In this Q&A, DTC Daily speaks to Sarah Creagh (pictured below), founder & CEO of Italian-made handbag business CREAGH. As the business gears up for the holidays, we hear how CREAGH are standing out in an established category, how the brand are acquiring customers, and what the New Year has in store.
What gave you the inspiration to start CREAGH?
There were a lot of shifts happening in the fashion industry, so it felt like the right time to start something new. After a decade of working in the corporate world as a handbag designer at Coach and Banana Republic, the idea of starting my own company felt like a “now or never” moment.
So, I ordered a bunch of cork boards off of amazon, nailed them into the wall at my studio apartment, and started building CREAGH.
How is CREAGH standing out in a highly competitive, well established category?
On the product side of things- all of the CREAGH bags are designed from the inside out to hold laptops, tablets, and phones. For the past few decades, the key to creating an “it” bag was creating a unique exterior shape (ie: the Dior Saddle Bag or the Celine Phantom Bag.) But with the cultural shift of people being glued to their technology, I knew it was time to go back to a Practical Luxury approach and work from the inside out.
On the marketing side of things- CREAGH is inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of Brooklyn. Almost everyone I know works for themselves or has some sort of side hustle passion project, and our bags cater to that lifestyle. I’ve lived in Williamsburg for ten years and all of the young creatives I work with to bring the brand to life, live in Brooklyn. Needless to say, all of our storytelling is super authentic, and I think that makes us stand out.
Why did you decide to make CREAGH a direct-to-consumer brand?
I started CREAGH as a direct-to-consumer brand because it was the easiest way to test a proof of concept. My fiancé and I just flew over to Italy, called up a few factories on the side of the Italian highway, showed them my designs, got the bags made, and put up a website! But trust me, there’s been a TON of work since then in order to actually sell these bags! Our primary focus for CREAGH’s first year in business was physical retail through pop-ups and events in NYC. It’s been invaluable building relationships with our customers by talking to them face-to-face. I actually don’t market the fact that we are a direct-to-consumer brand to our customers and I’ve always been open to the possibility of future wholesale partnerships. But, it would have to be done very strategically.
What have been some of the challenges to starting your own brand and how have you overcome them?
I mean truly everyday there is some sort of challenge, but that’s what keeps it interesting. Nothing is easy. And at first, I struggled with that, thinking that the fact that everything was hard meant that CREAGH was failing. Especially since there are so many glamorised founders who makes success sound so easy. But, at the end of the day, we’ve sold out of our first collection. And, we’ve bootstrapped the whole thing. I mean, I’m selling $800 handbags to people! And that’s because of all of the love and thoughtfulness that I’ve put into the products and brand. So, I try to be a little easier on myself.
How have you brought customers to your brand? What have been the most effective channels for this?
Mostly, I physically stood in front of them and told them my story. However, now the majority of CREAGH’s sales have shifted to our website which is super exciting. It took us a while to gain the credibility and awareness for that to happen. At first, we really needed to show the product in person in order to get the groundswell going. Most of our online traffic now comes from press and running ads on social. Press has been really important for us and I am so thankful to all of the editors who have gotten behind CREAGH.
What’s next for CREAGH?
I’m looking to raise seed funding so I can fuel everything that we’ve learned over the past year. I want to expand the product line to make it easier for people to buy into the brand, make a few hires, and open a flagship shop in Williamsburg. Stay tuned!