“Like many busy, working women, I was up and out of the house before sunrise; running or in the gym before heading to work.”
For me, exercise was critical. I needed it. Not only for my physical health, but to keep my mind in a good, balanced place. My AM sessions were like quality therapy!
With this AM routine, I typically found myself showering at work or the gym. I’d leave home everyday carrying clothes, shoes, toiletries, a hairdryer, laptop, keys, earphones, my wallet, breakfast, lunch, snacks … lots of STUFF, and lots of bags. My life in bags!
After years of getting ready for work in communal bathrooms (and I’d done so in various locations around the globe), it was evident that women the world over were carrying multiple bags. Moreover, we were all making a frustrating compromise between form and function.
When it came to the bags themselves, we’d either have a stylish assortment that looked good but were functionally useless, or an armful of functional ones that were, well, daggy. The more fashionable bags would break under the weight of ‘life’ and offered little or no room for stashing sweaty post-workout apparel, while the more functional options were masculine or a bit ugly. Surprisingly, NONE appeared to be designed with women in mind (umm … how do I protect my patent pumps or steaming hot straighter)?!
So, therein lies the essence of Sparro and how we were born. We wanted to create sleek, strong and seriously smart carry-alls to support busy women from the gym, to the boardroom, city bar and everything in between.
Sparro came to life when a Hong Kong (HK) adventure presented itself in late 2014.
It was my first move away from my family and friends, and I knew establishing a routine was going to be an important part of settling into HK life. I joined a local boot camp, and quickly realised this frantic ‘life in bags’ morning regime for working women was truly universal.
The idea bubbled in my head for a few months, and after a gentle push from my partner (read : ginormous shove!) I began to put my ideas on paper. After about 8 months of research, I took the plunge and resigned from my 13 year tenure working in marketing with global brands to give this thing a shot. The transition from employee to entrepreneur has proven equal parts incredible and terrifying.
Initially, it was my personal struggle to find a bag that solved my daily #bagtangle that identified the gap.
With a mission to consolidate the multiple bags I left home with every day, and google as my friend, I searched the globe for a bag that delivered on both form and function.
The gap was blinding, however I did question whether my daily haul was unique and perhaps, a little excessive. I wondered if my personal quirk of rejecting travel sized anything was simply contributing to the load I carried.
To answer this, I simply asked a question to over 40 women from all corners of the globe, whom I knew had a similar routine – “Tell me, what are you carrying in your bag(s) today?”
I became clear that every busy, fitness-focused working woman I knew was carrying her life in bags everyday.
Sparro is 40 years of personal savings! This is both terrifying and empowering … but mostly terrifying!
It has been quite a reality check, moving from working with global brands with big budgets, to a startup where I need to literally scrutinise every single dollar being spent.
The isolation has surprised me the most about starting a business.
I had read about this a lot before starting, but it wasn’t until I ‘felt’ it, that I really understood the impact.
I had worked in corporate offices for 13 years with endless opportunities to connect and chat – whether that be about last night’s episode of The Bachelor, engage in friendly footy banter, or productive work conversations!
Moving from this, to working from home solo, has been incredibly lonely at times. After the initial joy of a zero minute commute, and a kettle within reach, I quickly missed my colleagues and in particular, my desk neighbours. I missed the ability to ask random questions of my team like “hey, which one (do you like better)?” or “Is this a crazy idea” and often “Anyone want a cuppa?!” – I am famous for that question!
I also realised how much I missed learning from those around me. This was the catalyst for me joining Business Chicks. The community offers a brilliant opportunity for me to connect with others in a similar position, and establish virtual desk neighbours!
The challenges have been daily, many, varied and are still there!
To be honest, almost every step has felt challenging to start – there have been many tears and confidence wobbles in the past year or so. However, with the help of Google and the willingness and kindness of random people to share their knowledge, I’ve genuinely surprised myself about what I’ve been able to learn and accomplish.
However, no amount of Google or conversation was able to prepare me for the experiences I’ve had while trying to get something manufactured in another country. Learning to navigate business culture, to negotiate in broken English and provide feedback to sample makers despite not being able to articulate what I mean in English, has kept me on my toes!
The biggest challenge by far, was the three weeks I spent with our Guangzhou manufacturing partners overseeing our first production run and addressing quality control issues that ultimately could have sunk us before we even launched. I was solo and without a translator (big mistake)!
The experience challenged me on almost every level imaginable. There are so many things that happened across those three weeks that I can now laugh about, and I often joke will one day be a whole chapter of my memoir. In the moment however, it almost broke me! Had this experience taken place in my corporate life, I’m almost certain I would have walked away, or demanded support pronto! However, as is the reality of startup life, I had no choice but to have a solid cry, call home for a virtual hug every night, and somehow pick myself up and play on!
CONNECT WITH AMIE HERE.