The story of Kiwi Bagineers and the crazy lady who runs it.
Katey interviews herself.
The other day I was facing a few challenges, I had a pile of orders to pack, a couple of parcels had gone missing, shipping prices had increased again, I was late for a deadline and that on top of all the personal day to day stuff that always gets in the way.
I asked myself: “Why am I doing this?”
I thought, “Well, it’s kind of fun”. So, then I started asking myself questions and I thought perhaps I should share this, and let other people experience the joys and challenges of running Kiwi Bagineers.
Why did you start Kiwi Bagineers?
I got fed up with not being able to find the quality supplies that I wanted in NZ.
At the beginning of 2021 I was sewing a bag and couldn't find the lock I needed or the rivets or zipper or anything really.
I had bought some stuff on Etsy and from AliExpress and it was quite basic. It didn't have the style or the quality I was looking for. The shipping from Etsy was crazy and the AliExpress stuff took forever to arrive.
Why put all that time and effort into making a bag only to finish it with inferior hardware? The idea began to grow in my mind. Why don't I start importing? That way Kiwi sewists can easily purchase the supplies they need locally in New Zealand.
And so Kiwi Bagineers was born. Quality products for bag makers obsessed with the details.
Why do you still do this?
It's fun - most of the time. I love that I make people’s lives easier by supplying the product here in New Zealand.
I particularly love interacting with people, helping them solve sewing conundrums and coming up with a solution. Plus running a business is an ongoing creative challenge that keeps my mind active.
What are the Highlights of running Kiwi Bagineers?
It feels amazing when someone replies to an email or just lets me know how much they appreciate the products or service. It makes it all worthwhile.
I also get great joy out of seeing how people grow on their bag making journey from absolute beginners tentatively posting a picture of their first bag to creating something beautiful and quite complicated and often going on to start their own business selling bags.
Did I mention that I love, love, love seeing the bags people make, whether they email me a picture or post it in the Facebook group?
What are the challenges of running a store?
Apart from the obvious ones of getting stock in and orders out on time, the major challenge is pricing. And keeping everything at a good price. The ever-increasing cost of shipping makes it hard. It has gone from 20% of the cost of a product to 40% on average. I have stopped bringing in the faux leather because they wanted to increase the MOQ and the increased shipping tripled the price of the fabric.
I get a better price by manufacturing my own hardware items, but that also entails a big cash commitment which is why I really couldn’t do this without the loyalty and support of my customers. They’re amazing and I appreciate them so much!
Other challenges are parcels delayed or MIA. When I had the Whisky Shop we tried just about every courier and postal service there is. They were all the same. You are reliant on the particular person on the ground unfortunately.
What do you personally enjoy about bag making?
I love the challenge of learning new skills; how different bags are constructed and how they come together.
I really enjoy mixing textures, patterns and colours to create something beautiful.
To give it direction I always have someone I know in mind and make it how I think they would like it. I do that even if I am just sewing up a sample project. Often that someone is me. 😊
Have you always been involved in this industry?
No. My background is as a make-up artist and hairdresser in TV and film. That was my whole career in the UK, and I continued to do it for several years here.
I got to do some cool stuff, like weightless flights in Russia and of course met lots of famous people.
My partner imported single malt whisky and in 2007 we opened The Whisky Shop in The Elliot Stables in Auckland. That was quite a big commitment, with lots of events and shows and learning all about e-commerce etc. which was still in its infancy then.
A few years after we moved to Taupo, we sold the business. I worked as a team leader for Thermomix for a while because I love cooking, but now I enjoy being a Bag Lady :).
What does your husband think about you doing this?
Oh, he’s just as crazy as I am. He’s building a full-scale replica of a WWII Spitfire in our shed. He started during Covid in our living room. So, he can’t really complain 😊. If you’re into Spitfires you can follow the build here. It's come on a long way since this phot was taken,
So, what's next?
I’m very passionate about bag making and the business. With Kiwi Bagineers, I hope to start wholesaling my own brand products soon, both to home makers who sew to sell and also to retailers. There will be minimum quantities to purchase to buy at wholesale, but I'm hoping it will enable and encourage some of our talented sewists to make unique bags with beautiful high-quality hardware at a reduced cost.
For me personally, right now I am working on designing a couple of bag patterns as I have always loved designing and making patterns for my own clothes etc.
It will be a while before they are ready as I have a few software skills to learn and need to work through the process of how to develop a pattern and get it tested and launch ready. But I’m very excited and am really looking forward to doing this.
The ethos behind my sewing pattern designs goes back to one of the reasons I started Kiwi Bagineers, to make people's lives easier. So, I hope to create patterns that may look complicated, but have quite simple construction techniques.
I love a challenge 😊