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Featured: Little Man-The Uncommon Original

Monday, January 24th, 2011 | Permalink

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Christine Guanipa - Founder and Owner of Little Man Originals

Thirty Seven West is very pleased to introduce its interview with Christine Guanipa, who is the owner and designer of Little Man Originals. We have supplied Custom Woven Clothing Labels to Little Man Originals since 2005. Christine Guanipa, owner and designer of Little Man Originals, uses her designs to combine the beauty and elegance of 1950’s fashion with the versatility required in today’s world.  Since 2002, this Massachusetts-based handbag designer has produced multiple limited production bags, perfect for any occasion.  Family owned and operated, Little Man Originals has made its mark by being available in over 200 boutiques and museums as well as expanding online through Etsy. Offering clutches, diaper bags, and everything  in-between, Little Man truly is an uncommon original.

Thirty Seven West: How long has your family business been around?

Christine: 8 Years

Thirty Seven West: What has it meant for your business to have a selling outlet like Etsy available to reach a wide market of consumers who share some of your handmade ideals?

Christine: Little Man Products are mostly made available to the wholesale market selling in over 200 select boutiques and museums throughout the US. Selling retail through Etsy is a new experience for Little Man and we have yet to further continue our exploration of the possibilities available through that market.

Thirty Seven West: What is the benefit of producing limited production items, versus ongoing items in your collection?

Christine: We have found that limited production pieces are more desirable and special. Owning one of a hundred is far more valuable than one of millions and speaks to the individuality and uniqueness of our customer.

Messenger Bag from Little Man Originals - note the label tab on outside for quick recognition of the brand

Thirty Seven West: Do you think that you’ll ever expand your collection to include items for a male consumer market?  Products like messenger bags, laptop cases, etc, geared towards men?

Christine: At this time we design our collection with women in mind, staying true to our motto “Every Woman Needs A Little Man”; however, we have found more and more male customers gravitating towards certain products that we have created with a more simplistic design and unisex fabrics. This has already begun to broaden our market thus far.

Thirty Seven West: It seems like nowadays, everyone is trying to accommodate the centrality that our electronic gadgets demand in our lives.  With iPad and iPhone cases, and purses and bags built with special pockets for iPods and oversized cell phones—do you feel like you will venture more into that area of products in the future  (Perhaps making products specifically for an iPhone, etc)?

Christine: We try to stay current with the needs that women have to stow and store. Products like our “Tiny Tim”, “Little Lad”, and “Charlie Change” already point in that direction functioning as fashionable accessories that hold items such as ipods, cameras, and cell phones. We already provide multiple pockets in most of our larger bags for these items as well. A lap-top case is currently in the works, to be debuted in our 2011 collection.

Diaper Bag

Diaper Bag from Little Man Originals

Thirty Seven West: How do you compete in a market where so many independent designers/manufacturers and also giant, corporate manufacturers are constantly flooding the market with new bags?

Christine: We try to stay focused on what Little Man has been called to; to create practical, functional handbags and accessories that have a timeless look with a contemporary, fashion forward slant. We consistently create a solidly constructed product that is a limited production and is made in America. We believe our customers value this component of our company and product.

Thirty Seven West: How do you stay unique and still reach your consumers?

Christine: Vintage values, personal attention to our customers, and every item that leaves our studio.

Thirty Seven West: Where do you find your inspiration for new bags?

Christine: From old bags! I look to the successes of the vintage handbags and their makers and really look at what it is that draws me to them. Our designs reflect the bags we have admired from the past. We especially take our inspiration from the bags of the 1950s and add a modern element, while still keeping with the values of quality craftsmanship, inventiveness, simplicity, and classic style.

Image Courtesy of Little Man Originals

Thirty Seven West: How often do you try to introduce new products to your collection line?

Christine: We try to add at least one new bag or accessory every year.

Thirty Seven West: Can you tell us about two of your biggest triumphs during your years in business?  (They can be anything meaningful and “big” to you)

Christine: One quote that resonates with me is, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” This saying always brings me back to my first sale to a store. It was only $60 but I was so happy, and it has encouraged me to continue doing what I love because someone else will love it too!

A more recent “triumph” was at the JFK Presidential Museum, where Little Man is on exhibit in every style and shape! It is a proud moment for Little Man, being “Made in America”, and having the privilege of being shown in a place that memorializes one of the most historical families in American History.

Featured: Tracy Joy

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 | Permalink

image of Tracy Joy courtesy of Photography by Tracy Joy

The best way to describe Chicago-area entrepreneur Tracy Joy would be as a modern day Renaissance woman. Juggling a family life with four demanding businesses can be tough, but Tracy pulls it off with a flair that is to be both commended and admired.  Her four companies (Tracy JoyPink Heels BoudoirProp Insanity, and The Joy Bag Collection) all stemmed from an initial love of sewing and photography.  Proving once again that if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do.

37w: So as we were emailing back and forth, I noticed that on your email it states “Yes…I’m a busy girl.” You obviously wear a lot of different hats, was that always the plan or was it just how things turned out?

