Great ideas can hit you in the most unremarkable places. For most people, light bulb moments happen in the shower. For Lana Hopkins, a multimillion-dollar idea came to her in a Build-A-Bear workshop at Westfield Bondi Junction.
“I was shopping for the perfect handbag and feeling quite heartbroken because there was just nothing right,” she explains. Defeated, she left the shopping centre and stumbled into a Build-A-Bear workshop, spending an hour making her nephew the perfect teddy. Cue light bulb moment: Build-A-Handbag.
“I thought if I’m struggling to find a handbag, there must be other women with the same problem,” the former marketing director recalls. And so, Mon Purse was born, giving women (and men) the ability to design their own personally monogrammed handbag, with European leather and the rose gold or gunmetal hardware of their choosing.
Hopkins, now 33, launched the Mon Purse website in 2014 at her kitchen bench with an initial investment of $10,000-$20,000. “It was me, myself and I – and lots of hours of work,” she says of the early days.
By 2015, she and her nine staff were crammed into a two-room office above the Mon Purse store in Paddington with four desks, in the heat of summer, with a broken air-conditioner. And yet, they loved it. “We would celebrate every time someone walked into the store and said ‘Ooh, smell the leather’,” Hopkins says.
That’s not to say running a start up business is easy. “It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do,” admits Hopkins. “It’s sleepless nights, it’s never being in the same country for more than a week and it’s just completely exhausting.”
After two years of sleepless nights, Mon Purse was valued at over $30 million in 2017. The business has 80 staff worldwide with departments in Myer stores across Australia, Selfridges in London, Manchester and Birmingham, as well as new departments in Bloomingdales in New York and San Francisco (opposite Louis Vuitton - no less).
Last year, Sienna Miller personally requested a Mon Purse bag. So how often does Hopkins pinch herself? Quite often. “The thing that shocks me the most is that this little dream of mine has become a reality," says Hopkins, who recently stepped down as the CEO of Mon Purse to focus on another exciting, yet-to-be-revealed venture. This month, she's sharing her secrets for success at the marie claire x Tech Ready Women start-up masterclass on May 25 and 26 (get your tickets here).
Here Hopkins shares her million-dollar-making tips…
Breakfast of champions: I’m so bad at remembering to eat breakfast, but I’ve started drinking green juice.
Best advice: Talk less, listen more. I don’t always practice it, but I try.
Hardest lesson: Trust your gut instinct.
Top interview tip: Tell your life story instead of your career history. I want to meet the person sitting in front of me. The single most important thing when you’re hiring someone isn’t their experience (unless you’re hiring a neurosurgeon); it’s their attitude.
Coffee order: Soy Latte.
Wind down: I’m all about the massage – it’s the best way to unwind and not look at your phone for an hour.