Starting a Handbag Line: Is Your Business Your Baby?

Starting a Handbag Line; How to Become a Fashion Designer

Here our founder, Christine Daal, interviews Laura Dotolo, founder of NYC handbag line and manufacturing company, Clutch Made! Watch Laura shed wisdom on growing pains of starting a handbag line as she shares the importance of treating your business like a baby, persevering through fear, and how your “soul work” can keep you self-motivated! For more of our weekly motivational interviews and videos, join our Fearless Fashionpreneur Group on Facebook!

Wise Words on Starting a Handbag Line with Clutch Made’s Laura Dotolo

Christine Daal:  Hi everyone, welcome to our Facebook and Instagram Live video! We are doing our first interview.  I’m so excited that we are here with Laura Dotolo from Clutch Made.  I am Christine Daal from Fashion Angel Warrior. I am going to do these Facebook and Instagram Lives every Tuesday 7 PM Eastern Standard Time.  Find us on Facebook in the Fearless Fashionpreneur Group or Instagram and you can watch the videos there. We are so excited to have Laura here with us and she is going to talk to us about her amazing business and what’s going on. So tell us about Clutch Made!

Laura Dotolo:  Wow, Clutch Made! Let me tell you, Christine- thanks for coming.

Christine Daal:  Yes, thank you.

Laura Dotolo:  Clutch Made is a manufacturing services company that we started. We specialize in accessories and we make everything here in New York City or in the USA. Most of it’s here in New York City at our factory. So, we offer design consultations. If you have an idea; we book a design consultation, we talk through it, we do sourcing, tech-packs, sample-making, production, and then we take you right into website design/ social media. We will actually sell you on, which is our online marketplace for our clients.

Christine Daal:  Awesome, so here you do everything from A to Z.

Laura Dotolo:  We do everything in regards to starting a handbag line! But actually what differentiates us from a lot of platforms that are similar- is that we do have the factory here in New York. We have a full factory and we do production and sample-making right here.

Christine Daal:  That’s awesome.

Laura Dotolo:  Yeah, it’s amazing.

Laura’s Story-  Starting a Handbag Line in NYC Post 9/11

Christine Daal:  And tell us about your background and how you got started in this industry?

Laura Dotolo:  I started off as a stylist here in New York City. I was a fashion stylist for about 20 years before starting a handbag line back in 2001. . . the day after September 11 actually!

Christine Daal:  Wow! Crazy. That was a crazy time to start!

Laura Dotolo:  Well I figure it’s better than any! I don’t know why it happened that way.  So, I started working with a factory down in Chelsea and the day after 9/11– I was starting a handbag line! It was right when Kate Spade and MZ Wallace were all going overseas; so a lot of factories were left “holding the bags” so to speak. There wasn’t a lot of business going on, so many factories were closing or they just had no one making anything.

Christine Daal:  And they were hungry for the business and you were right there to give them some.

Laura Dotolo:  Definitely.

Christine Daal:  That’s so awesome.  It was really sad when all of that was happening and everyone was going overseas. I remember I was a sample-room supervisor at that time; I had to lay off so many sample-makers and pattern-makers. It was just a mess.

Laura Dotolo:  Yes, it was a tough transition…

Christine Daal:  But that’s great that you were able to keep some of the manufacturing going here and give the business.

Laura’s Thoughts on Made in the USA

Laura Dotolo:  Yes, I mean, it wasn’t huge, but it was definitely something. I kept telling the factories, “You know, Made in USA is going to come back; there will be a time.”

“Soul Work” is the Best Self-Motivator

Christine Daal:  That’s awesome, and what’s your main “Why” — like that keeps you going? Why did you get started in your own business?  What made you leave styling and begin starting a handbag line?

Laura Dotolo:  Well, you know, I love running my own business. Even when I was styling or running my business, I was very disciplined and very organized. You really have to be that way when you are running your own business; you have to be very disciplined. I love creating and I love making; and if you are a designer, that’s your number one thing.  So, if you can do that and make money and find a platform for yourself, then you feel amazing. When you're doing your soul work, it’s the best thing you can do. Click To Tweet

Mentors are Key!

Christine Daal:  Oh yeah, you just love it and it doesn’t feel like work anymore. And then once you were running your business, were there any moments that you felt like quitting? Or you had doubts or fear? Or you started second guessing yourself?

Laura Dotolo:  Well, you know, actually no.  I never felt like quitting.  I mean there are times when you second guess yourself, but the quitting thing– that was never really an option. It was always “How am I going to work through this?” And I think it’s because I set up a really good support system with some good mentors that I had on hand. I still do and I call up if I run into any kind of obstacles or challenges and I reach out as “Hey, how do I work through this?” “Let’s have a talk” They really work me through it– and it has been a godsend to running a business. I would COMPLETELY advise that to anybody who is starting a business.

Christine Daal:  I agree, mentors are key! I remember having a mentor in the industry. Every time I had a problem or something was going crazy; I would be calling her crying, “What’s going on here??” But it’s what keeps you going and you really have that expertise– to lean on someone that’s already gone through the trenches. You have someone who’s already been there, already done it and can help you. You know, that’s why I started my whole business; that’s what my business is based on. That’s why you started Clutch Made because you started your own handbag line and now you can aid others in starting a handbag line.

Laura Dotolo:  Exactly!

“Don’t Take All Your Worries to Bed at Night”

Christine Daal:   Yeah, which is so great and what’s the biggest lesson that you have learned being a business owner?

