In the bag: A solid partnership and an international brand
Lou Kendall and Heidi Bailey are a pair of entrepreneurs disproving the old adage that you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure.
Kendall and Bailey have known each other since age 11, launching the LouenHide business in 2006 after identifying a niche in the local market for quality bags and accessories at reasonable prices. Both had just moved to Queensland and were looking for a new direction in their careers after having children, so they reconnected after losing contact over the years and explored the entrepreneurial route. They haven’t looked back since.
After establishing a thriving wholesale and online business locally, strong demand allowed the pair take the LouenHide business internationally, and their designs are now exported to New Zealand, the U.S. Canada and South Africa. The LouenHide product collection now features more than 300 bags and accessories each season, and sales are rising steadily – growing 25 percent locally and 50 percent internationally for the 2011/12 year.
The driving force behind all this success is the strength of Kendall and Bailey’s partnership, which is built on the mantra that mistakes happen and problems can always be fixed.
In this Q&A, the entrepreneurs discuss the challenges of international business and the importance of recognising the strengths in a business partner.
Q. What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learnt since launching the business?
The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that it’s vital to constantly review your position – not just on a regular basis, but also from week to week.
This is because you always need to be in a position to react quickly and have a plan, to set targets and get your team on board.
Q. What piece of business advice has helped you get through the more difficult times?
Without a doubt that planning and forecasting is imperative!
Q. You’ve grown the business to begin exporting internationally – what’s been the most difficult aspect of expanding overseas?
The most difficult part of expanding our business overseas has definitely been the fact that the two hemispheres operate in different seasons. When we’re selling our summer range, the northern hemisphere is selling a winter collection, and so we have to work to accommodate both accordingly.
We’ve managed this by closely managing and guiding our distributors purchasing patterns, and as a result we’ve seen great benefits and the international aspect of our business has grown rapidly.
Q. The two of you have been friends since childhood – do you have any advice for how best to separate business from friendship?
We are extremely fortunate not to have to separate our business from our friendship. Thankfully we’re likeminded people when it comes to family, fashion, money and business. We both take the same risks and recognise the strengths in one another.
Most importantly, we don’t blame one another for mistakes and acknowledge that any problems can always be rectified.
Q. What’s next for LouenHide?
We intend to meet our vast growth expectations over the next three years and to continue to develop new and exciting ranges of handbags and accessories. For us, it’s about the overall evolution of the LouenHide brand.