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How We Created a High-Quality Yet Affordable Product Line

Kelly Carroll Burgin is the founder of K. Carroll Accessories. It was initially launched as Boutique To U Handbags (BTU) in 2002. It all started when Kelly was downsized from her corporate job. She used that opportunity to do something she had a passion for and to have a more balance personal life.

BTU started as just that - a traveling boutique focused on trunkshow fundraisers, bringing "the boutique to you." But the company has evolved into so much more. With an expanded product line, an e-commerce site and a wholesale business that spans all 50 states, we changed our name in 2016 to better reflect our growing business.

Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual moment to start K. Carroll Accessories?

I started the business with a partner. We were being downsized from a corporate job, and had always wanted to start our own business. After many ideas, over several months, we determined our business idea. It was not something that was determined one evening, or an aha moment. We were both mothers, and had seen something similar being done in other demographics, but not in our area. We had no experience making bracelets but did due diligence to learn the process and where to purchase supplies.

Have you raised any money? How much?

Our start up costs were relatively low, not needing to borrow funds or raise money to begin. We began our business with each partner contributing $5,000.

Who is your target demographic?

We were planning to make mother’s bracelets, targeting mother’s between the ages or 25-50 years of age. To our surprise, pet owners ended up being our best customers!

How did you fund the idea initially?

As with all small businesses, we constantly felt we needed to recreate the wheel and tweek the business to be what our customers wanted.

We started making personalized bracelets, then to retail fundraising with hospitals and are now manufacturing handbags for boutiques and gift shops across the US and Canada.

Any tips for finding first employees?

We worked for 3 years without employees. As we grew, we realized to grow, we needed to expand our workforce.

K.Carroll Team

We brought in additional help to sell our handbags. We had great success with local papers, running very inexpensive ads to attract part time employees. That was almost 20 years ago. At this point, when we need additional help, we’ve found online sites such as Linked In and Indeed to be very helpful.

Did you run any companies prior?

I have worked several different positions over my career, including retail management and recruiting. There was a period of time, I partnered with my sister to start a photography business. Our goal was part time income and the business was dissolved within 5 years, due to lack of interest in moving forward from either partner.

What motivated you to start your own business?

I had been let go from my corporate job and had 3 small children at home. I was only working part time and was looking for something to grow over time, as our children grew. My spouse had a secure full time job, offering our family benefits. The timing personally to take the risk and start to grow a business was a perfect fit. I had the support of family and friends.

What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?

Things go right and things go wrong. I believe you need to keep moving forward. When you make mistakes, learn from them. In business, we all want to succeed and grow. If I can create an environment where my employees are happy coming to work, my customers like the products and the business is profitable, I have achieved my goals.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

Finding what is important to you is most important. What I’ve wanted from the business has changed. When my children were small, it was to make an income, show continued growth, work part time and be there before they got on and off the bus. Fast forward 18 years, my children are older and my goals are still to make money and grow, but at a much different rate. I now have employees to keep employed, and fixed expenses to manage.

How do you protect yourself from competition? Do you have any trademarks?

We have one trademark on our popular handbag the “Harper” crossbody. We thought this would help protect us from imitators selling on Amazon, but unfortunately, we have not had much success keeping them from manufacturing and using our photographs.

K.Carroll Oprah

The reason we needed to do this was because the Harper Crossbody was selected as “Oprah’s Favorite Things” in 2018 and it was amazing to watch all the imitators come out of the woodwork to try to capitalize on our success.

What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without? Why are they essential?

We use Quickbooks POS and Quickbook financials. Our inventory, customers and sales are tracked in these programs. Shopify has been a great website host. The backend is very easy to manipulate. Sales reports and inventory control are very easy to use.

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

We are constantly recreating the wheel. It is our goal to continue to grow the business in social media, retail storefronts and ultimately in sales. I believe online avenues will be our biggest growth in the next 5 years.

K.Carroll Collection

Online wholesale sites, utilizing advertising on Facebook and partnering with influencers are our projects for the next 12 months. We hope to grow our events with different partners, including TV stations, other small businesses and chain stores.

Would you ever sell?

Selling the business in the next 10 years could be a real possibility. We are growing the brand, and have a loyal following. As I get closer to a retirement age, selling could be a possibility.

Company Name: K. Carroll Accessories
Founder: Kelly Carroll Burgin



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