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Typhaine Zagoreos, Founder and CEO, Typhaine Handbags

Going solo works to this entrepreneur's benefit.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Can you give us a little background on Tysabel and what your future plans are?

Zagoreos: Yes, Tysabel was founded two years ago. It was the combination of [my former partner and my] names, Typhaine and Isabel. As of a month ago, we have split, and I am now designing under the Typhaine label. What was the reason for the split?

Zagoreos: Basically, I wanted to move a little faster than she was willing to. I wanted to grow the business and focus on it full time. At the time of the split, we were each dedicating different amounts of time and effort to Tysabel. With the split, are you currently competing against each other?

Zagoreos: Not to my knowledge; she is not doing handbags right now. What we hadn't been doing was going to trade shows, which is what is required to take it to the next step. We had started the company doing bag parties. Similar to Avon and Tupperware?

Zagoreos: Yes, which was great for the beginning of the company, because they immediately generated cash flow. Through the bag parties, we were able to sell the handbags at retail prices vs. wholesale, which made significantly more money and generated much more cash than we could have through a retailer. The problem at the same time was that because we weren't in the stores, we weren't able to generate a significant amount of cash to maintain operations.

The difference between Tysabel and Typhaine is [I'm striving] to get my bags into stores. I have signed up for trade shows, which will enable me to get out in front of the key buyers for the retail chains. These trade shows bring together buyers from across the U.S. and abroad. So you are using this opportunity to really catch the eye of potential partners to develop long-term relationships?

Zagoreos: Exactly. You have also hired a new manufacturer. Can you give us a little detail there?

Zagoreos: Previously, my business partner's family had a manufacturing company in upstate New York. This was very useful and educational for us. We did not come from a design or manufacturing background, didn't know what we were doing in working with manufacturers. Having this connection with a manufacturer gave us the ability to attack the learning curve quickly and efficiently.

We started very slowly, learning the business over time. We worked closely with everyone from the pattern maker to the sewer to figure out the intricacies of this business. The benefit of this is that we also had full control over the whole process. As it turned out, the largest cost associated with this type of product is the labor associated with the sewing of the fabric.

A downside of this relationship was that it took precious time away from growing the business. It was necessary for me to continually be driving to upstate New York to work with the manufacturer, and this time was very much needed for me to spend in marketing and selling the business. Was that the main reason then for the split? You wanted to focus on growing the business and taking it to the next step?

Zagoreos: That, and I wanted more control over the process. I felt I could make the decisions much more quickly if it were just me. Every decision required a joint conversation. As it works out, it is great not having a partner 85 percent of the time, but the remaining 15 percent of the time it would be extremely nice to be able to take a breather. Have you been able to identify your market for these bags?

Zagoreos: Originally I thought young urban women between the ages of 20 and 40. As it turns out, we had a lot of customers who were younger and older than we thought they were, and a lot of them were not even urban. A significant portion of our sales were in the suburban market. How does this information change your marketing strategy--does this change which stores you will be going after?

Zagoreos: Well, it is a lot easier to sell to suburban stores. Especially when I was approaching the stores on an informal basis, the suburban stores were much more open and eager to speak to me because they don't have designers knocking on their door every day. Unlike New York stores, where there are tons of designers selling their products directly to them, in the suburban market it is much more of a novelty.

If you step out of New York City, people are friendlier and want to see what you have to offer. They are much more willing to place a small order and give your product a try. They are thrilled at knowing [someone] who they can quote as a hot up-and-coming designer, and they feel as if they have found you. It is a much more personal relationship.

Zagoreos: Exactly, and the buyers at this level really like that. I don't know what it is going to be like at the trade shows. The buyers are going to be surrounded by new designers. I am hoping that it will be a lot easier and that it will work. Though, if [it doesn't], I will probably hire an on-road sales representative. When you say you are targeting suburban stores, would that be megastores or small boutiques?

Zagoreos: Localized boutiques, though I would like to target large retail chains such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc. The problem is that they are very particular about the orders they get in, and for a small company, it would be too large of a risk to put all my eggs in one basket. If everything isn't correct, they may deny payment, which would essentially kill my company.

With fashion, you don't want to grow too quickly. I am really targeting longevity for Typhaine Handbags. So you are not quite ready for the cover of Vogue?

Zagoreos: I have always wanted my [own] company, and being on the cover of Vogue would be great, but it is not what I am driving for. Which aspects of the business do you enjoy the most? Creative, managerial, etc.?

Zagoreos: I would love to be able to direct the company from a creative as well as a managerial perspective. I truly enjoy being involved in every aspect of the company, although I do not want to be involved in the day-to-day operations. How did you first go about marketing the handbag parties?

Zagoreos: We started off by selling to friends and family, and from there it started to really take off. We started an e-mail list, and toward the end, I wouldn't know half the people that were at the events. One of the woman on the list worked at and put it on the "Sample Sale" list, and that generated a huge response.

The interesting thing is that CitySearch had done a piece on Tysabel prior to that, but we received a very disappointing response. With the focused PR we received in the Sample Sale list though, it was amazing. This taught me that we really have to be very selective and targeted when marketing our product.

Nathan Kaiser is founder and CEO of, a Web site that features interviews with company and industry leaders, focusing on the issues and opportunities facing their organizations.

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