I have a fantastic position in life at the moment where I have the ability to do two different jobs that are diametrically opposite each other. I work three days a week as a lawyer in a top tier firm. The rest of the time I run a handbag label targeted at working women.
“She Lion is about beautiful business tools – functional and luxurious handbags with distinctive interiors for technology, chargers and paperwork – purposefully crafted to organise the diversified life of today’s modern working woman.”
The journey to what I wanted to do
Getting here has been a journey – a good journey. I worked as a billable lawyer for 6 years before I decided to make a change. I had always worked in busy practice groups and I think I got to the point, after a series of experiences, that made me form the view that I needed to recalibrate and really think about what I wanted to do.
I had always had creative interests and for a long time wanted to pursue fashion law in New York. Having sat and passed the bar exam largely by correspondence, my husband and I went over to New York to explore job opportunities. The GFC made this process difficult so we returned home.
My life as a lawyer actually started in a financial services team! The partner who headed up the team was incredibly supportive of me and understood that I was keen to move into the IP space (the closest thing to fashion law in Australia). He enabled me to have flexibility to start my masters in Commercial Law (specialising in IP) and was instrumental in helping me move to a larger law firm with a renowned IP practice.
Working in the IP space was fabulous, but it also made me realise deep down, even though I probably didn’t actually accept it for a while, that I also wanted to explore the business and design side of fashion, beyond giving legal advice in relation to it.
Recalibration and epiphany
I think it was at this point that I decided I needed to come up with an idea that would enable me to explore these aspects further and which, I hoped, I could turn into a profitable endeavour.
I had always struggled to find a handbag that suited my needs. Like many professional women, I carry my office around with me, together with heels and lunch. Upon realising that I had in fact been searching for such a bag for years, I decided to ask my friends and colleagues whether they too had faced the same problem …and She Lion was born.
While the market is not short of a beautiful handbag, there are amazingly few available purposefully designed to carry your office essentials, as well as all of the other items we regularly carry in our handbags. With this in mind, and an insiders view about what today’s working woman requires from a handbag, I set about to fill the niche!
The science behind making a handbag
While I’ve always loved to draw, I didn’t have any prior background in handbag design or construction – so I knew I needed some training. I did some investigations, spoke to many different people and decided to take some night and weekend classes in auto-cad and leather pattern and bag design and construction at RMIT. I ended up taking the auto-cad for fashion (Illustrator) short course three times and the Photoshop class twice. I then completed all three levels of the leather bag making classes, which provided me with invaluable insight both about leather itself, the pattern and design process and the different sewing and bag making techniques.
I also found the Illustrator and Photoshop courses particularly useful because they were filled with industry people with whom I networked and could sound board my knowledge (or lack thereof!) about logistics, sourcing, trade fairs and other things they kindly told me I should be aware of (and had not yet considered)! A whole new world! I now have a spectacular coach and industry veteran with whom I regularly sound board, and now feel less green!
The biggest surprise ever
The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that if you ask, people are willing to help. It is really amazing, the power of just approaching someone and being a bit vulnerable and saying “I don’t know and I’d be so appreciative if you are willing to share”. The vast majority of people are willing to go out of their way to help you – it’s really phenomenal. That has definitely been the biggest surprise and I’m incredibly grateful for all of the encouragement, insight and knowledge I’ve been fortunate enough to receive along the way.
I am the creative director and the founder of She Lion bags, which officially launched in July 2015. I get so much joy from this role. I truly believe women should be equipped for whatever challenges they face and I hope that She Lion bags assist them to face those challenges fearlessly.
In my other role, I am a professional support lawyer at a top tier firm – a role I equally love. A PSL role is very people focused and perfect for me as an extrovert. As a lawyer for lawyers, I handle technical legal queries, assist coordinating and piloting firm technology projects, develop consistent quality assured content for internal and external use, facilitate firm current awareness and generally assist with information management and professional learning development.
While these two roles are very different, they do indeed work well together. I thoroughly enjoy the intellectual stimulation and people aspect of my legal role and the creative outlet that my business enables me to pursue. I am also very lucky that the people I work with three days a week fall within my target market, so I have real time exposure to customer feedback and the ways in which products must adapt to meet the needs of today’s modern working woman.
My network is so important
Continuously building my professional network has always been important, both in the legal sphere and in these new spheres relating to fashion and sourcing. I am incredibly fortunate that many of these networks appear to touch one another. Many women in my target market do not have the time to shop so its fabulous to have the ability to be front and centre and offer them an easily accessible, functional and classy solution.
Giving it a red-hot go
I’ve always been interested in motivating people and very determined myself. When I set my mind to something I am generally very persistent about making it happen – given this, it was a natural thing to give the business a red-hot go. I don’t know that I ever thought this is what I would do, but it definitely seemed very natural (albeit scary) when it happened.
As already mentioned, I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue my creative side, as well as continuing to work flexibly as a lawyer in a top tier firm. My plan is to enlarge the She Lion support team to ensure that I can maintain this wonderful balance – working as a PSL and a handbag business owner.