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Life and Work with Jesse Douglas and Riley Leonard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jesse Douglas and Riley Leonard.

Riley, please kick things off for us.  Where does this story start and how did you get to where you are today?
My mom, Jesse, is wildly creative and always thinking out of the box. Two years ago, she was running another company of hers, dedicated to raising funds through apparel campaigns. When she created a custom carpenter bag printed with the word STUFF on it, just for fun – it ended up being a bestseller, and people were stopping her in the street asking where they could get their own! With that, the idea for Lavender and Canvas was sparked.

Combining my mom’s design and marketing chops with my own development and logistics experience, we knew we had a winning team to build a brand of really beautiful, really high-quality bags that would appeal to a range of different ages, styles, and needs. We spent the next year sourcing fabrics and leathers, creating design after design, making sure everything was just right to introduce the first line of Lavender and Canvas bags in July 2017.

From there, we’ve been so honored to grow the way we have – meeting the most wonderful customers and new friends at events across the US, sharing our bags with celebrities at the 2017 Emmys, being featured in several style magazines and gift guides, and above all, being able to continue working together as mom & daughter.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This adventure has been both smooth sailing and crazy challenging! Smooth in that we are above all dedicated to creating high-quality designs, and we’ve built a really amazing fan base that continues to support our brand and love our bags. Our products are always made with a ton of precision and care, which we believe has bolstered our reputation as a reliable brand, one that you can always trust the products will always be well made and stylish.

Challenging in that we’ve made many mistakes along the way (too many to list!) – the learning curve of starting your own business has been steep. From choosing the wrong events to printing cards with the wrong info on them – we’ve been there. Ultimately though, these mistakes have helped us build our brand even stronger and bring us to where we are today.

Two big points of advice for others building their own business would be to first, make a plan – think about where you want to go with your business, how you want to grow. It’s awesome to jump right in with your great product, but it’s really important to have a roadmap along the way to keep you focused and working towards your goals. Second, would be to talk to everyone you can! We’ve made new friends, found new customers, partnered with other entrepreneurs and have grown our business by talking with everyone we could. From booth mates at craft shows to reach out to people on Instagram, it’s been such a cool part of this business to be able to help each other out. So, don’t be afraid to ask someone questions or start a conversation!

Please tell us about Lavender and Canvas.
All of our bags are designed and made right here at home in Los Angeles, using only US leathers, premium canvases and special textiles. We pride ourselves in making really high-quality products and practicing exceptional customer service. We won’t sell a bag if we can’t stand behind its quality 110% – that’s why we take extra steps like fusing our fabrics for extra strength and sun tanning our saddle leather to get the perfect shade.

Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
We’ve often felt that there sometimes seems to be an adversarial attitude or even a fear of working together between women in our industry. We’ve really tried to connect with and talk to as many fellow makers as possible since we’ve opened, and it has been one of the most rewarding parts of what we do. To build each other up together is the best part of knowing and working with fellow women entrepreneurs, sharing ideas and experiences to help each other do the best we can. We’ve built websites for other makers, received tips on which events to do, we’ve had help and have helped others set up our booth over and over again… it’s more fun, and quite frankly, you’ll be more successful, if you engage with other women in business and work side by side rather than against one another.

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Lavender and Canvas

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