Small Business Spotlight: Cruelty-Free Handbags at Banda Bags

First Republic Bank
May 2, 2016

Founded by Brianna Jane, Banda Bags is an emerging brand built upon progression and the principles of slow-movement fashion. Our stunning, one-of-a-kind collection of bags come from a remote area of Indonesia and is handcrafted by tsunami survivors and civil war victims. Every product is 100% cruelty-free, appealing to vegan and conscious consumers. We sat down with Brianna to discuss why she founded the company, the best business advice she’s received and why Small Business Week is important for businesses like hers.

“We are so fortunate that we have such user-friendly ecommerce platforms to launch small businesses.”

What was the inspiration behind starting Banda Bags?

The people I work with! They are the inspiration of Banda Bags. Besides their sheer talent, they are the most resilient and kind-hearted individuals. Some have been through the worst civil war in Indonesia to the worst tsunami in history, yet somehow still have this great spirit intact, always smiling... In fact, one of the things that make my day is their excitement when they see people from around the world carrying a piece of their art. They have so much pride in their culture and it reflects in their traditional designs. It's really a pleasure working with them and creating these amazing bags with their story behind them. I'm so grateful.

What differentiates your business from other fashion companies?

I believe it's the connection we have with our artisans and customers. Admittedly, I don't even consider Banda Bags a fashion company. I'd like to think that Banda Bags is more of a fashionable cause. We are cruelty-free, ethical and we're committed to raising awareness about conscious consumption, educating our audience about slow fashion and artisanal made items. Fortunately, with such beautiful products, we've gotten people's attention and are building this wonderful community. It’s been really incredible. 

When people think about small businesses, they usually think brick and mortar stores. How can the rise of ecommerce help create more small business owners?

Oh my goodness... if I didn't have ecommerce I wouldn't have a job! Without an investor or a huge sum of money, who can afford to open a brick and mortar store? Nowadays, we are so fortunate that we have such user-friendly ecommerce platforms to launch small businesses. If you have an idea or a product, it doesn't take as much time or money to get it off the ground. So without that investment, we're seeing more people follow their own paths and dreams. 

Have you seen the impact Banda Bags has on the Indonesian communities where you produce? How would you describe it?

Yes. For starters, my artisans are living a lot cozier these days by making a steady income. It's evident in the upgrades of their homes and living situations. But more importantly, I'm seeing more moms send their kids to school and more food on the table — literally. One of my employees is now saving up to send his daughter to a private school, something he thought would never be attainable. These kinds of things make my day!

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” Thank you Paulo Coehlo! 

To you, what is the importance of Small Business Week?

Promoting small businesses is more important than ever. We're increasingly hearing horror stories of corporate greed, their unsustainable practices, how they treat their workers — we can't continue supporting this. By having Small Business Week, we can help raise awareness about these issues while also promoting the advantages of supporting small businesses. 

How has a mentor played a role in your journey?

If it weren't for my mentor, I would be a starving romantic entrepreneur! It's easy for me to get lost in dreams and fantasies. But a mentor will teach you how to stay grounded. My mentor is one of my best friends and also my recent business partner. His name is Luis and he has taught me so much about business. His discipline and patience is what I lack and he has been teaching me how to further examine situations, people, places and things. If it weren't for him Banda Bags would have sunk ship now.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.

© First Republic Bank 2016