Katydid started with less than $500

Shopforbags.com (SFB) is a women owned apparel and handbags distributor that targets small town salons, boutiques, and retail outlets. At Shopforbags.com, we make it easy for the small town retailer to order just what they need on a just-in-time basis with a low minimum order and same day shipping. SFB customers purchase with the confidence of knowing that they can quickly reorder whenever they need to without a large capital outlay. Whether they want to test how well their customers will respond to a new product or need to meet an unexpected demand, our rapid turnaround puts them in control of their inventory and their cash management. This has enabled SFB to serve over 10,000 small retailers nationwide. SFB has also been instrumental in the development and distribution of the popular Katydid brand, our own private label, through the wholesale website. SFB still keeps exclusive distribution rights to the ever growing brand that drives thousands of retailers back to the SFB site.

Katy Messersmith, the owner of SFB, came from very humble beginnings while growing up in Palestine, Texas. Living in a trailer home through high school after a house fire left her family nearly homeless. After graduating from Texas A&M University in 2000, Katy planned to put her community health major to use. But while volunteering at a women’s prenatal clinic in Africa, her life took a turn – literally.

Her luggage never landed in Ghana, which left the her with only the clothes on her back. Luckily, she has always known how to “make it work,” no matter the situation, and was soon collaborating with local seamstresses. Those first designs – born of necessity – reflected the vibrant, local fabrics and foreshadowed the bold Katydid creations to come.

Even though the event of losing her luggage at the time was so devastating, she is not sure she would have ever started her own business in the handbag/clothing industry without the experience. She was in such a rural area that you couldn’t just go and buy shirts or clothes in a store, you actually had to go to the local seamstresses on the streets and have them made. It’s great to hear her speak about remember waking up each morning as she couldn’t wait to see what creation she would come up with that day. Although the practical peasant skirts, breezy tops and hefty shoulder bags were far from catwalk-worthy, the process lit a creative and entrepreneurial spark for her.

After returning to Texas, she tried to dim the fashion flame while working in the pharmaceutical industry. But after two years, she followed her heart and took a stab at the fashion market, starting her own business with less than $500. Forever the risk-taker, she was determined to succeed, despite being self-taught in the world of business and fashion.

From humble beginnings back in 2002 Katy started her own consumer brand of handbags called Katydid, but the retail fashion market is a crowded one. “What girl doesn’t dream of being a fashion designer and having her own apparel line” Katy added. Within a few months and numerous trade shows, Katy’s credit card bills began to mount and Katy had to find a way to turn her business around or she would have to go back to the pharmaceutical industry.

Katy noticed that many of the contacts she had met ran small boutiques in small towns. She decided to transition and sell handbags to the retailers and not direct to the consumer. Shopforbags.com was born. SFB did something very few wholesalers at the time were doing and that was selling on the Internet. SFB became one of the first online distributors that catered to smaller retailers which gave the company a first mover advantage to a certain extent. Much of its growth can be attributed to her focusing on her customers and growing categorically with new innovative products and designs. Three years ago SFB didn’t offer apparel and now it’s SFB’s number one seller.

Early on it wasn’t clear, but what continues to drive SFB’s strong growth is the exclusive Katydid brand. It is a huge differentiator from our competitors especially in our bigger markets. Katy reintroduced the brand to wholesalers and people now ask for it by name. It’s funny, when people finally meet Katy, she almost has cult like status especially in small town America.

SFB has been profitably for several years, with top line revenues over $4.5m last year. In fact, SFB will make the Inc. 500 this year and the Dallas Business Journal’s Top 50 Women owned businesses with a 134% CAGR over the last three years.

She continues to help entrepreneurs today with local charities that promote women owned businesses. Her advice is advice that only experience can teach. Product and quality are important, but better marketing will always beat a better quality product with lesser marketing. People need to know about you and your story. Be an evangelist for your business.

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