Smells Like School Spirit

When it comes to designing quality collegiate purses, it looks like these sisters-in-law have bagged a winner.

What: High-end handbags emblazoned with college logos
Who: Linda McMahan Gunning and Sue Craft McMahan of Bagalogos!
Where: Austin, Texas
When: September 2002

Linda McMahan Gunning was inundated with compliments on the University of Texas handbag she used to carry to university events. Though the bag, which she picked up at a local store, was roughly made and not properly licensed with the college, it drew a lot of attention from other women and fans.

As an attorney, McMahan Gunning soon realized that if she could obtain the licensing rights for collegiate logos and design her own line of high-end handbags emblazoned with school emblems, there would be quite a demand for her products. She decided to cold-call the University of Texas to pitch her unique concept.

"They said, 'If you can do all this, we think it's a great idea. We'll take a chance with you,'" recalls McMahan Gunning, 55. With those encouraging words in mind, she enlisted the help of her sister-in-law and avid fashion lover, Sue Craft McMahan, 36, to join her in the logo handbag venture.

Interestingly enough, obtaining licensing agreements wasn't the biggest challenge during start-up; finding a manufacturer and researching what women really want in a handbag proved to be the major hurdles. They canvassed not only college-age women, but also alumni and families of students.

When the pair designed four different types of bags- large tote bag, a smaller baguette bag, a crescent-shaped handbag and a bolder game-day bag- marked with the University of Texas emblem, the favorable responses they received were overwhelming.

Today, with sales into the mid-six figures, Bagalogos! bags can be found at www.bagalogos.com and at high-end boutiques and college bookstores. Schools on the company's roster include the University of Alabama, Oklahoma State University campuses, Texas A&M University campuses and Texas Tech University; the partners plan to add seven more schools in 2004. They've also set their sights on other big-name schools with high-profile and loyal alumni. Talk about higher learning.

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This article was originally published in the December 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Smells Like School Spirit.

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