TJ: I’ve always been “busy”… coming from a background of entrepreneurs (men) in my family, I thought it should be the girls’ turn…so my mom and I started up TJ Inc in 2006, for our camera bag line. From there, I picked up a DSLR camera (a life dreamer and photographer by hobby), and realized the great gift of photography that I had!  From there…  my photography lead me to my love of all things “photography prop”, anything I could use on a baby or toddler, even an adult, to fancy up and bring a little fun into my photography… which is where Prop Insanity came from.   And my latest company, Pink Heels Boudoir, is my “baby”…shared with an amazing photography partner Jamie B.

In my life, things kind of come to me in a “stream”… my crafty sewing led to the bag line, which led to my photography, which led to my props… you get the point.   I’m a full-on, go-getter, never holding back to say “I wish I had done that”, I want to be the old lady one day who says “I did it ALL!”.

37w: In January 2010, you launched a new bag line The Joy bag collection (which we love, btw).  That had to take time away from your amazing photography, how are you able to split your focus?

TJ: My focus…that’s funny 🙂   I don’t focus on one thing, I don’t think I’m “engineered” to do that, lol…. which runs in my family.  A little bit of OCD, mixed in with the skill of multitasking-add a touch of caffeine to that and there is my day! Lol! I’m also lucky to have my mom as a business partner. Without her sewing skills, customer service qualities, and my father’s helping hand with my kids…my business life wouldn’t be possible.   Also, having all of my business’ surrounding the basic thought of “photography,” helps to keep it all in sync.  It all blends nicely together, in one happy insanely busy world of “Me.”

The Bliss bag from The Joy Bag Collection

37w: Family is a recurring theme in your blog posts, can you tell me a bit about the support you have received and how it has inspired your work?

TJ: My mother is “that” woman… you know her, the one who can do anything she puts her mind to?  She can see something in the store, on TV, whereEVER and replicate it.  T A L E N T (lol).  Lucky for me,  she bore that “talent” into me.  I’ve always tinkered and been more creative than “book smart.”   And then there is my father… we like to think of him “Grandpa Daycare.”  My kids are very attached to him, as they see him on a pretty regular basic (at least 3 times per week!).   My sister is a HARD WORKER, to the core. She’s always been busy busy busy, and about the #1 best’ola employee anyone could ask for. Every so often, she lends her time to us…in the form of her darling baby (my niece Georgia) to my camera lens! LOL!

However, my favorite people in the world who offer the most support… my husband and my kids.  As you image, I spend a lot of time w/my companies… so the one battle I have is work vs. family time.  Thankfully, they are all wonderfully patient with me, and supportive of me and my companies (‘cause they know what’s best for them if they want dinner on the table! lol). Little did my husband know, he married a creative junkie!

image of Tracy Joy and her family courtesy of Photography by Tracy Joy

37w: Let’s talk Pink Heels Boudoir Portraiture.  I know you feel that it is important to help women of all shapes and sizes express their beauty, but has this new venture also given you a newfound sense of empowerment?

TJ: It is AMAZING! Jamie and I created Pink Heels Boudoir in February this year, and it has exploded!   We do this not for the job of it, but for the women that we photograph.  Every, and I honestly mean EVERY, woman should experience this sort of photography. It’s liberating, empowering, and really leaves you feeling “awed” by yourself.  It’s amazing how so many women, us regular every day women, forget how stunningly beautifully we are, and how easy it is to get back in tune with our bodies and our image.  We like to stomp right on the conventional thought of beauty, and bring a new light to women and their thoughts on what beauty is.

image courtesy of Pink Heels Boudoir Portraiture

37w: Prop Insanity seems like a great way to bring together different suppliers in order to make props easier for photographers to find.  Did this site develop out of personal necessity, did you sense a need in the field, or a little of both?

TJ: It developed out of a simple LOVE for photography props.  When the idea came to my mind, I contacted a fellow photographer friend of mine, Gina of Peahead Prints, who I also knew was obsessed with Photography props… and we let Prop Insanity blossom!   It’s funny, when I go into a “home” store now.. I don’ think “Aww, that basket would be cute in my house”, instead I think “hmmm, can I fit a baby in that”, hahaha.

image courtesy of Photography by Tracy Joy

37w: As a highly motivated individual, balancing 4 businesses and a very dedicated family life, what advice would you have for people (especially mothers) who are stepping out of the box and trying their hand at more than one industry?

TJ: Don’t hold back… and enjoy the ride!  If you can, dive in feet first (never head first! lol).   When I get an idea, I run with it…. build up great customer relations… and join places like Facebook & Etsy to promote and sell your products and/or ideas.   Marketing and promoting are VERY important… if you don’t sell your own product, no one else will.

When it comes to photography….take advantage of your surroundings…offer up your services to friends, family, and even strangers! One of my best clients, who has referred 10+ other clients to me, was someone I met at the park on a sunny day with my kids.   So don’t be embarrassed, or hold back, people will enjoy you!

37w: So, what’s next for Tracy Joy?

TJ: Beats me!  I never say never… but for now, I think I have enough going on, lol.  I’d like to say I’ll win the lotto and buy a giant natural light studio in my town…  or just jet off my tiny clientele to exotic places for photography sessions.  A girl can dream…so who has a buck for the daily lotto for me?

image courtesy of Photography by Tracy Joy

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