We receive many messages asking for advice on starting a business. So we thought we’d ask Paulien to answer some of her most common questions in a blog post, so that everyone can read about her experience starting O My Bag.
WHO IS PAULIEN WESSELINK?
The founder and owner of O My Bag. We sell leather bags, which have been produced in a fair and eco-friendly way.
What did you study?
BA Liberal Arts and MA International Relations at the University of Utrecht.
HOW DID YOUR EDUCATION INFLUENCE THE REALISATION OF O MY BAG?
The classes I took at university on global issues like development aid, shaped my ideas. It made me realize that fair trade can create social change. People can live better lives when they are given equal access to the global marketplace.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO BE A SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR?
I lucked out by being born in the affluent Netherlands into a great and loving family. For me it feels that it comes with the responsibility to try to do something positive in your life for others.
“After the first trip
to India I knew
this was the way to go”
This is where we found the best producers to work with. After the first trip to India I knew for sure that this was the way to go. The colorful country and nice people amazed me and got me very excited! Creating job opportunities in India by designing beautiful bags that people can get enthusiastic about? Win-win!
I missed a certain type of bag in the market. Sophisticated, but not boring. Casual, with an edge. Also, a bag is always a treat, a happy purchase and a bag always fits!
WHAT DISTINGUISHES YOUR BAGS FROM OTHERS?
We are eco-friendly and fashionable. We prove that it’s possible to be both! The bags also make perfect everyday bags for work, school or party time.
FAVORITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE
What you give is what you get: start giving!
YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION
My mom. She was a hardworking, energetic woman with her own pharmacy business and 4 children. She unfortunately passed away last year after a sudden and short sickbed. I miss her every day, but she continues to be my inspiration. She was always on fire, super hands-on and she lived life tirelessly. I’m currently pregnant and in around 8 weeks I’ll give birth to my first child. Very exciting, but also sad that mom isn’t there to experience all of it. I know I will look to her for guidance on how to combine running a successful business and being a loving mom.
WHAT WAS THE DESIGN PROCESS FOR YOUR FIRST BAG, THE DIRTY HARRY?
That took loads of effort! It took forever and we had to make A LOT of samples! That’s where my lack of design experience really came into play. Luckily we have improved a lot over the last few years.
I always ask myself what would I want in the collection for myself, what do I love right now and what will I love for years to come. We design for timelessness. The collection is pretty complete now; party, business, travel. Except for travel – backpack gear and suitcases – I think we have many parts of life covered.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH SETBACKS?
Don’t give up and focus on finding a solution. You have to get over disappointments, cut your losses and move on!
WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE?
We aim to be an internationally renowned brand, well known for work ethics. This would allow us to spread the word about fair trade and continue to bring job opportunities to India and potentially other developing countries.
Difficult, there is not one website I check everyday. But for news I receive notifications on my phone from Huffington Post and Devolkskrant.nl. Not a website, but worth mentioning; my favorite newsletter; The skimm.
I love to listen to podcasts while traveling. These are a few of my favorites.
This American Life – Great journalist radio show on varied topics. From politics to human interest stories. Best podcast out there.
The Tim Ferriss Show – Amazing deep dive interviews with world-class performers in different fields, like business, art and design.
Start-Up Podcast – A documentary series about starting a business. Listened to this series in almost one go! So cool and recognizable.
Tara Brach – I was first introduced to Tara’s work through an interview from Tim Ferriss. She is a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and one of the leading teachers of Buddhist thinking and meditation in the Western world. Her guided meditation classes are the best.
Recently I mainly read books about business, management and/or personal growth. A few fave’s I read (somewhat) recently this segment are:
O My Bag