In a nutshell, tell me about Sarah Haran Accessories.Sarah Haran is all about producing high-quality, functional handbags that are also stylish. Designed for modern women, our handbags offer a timeless piece of luxury with a lifetime guarantee. They are made in Britain and Spain by highly skilled craftsmen using top-quality materials. Each one includes our 2-in-1 handbag concept, with removable clutches and clever add-ons that mean you can easily change the look of your handbag - perfect for day to night transitions.
Coming from an IT background, what first drew you into the world of fashion and accessories?I started making handbags purely as a hobby. My role as COO of a publicly listed IT company was extremely demanding and I needed a hobby to help me switch off from my day-to-day responsibilities. My hobby became my springboard into the world of fashion and accessories as I became more involved in the design and production of the handbags. At first, I made all of them myself! My day job was the inspiration for my hero handbag, the Dahlia, as I needed the perfect bag to take me from day to night and keep me organised. In 2017, I decided I wanted to work full time on my emerging handbag brand and resigned from my IT role.
What have you found to be the most demanding aspect of your work?
Initially, it was all about adapting to a completely new industry, and one that I had no network in so I had to work really hard to build up my contacts. Nowadays, I think the most demanding aspect is running the sales and marketing side of the business. The lifeblood of all business is sales and marketing - you can have the most amazing products or services, but if no one knows, then you will never make any money. Of course, I also have to make sure I have enough time to do the bit I love - designing new handbags.
Sarah wears our Lewis dress in Navy & Yellow, £198 (right)
Talk us through your typical working day.
One thing about running your own business is the variety of each day! A typical day starts early with a visit to the gym. After that I check for any orders and then start planning what I need to do. I will then catch up with the marketing team and also make sure that things are OK in the production department. Then I go through my to do list and tick as many off as I can. At least once a week I also make sure that I attend to admin, such as invoicing and paying bills. Keeping on top of this side of things hopefully means that I won’t get any nasty surprises. Then it’s all about sales activity and marketing and trying to come up with new ideas to get the brand more recognition. I remind myself constantly that I am not going to sell any handbags by sitting in my office!
Can you tell me about any exciting projects in the pipeline?
I have been working on expanding my range with at least three new handbags on the drawing board. I have also been working on a number of collaborations with like-minded brands. I think customers love to see our products alongside other complementary brands. Finally, I am working on various projects to get my handbags into outlets where people can touch and feel them – this is the one downside of the internet!
What are your career highs and lows?
I think a definite high was joining the board when our IT company went public in 2000. A low was when the dotcom bubble burst and we had to make 200 people redundant as our share price tanked along with all other tech stocks. The most recent high has been gaining the confidence to give up my IT job and go it alone in the completely unknown world of my accessories brand.
Sarah wears our Bayswater dress in Sunflower Jacquard, £138 (left)
What piece of career advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Firstly, always have a can-do attitude – it really will bring opportunities. Secondly, look up and out – every day is a school day and you are never done learning. And finally, be easy to do business with.
Who have you looked to for professional guidance?
Thirty years into my career, I am still constantly amazed that people are very willing to help if you just ask. I have also looked towards mentors and advisers who have direct experience in their field of expertise and more recently the number of useful networking groups has really grown. Going along to the right groups can be really helpful.
What is your go-to workwear style?
When I am in the office I tend to be a bit more dressed down, preferring jeans or smart trousers, but when we do corporate style events or I am visiting customers, I wear suits or dresses. Dresses are so easy, particularly when travelling and that’s why I love Libby’s designs. The quality is excellent and the outfits keep their look all day, which is really important.
What is your favourite Libby outfit at the moment?
I’m in love with the Lewis dress in Navy & Yellow. It’s been much admired when I have been out and about in it. I’m also loving the Westminster jacket in Ivory. Such a great jacket for both work and play actually.
What’s been your worst office fashion faux pas?
To be honest I haven’t really had one. In the corporate world it was pretty easy as there was a dress code that really kept you on the right track. Suits and dresses mainly, nothing too short but still stylish. By sticking to that I managed to avoid any mishaps.
What keeps you busy when you’re not in the office?
When I am not in the office I spend time with family, go out with friends and watch films. I also go into the studio and start a new project, which I find very relaxing and just playing with the different leathers and other materials is a great way of inspiring new handbags.
Lastly, have you mastered the art of a good work-life balance?
Well I think I may have fallen off the wagon! Having discovered handbags as a hobby, I find myself completely absorbed by them. My husband and children do remind me I have to relax, but as it is my passion, it really doesn’t feel like work.
Sarah wears our Lewis dress in Navy & Yellow, £198 (left)
You can discover more about Sarah's brand and shop her designs now at https://www.sarahharan.com/
Interview: Lilli Brant
Photographer: Mafalda Silva
Accessories: Sarah Haran Accessories
Location: Battersea, London, near Libby's design studio