Lillian Kafka on Refashioning the Fanny Pack

Lillian Kafka learned to sew from her mother and grandmother. After seeing a friend sporting a cool fanny pack, the Denver-based communications consultant decided to make one for herself. Friends then asked her to produce similarly frilly, form-flattering hip purses for them — and Bustle Packs was born. Kafka sells her wares online through Etsy, at craft shows in Colorado, and at a local store. She aims to expand her reach this year.

The GoPayment Blog recently asked Kafka for some insight into her marketing strategies, her business challenges, and more.

GoPayment: You get to see customers in person at craft shows. What’s your demographic?

Kafka: Female. But I have seen a wide variety of customers. I’ve sold a Bustle Pack to an 11-year-old girl, and I’ve sold one to — I don’t dare guess a woman’s age — but I suspect she was in her 50s or 60s. I sold one last night to a woman who’s taking her children to Disneyland. Mothers love it. I have a girlfriend who has a kid, and she wears hers when she’s pushing the stroller.

What was your biggest business challenge? How did you overcome it?

I’m not really a businessperson. I don’t have much training at all, so I’m learning about creating goals and not limiting myself as far as opportunities. I’m learning to think really big this year, especially. Creating your system and keeping organized, staying focused, is always a challenge.

How do you source materials for Bustle Packs?

A lot of it is new, washable cottons. I will go to thrift stores and secondhand shops. I’ll find cool curtains. I use curtains a lot because they’re heavy-duty. I’ve been really fortunate that I have an amazing stash of vintage threads. The thread is well-made, and it’s always fun to plug a wooden spool into your sewing machine.

How do you market the company?

bustle packIt’s really taken off on its own. I have a Facebook page, and I think if I started marketing more I would have a hard time keeping up with demand. People around town are starting to wear them. So, word of mouth. When I go to craft shows I hand out hundreds of business cards.

Tell us about using GoPayment.

So far, it’s worked great. It’s easy because people can just swipe it. Everybody uses cards nowadays. You just have to have it. I anticipate using it more at fashion and music shows. But I don’t even have to be at a show. I can say, “Meet me at a park, and if you want to use your credit card, you can.” People are surprised that I can just take a credit card.

What are your goals for 2012?

My plans this year are to get a lot more packs made and some assistance manufacturing them in the U.S. I have one other person who makes them, and I feel strongly about collaborating with people locally. I’ll be checking out sellers in Denver. My goal is to have these in some major stores by for the Christmas season.

About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in writing about business and personal finance. Her articles have appeared in or on The Boston Globe, Dance Retailer News, GetCurrency.com, Mint.com, PARADE Magazine, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and other places.
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