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Building a Sustainable Fashion Brand: an Interview with Lapsa

It’s not easy to break into a niche that’s as saturated as women’s fashion. Yet, with the right idea and mindset, something that seemed unthinkable becomes a reality. 

Agne Kairyte-Timinskiene launched Lapsa last year, handcrafting vegan leather bags and backpacks, and personalizing each of the pieces by hand too. 

We talk with Agne about starting and running a small business, and how Zyro has helped elevate the Lapsa brand with a beautiful website.

Agne Kairyte Founder Lapsa
The creator of Lapsa, Agne Kairyte-Timinskiene

I came up with a business idea (and then dwelled on it for 8 years 🙈) 

Although my business is still at the very start of its journey, I’ve dreamt of creating bags for the longest time. I wanted to create a product that I’d love to wear myself, so that’s how the first few models of bags and backpacks came to life. 

Even though I was working as a project manager in an office, I always had this dream. My lack of self-confidence and my baby were my biggest excuses, even though my family always supported me and even pushed me to go for it. 

It all came to a boil last year. I perfected my bag models to a point that I wouldn’t feel ashamed to sell it to someone for actual money

I also started lacking motivation at work and hated the fast-paced life that I was living. As cliche as it sounds, I wanted to do something that made my heart sing. 

Finally, I wanted to be happy with what I do, so I took the risk and quit my job to experiment with sewing bags, basically. Luckily, I have a supportive spouse. 😁

Starting on Etsy was a challenge at first.

When the time came to actually start getting my first clients, I opened up an Etsy shop. 

Initially, there was no interest, so I spent time looking at what other sellers were doing, paying particular attention to how they were describing their products, what keywords they were using, and so on. 

I started getting a slow but steady trickle of orders, just enough for me to be able to fulfill them without stressing out.

Etsy is great in the beginning because you can list your products for just a few cents, so not needing a major upfront investment is great. 

They’ve also got your back when you’re just starting out. Both the buyer and the seller have this safety net if a transaction goes wrong. 

But of course, the platform charges you all of these tiny fees that add up to a sizeable amount at the end of the month. 

Also, it’s not your own online store. You have your profile, but technically Etsy could shut you down in a minute if they felt like it. 

Personalized Lapsa Backpack in a Setting

My first sale – I’ll never forget it. 

Of course, my friends and family were my very first clients and I’m eternally grateful because it meant so much to have my products validated. 

But I remember my first actual sale – to someone I didn’t know. 😁 It was a clutch bag for someone in the United States.

I was ecstatic that someone had bought my bag, but stressed out too. So, I took extra care to make it and package it, and I even wrote a little ‘love note’ to the client.

Tracking the parcel multiple times a day was probably a little extreme, but it was really important to me that the person got the bag and loved it. 

And it did seem that they liked it, because they left me a positive review and said they’ll be back. They haven’t ordered anything since, but I think it just means that Lapsa bags last a long while. 😜

My brand values are at the center of everything that I do.

After a couple of months of selling Lapsa bags online, I realized just how important it was to communicate my values to clients. 

I don’t want anyone to feel like my bags are being forced upon them. Instead, I want my clients to want to buy them because they resonate with the brand values. This way, the chances are much higher that they will love the product, leave a positive review, and everyone’s a winner.

My bags and backpacks are all made to order and by hand, and thus are specific to each customer. I customize every order too; people are able to request a short phrase, a constellation, or something else to be added to their bag. 

Basically, it’s a sustainable and ethical small business, where I use vegan and animal cruelty-free materials. If I don’t tell that to my potential clients, how would they know why they should buy my products? 

Lapsa Brand Website Screenshot

I’ve been putting it off for the longest time. And then I actually built a website all by myself.

That’s when I had this idea of building my own website, as it’s the perfect place to communicate my brand values to clients. 

Plus, I wanted to take my clients one step further after they got interested in my products after seeing my social media posts. 

Initially, I tried to set up a WordPress website, as it offers so many possibilities, but quickly got overwhelmed. It’s hard to get to grips with it when you don’t have a lot of time and don’t even know where to start.

Needless to say, my domain was just sitting there untouched for quite a while. 🙃

Then, I came across Zyro. It seemed like I didn’t even put a lot of effort into it and had published a website – that’s how easy it was. Dare I say, it feels like it’s meant for total beginners and that’s great. 

Of course, in an ideal world, I’d be able to hire someone to design and develop a personalized website, but a website builder is a great alternative for micro-entrepreneurs. Now, I have somewhere to direct all of the leads that I make on social media and elsewhere. 

My business is doing better than ever before, so I’ve started thinking about my own online store. 

I haven’t paid to advertise yet, because I’m afraid that if I do, I won’t be able to cope with all of the orders that’d be coming in. 

I’m mostly limited by time and my two hands, so finding some help would be ideal. Also, opening a workshop is another dream of mine. People could come in to check out the products or even work on creating their own. 

But for now, I’d love to open an online store. I would have to pay no commission or fees to anyone, and I could control all of the processes myself. 

I’d keep Etsy too, however, since I already have an established client base there. 

Handcrafted Lapsa Bags

Owning a small business puts all of the responsibility for its success on your shoulders.

I know that my business will grow and flourish, but only if I put in the hours. 

It’s been great setting my own working hours, leaving for a holiday in the middle of the week if I so choose and then catch up with work later. But a small business owner can never forget that there’s also a lot of responsibility.

The list of jobs that need doing – from the product itself to marketing and everything in between – is literally endless. If you’re not passionate about what you do, you won’t be able to make it. 

All the pain and self-sacrifice that you go through as you launch small business is worth it, I think. 

You have all the freedom in the world, plus you can make decisions and act upon them right away. 

My top tips for others looking to start their own business. 

You should start by thinking about how you can present your brand and your products online. 

First, it’s absolutely essential to get product photos done right. Personally, I find that’s the hardest part of creating my website. 

It’d be ideal to hire a professional; you’ll have to invest of course, but it’s your photos that do the heavy lifting when it comes to actually selling online. 

Second, build that website. It has to happen sooner or later, so better do it early on because it gives your business a credibility boost – it’s an absolute must. 

Then, set up a way to sell online, either via Etsy, some other marketplace, or your own eCommerce website, and automate as many of your selling processes as possible. 

Finally, here’s what I’d say to the aspiring entrepreneur: don’t wait another day

If you have an idea, believe in it and put in the work. And there will be a lot of hard work involved. But you need that for the success to taste that much sweeter. 😊

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