Nicole Kelner Dishes On Her SmartPurse Design!
Nicole Kelner is a junior at Penn State University who balances coursework with running her own business. Since she was a freshman, she has run Nicole Kelner Designs and sold and manufactured her innovative SmartPurses!
We spoke with Nicole about her inspiration, and what being a young female entrepreneur is all about!
"Ever since I was a young girl I always dreamed of being a fashion designer!" Nicole said. "I would watch Project Runway religiously, but never thought that making it in the cutthroat fashion industry was going to be possible. Now I have been able to make that dream into a reality and it is so rewarding!"
Nicole Kelner came up with the idea for her SmartPurse because she would often lose her purse, but never her phone.
"I realized that if I could use my phone through my purse, I would never leave either object anywhere again," Nicole said. "I ripped up my old purses to teach myself how to sew and sewed a plastic bag on the front to use it as my first prototype."
Nicole's invention allowed her to use the touch screen of her phone, while it was still in her bag, through a thin sheet of plastic. She didn't create her first SmartPurse with a business in mind.
"I just realized that I had a problem I wanted to solve for myself," Nicole said. "But once I started getting compliments on the prototype from friends, family, and even strangers, I knew I should try selling them!"
Nicole posted her concept online and got her first sale within just a few days. Through the process of trial and error, her business grew and developed over time.
In the beginning, she would sew each and every SmartPurse by hand.
"It was a challenge!" Nicole said. "I would stay up all night sewing until I would finish a purse. I broke a lot of thimbles and needles to say the least! I then bought a sewing machine and have absolutely loved using it."
When Nicole first launched her shop Etsy, a virtual store for handmade goods, she noticed other sellers allowed their buyers to customize what they'd like.
She started taking custom orders, and when she sold the purses at a local market she would bring fabric swatches that would allow for in-person customization as well.
"Everyone loved it!" Nicole said. "The ultimate reason I want to continue with customization is because I believe that everyone has a beautiful story to tell, and through allowing girls to completely customize their purse from start to finish, I want that individuality to shine!"
Nicole had a fate encounter when she attended a networking event at Penn State.There, she met a woman who eventually introduced her to a manufacturer. From there, she met a designer. With a little money, she would be able to have her bags manufactured, rather than making them all by hand.
Nicole Kelner wanted to grow her company, but needed money to do so. She had heard good things about the crowd-funding website Kickstarter and applied, but she was denied because she had already sold some of her purses.
"But I didn't let that stop me!" Nicole said. "I instantly went to Indiegogo after being denied from Kickstarter and had great success with it. I raised over $2,700 and was able to do my first run with my manufacturer!"
Buzz about Nicole's SmartPurses started spreading by word of mouth. Eventually, she was featured in Vogue.
"It was surreal," Nicole explained. "I feel so fortunate to have been featured. I will never get tired of flipping through the pages of Vogue and seeing my product!"
Nicole had to work hard and get creative to find the success she has today, but she believes with the right amount of effort, everything can achieve their goals.
"I want to encourage girls to chase their dreams no matter how wild they may be!" Nicole said. "You can make your dreams come true with hard work and passion!"
Nicole has always had big dreams, and is well on her way to accomplishing them. In the 8th grade, Nicole wrote a letter to her future self, reading, "I want to be a famous fashion designer and live in Paris."
This spring, Nicole is spending five months studying abroad in Paris. She already has the successful fashion designer part covered, she said.
Interested in Nicole Kelner's SmartPurse? Follow Nicole on her social channels!
Nicole Kelner Designs