kept thinking in the back of my mind I have to make this work. I am one of those people who can not stand working for someone else,because what ever I do for them it is never good enough. So I told my self in order for me to make this work I have to work, 7 days a week until I can get my self of the ground. A lot of people I see they give up way to easy ” I know I was one of them ” just because you started a business you will not be rich over night, you have to work hard even 10-12 hours a day but if you truly want to work for yourself then you wont have a problem with the long hours.

  • Inspirational story Christine.
    I have previously owned a business and agree with what you say. Being open to new opportunities and not being scared to take a new step is vital to being successful and happy.
    Start anywhere, whether ready or not, once the step is taken the ideas will follow and so will the chances to have fun and succeed.

  • I just love the entrepreneurs stories on your site. So many success stories! Very inspirational.

  • awesome story, it feels better to read stories of other successful people who are passionate about something. Keep up the good work

  • Thanks for sharing. I enjoy reading profiles of entrepreneurs. Please keep up the good work.

  • Ali

    Great motivational story. I really like christine’s action-biased attitude which has added a lot to her business’s success. Great work, keep it up.

  • This is very inspiring. We are one year in to selling fashion Jewelry online, and this article gives me many ideas for going forward. Great Job, keep it up!!

  • Great success story. I need to read more of these to lighten my spirit. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

  • Always good to hear of success from keeping good business and ethical principles. I’m trying to build a business myself. Nothing to do with fashion but the same principles apply. Good stuff.

  • I think the choice of handbags was a smart decision. What other product did you add later to your business that worked well.

    • Hi Uzi. We always had belts, and then we added jewelry and some shoes. We tried to launch a RTW line but it was too difficult with all of the grading and minimum requirements the factory required.

  • Bev

    I’m so proud of you two!

    Thanks so much for sharing the story of your success with the rest of us. Women’s accessories are always wanted and sounds like you’ve found your niche. And being sisters is another big plus. I have two daughters but I don’t think they would agree on much of anything, so count your blessing! Continued success to you both.

  • Thanks for sharing your successful story with us. You are always appreciated congratulations for your achievement. I wish you would a have good fortune..

  • So often times, we get overwhelmed looking at the big picture and trying so sit and plan for every possible outcome. When if we only took one step at a time and at least made movement towards what we want to accomplish, it can be done. Thanks for sharing the story.

  • […] stomach the thought that I could possibly spend my entire career working for one company. — Christine Syquia in her new column, part of Yaro Stark’s Entrepreneur’s […]

  • MGD

    Hi Christine, I’m a big Charm and Luck bag fan, what happened to your company. We’ve been searching for more of your bags, you guys created beautiful bags and accessories. Please bring it back and where to get more if any:) thank you.

    • Hi MGD- We closed the company in 2009. I have seen some people sell charm and luck on ebay!

  • […] was through LinkedIn where I met Christine Syquia.  Christine used to run her own successful business and now dedicates her time to providing people […]

  • Maila Khan

    A truly inspiring article. I am planning to start my own bags and accessories business, I know what it takes but I just had to Google success stories so I can be confident that others have done this before me and succeeded!

    • Hi Malia! I think the most important step is to take action every day towards your goal. Every week people are starting fashion businesses and making inroads which translate into sales in this industry. I wish you much luck!

  • Bernice

    Thanks for the blog Christine. You’re definitely right ‘examining yourself’, to see if you’re cut out for running a business. I don’t know much about business but I am willing to do a lot of research. I believe if you’re passionate enough about your product you will do whatever possible to make it work for you.

  • Katice

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been thinking about an accessories business with my sister-in-law for years. We don’t have a huge income. What is your advice about starting.

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