Laura Dotolo:  My goodness, the biggest lesson has been, “Don’t take all your worries to bed at night.” You need to sleep and don’t stay up at night working through your problems, thinking about what needs to be done, or what materials need to be ordered. Leave that for your waking hours. Make your list before you go to bed, so that’s all out of you and it’s there for the morning time, but try not to do it in the evening and while you are sleeping. It just doesn’t work; you can’t waste those precious sleep hours on worrying about things because it’s not worth it.

Christine Daal:  Yeah, and your health is just so important. If you can’t get that nice night sleep and rest, the next day you are going to be tired, you are not going to be your fullest, and you are not going to be able to think straight. And over time it just adds up; it’s going to make you crazy.

Laura Dotolo:  Exactly, yeah, so true.

Christine Daal:  I am still struggling with that one, but I am getting there. Yeah, making the list at night is key; it will definitely help you. So do your to-do list every night; it’s definitely going to help a lot.

Laura Dotolo:  That’s true.                   

Your Business is Your Baby

Christine Daal:  Okay, and what advice would you give to any startup designers that are just starting a handbag line or any other type of business?

Laura Dotolo:  So, if you are a designer and you are ready to start; I would say my piece of advice is that you are about to give birth to a baby and you need to keep that in mind. It’s your baby and it needs a lot of attention, lots of care and lots of nourishment. If you don’t keep your baby nourished, then your baby is not going to grow.  Your business and your product is like a baby. The more attention you give your business and your product, the more your business will grow and it will flourish. Click To Tweet You really need to take that baby in and own that baby because it is your baby! You will have people like Clutch Made, our team, and you have Christine. You will have tools but in the end, it’s your business and you need to mind it.  You can have all the help, tools and services; but it really is your responsibility.

Christine Daal:  Yeah, I agree with you.  I always use that analogy to the baby. It is such a baby; I mean you wouldn’t sell your baby, you wouldn’t throw your baby to the side and these are things that you really need to take into consideration. Most of my clients, the ones that don’t succeed, are the ones that are constantly starting. They get on fire, they are really excited, they are motivated, they do it for a month and then something comes up in their personal life, something comes up in their work life and they put their baby on the side. They put it on hold and then they come back again and it’s just so hard to really move forward that way. And what you said is so key.  It’s not that you have to do a lot– just one small thing every single day to get your business going.

Laura Dotolo:  It really is the key. People just need to take it in and apply it.

Christine Daal:  Yeah, that’s such great advice and how about motivation wise? Are you pretty much a self-motivator?   

“Have No Fear, Persevere”

Laura Dotolo:  I am a self-motivator, but I do have a little inspiration– my little self-quote. Mine has always been “Have no fear, persevere.” Have no fear, persevere. Click To Tweet I think it’s the fear factor that really holds people back and you can’t worry about it. You have to really keep diving in and trying your best and making it happen. So, you have to pull the fear out of it.        

Christine Daal:  Yeah, it’s so true. You can’t have any fear; you just have to go for it, and I know my favorite quote is “Don’t do your best. Just do whatever it takes.” Part of that is having the fear, feeling the fear, and just going forward and putting your all in and saying, “It’s up to God; it’s in God’s hands.” That’s it.

Laura Dotolo:  That’s right! That’s so great.  

Make Social Media Your Personal Ad Agency

Christine Daal:  How about social media?  Has social media influenced your business at all? Have you seen changes in social media affect things in the fashion industry?

Laura Dotolo:  Well I think so. I think for us it’s just happening with Facebook–the way the platform for Facebook has evolved and become a real marketing platform.  You can really get on there and do everything yourself. You can start your little shop on there, you can promote yourself and you can find followers. You can do test marketing, you can advertise; it’s so accessible. You know in the “olden days” you had to hire yourself an ad agency to do all of that! It’s just amazing, you can do it for yourself today and there are no excuses to get your baby out there. It is great- and it’s free.

Christine Daal:   And it’s free- social media, Instagram, Facebook; except for advertising of course, but for the most part it’s free.

Laura Dotolo:  Exactly. We are digging in right now and really working that Facebook to see what it can do for us at this point. So, we’re making use of the tools.  We love Instagram too; Instagram is wonderful– how you can post pictures; photos are very influential and effective these days to marketing.

Christine Daal:  Oh, yeah and your Instagram page is amazing, you guys need to follow her on Instagram! Your Instagram handle is. . .

Laura Dotolo:  Clutch Made Factory. You can find us there. If you have any questions about starting a handbag line, you can always reach out to us on  Fill out a contact sheet with any questions you might have and send it to us; we will get an answer to you within 24 hours.

Christine Daal:  Awesome, customer service is so important and that certainly is one of the best things about Clutch Made. If you are interested in meeting Laura or coming to check out her studio and her manufacturing setup, we are going to be doing the fashion tour on June 16 {2017} and Laura is one of our vendors. We are so excited to have her and if you’re interested, you can go to Fashion Manufacturing Tour #5 at and you can sign up for the fashion tour.  So, we are excited to have you on the fashion tour in a couple of weeks. I am so excited to do this interview with you; it was so great talking to you and seeing you again!  So that’s it; thanks, everyone for watching and tune in next Tuesday 7:00 p.m. on the Fearless Fashionpreneur Group or Instagram and you could see our Facebook Live. We will be doing another interview in the next couple of weeks, so thanks everyone. Have a great night and we will talk to you soon!

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