This week we’re celebrating our one year anniversary of working together. Together we came up with eleven highlights from the past year. Oh, how we’ve grown as the little leather bag company that could do what it set out to do!
1. Website Redesign: Kicking it off with a brand new look.
Meg and I had always tossed around the idea of working together. After all, we had already done practically everything else together — including being in each other’s weddings and having our first born daughters within 4 hours of each other. Meg was my biggest supporter from the beginning and we were completely excited to have the opportunity to build something together.
In the fall of 2016, Meg and I combined our talents to build a community around this brand. We believed it was no coincidence that the initials of Urban Southern spelled US. We felt excited that women from every walk of life connected with this brand.
We knew this brand would be much bigger than the two of us and we decided that true, honest friendship resided at the core of its values. We dreamt of how this brand could live on to empower the lives of women everywhere.
We refined our approach after getting feedback from our audience and launched a new website in October of 2016.
Website designed by Meg and built by our friends at DigiSavvy.
Photography by Paige Logan.
Simplifying our product line
My younger sister Ruby, had begun to apprentice under my husband Jay in his leather shop. Having sewn her own dresses as a young girl in our anabaptist setting, she was already a skilled seamstress. She picked up on leather craftsmanship quickly and today she and our production assistant Brittany sew all of our leather bags.
We discontinued all of our miscellaneous leather goods, keeping only Urban Southern’s bag line. We wanted to focus on what women were really responding to — what they were excited about.
From all the feedback we had received, we knew that our audience was completely in love with our handbags. They loved the raw honesty of the leather and the timeless simplicity of the designs. They cheered US on through all our early beginnings, and celebrated with US as we grew and added new designs.
Most Popular Products
2. Launching the Mini Market Tote
I had an idea. My favorite, oversized leather Market Tote would be amazing in miniature. I love mini everything—especially my very own mini-me! My little daughter always wants to dress like me, use my lip gloss, and even asks me to brush foundation on her face or to use my deodorant. What would her reaction be to a bag made like mine but sized just for her?
One evening I took my ideas over to our leather shop. My husband and I adjusted the design for a mini market tote.
Once we stitched it up, I gave it to my daughter. The minute my daughter saw it, she got hearts in her eyes. She reached for it and carried it around all evening. It fit perfectly on her shoulder and the carrying handles were soft and comfortable for her little hands.
I knew we had to make a matching mini market tote for my cousin Meg’s daughter, Emma.
A few weeks later when Meg and Emma came for a weekend, my daughter and I met them at the airport in Nashville. When we got to our hotel, I handed Emma her tote and got to see the heart eyes again as she reached for her new leather bag that was just her size.
We filmed our girls with their Mini Market Totes and created our very first sales campaign with our iPhone footage!
The Mini Market Tote has become one of our most popular bags for all ages!
3. #NYFW17: You’ve been invited to New York Fashion Week!
On December 18, 2016, we were contacted through our Instagram profile and invited to be part of Art Hearts Fashion Week at New York Fashion Week.
We signed up to accessorize two runway shows and the platform found two designers for us to work with during fashion week.
There were many highlights from that whirlwind of a week, but two of them were very special. My special Christmas gift from my husband Jay, the original Urban Southern Tote, was carried down the catwalk. Then Meg was given the amazing opportunity to walk the catwalk as a model in the second showcase we accessorized.
New York Fashion Week became a community effort as the folks who love us rallied around us. We were blown away by the incredible amount of support. We were given 40 VIP tickets to give our guests for the two runway shows we accessorized with our leather bags. These incredible women and men came from all over the United States to attend the shows and support Urban Southern, along with other Fashion Week guests.
Jen Eby from Eby Farms LLC provided handmade facial bars, lip balm and whipped body butter for each one of our guests. Creative stylists and fashionistas, Josh and Megan Morken from The Year My Husband Dressed Me, as well as Andrea Avila from The Chicest Chicks, Mary June Miller, and Shay Aguilar provided their expert styling services and fashion advice.
4. Spring Collection: Geometrically inspired design.
From our first conversations about designing a new collection for NYFW, we were inspired by shapes. Meg suggested a full circle bag, and I was inspired to create a whole collection of geometric shapes, triangles, circles, and squares. Ruby and I spent days in the leather shop, creating and finalizing prototypes in time for the runway shows. We made the items available on our website the day after they were shown on the runway in New York City.
Spring Collection \\ Top Three Products
5. Launching the Regina Tote
Almost three years ago, my husband Jay, a third generation leather craftsman, found a unique brand marking in a piece of leather where the letters J and R had been burned into the hide.
Jay took the leather piece he found and incorporated it into a leather tote that he made as a special Christmas gift for me.
We planned to launch this bag and add it to our online shop before Mother’s Day, but it still needed a name! We held a naming contest to collect name ideas and received hundreds of entries. Multiple ladies suggested naming it “The Regina Tote” so that’s what it became!
Photography: Nancy Center Photography
Makeup: Jenna Brainbow
6. The Black Collection: We’ve got a new crush!
We began this journey with warm, beautiful brown leather and it’ll always be our first love. We love how it’s friendly and southern and simply fits everyday life.
But now we have a new crush. It’s hott. It’s bold. It’s black. It’s “THE BLACK COLLECTION“.
Our goal has always been to make classic, quality pieces that won’t go out of style and will last a lifetime. So creating our designs in black leather next was a natural next step. We worked on this collection from April to August — trying different black leathers, testing the designs in black, etc.
To us, Urban + Southern is the juxtaposition of hard and soft, of fast and slow, of minimal and comfortable, of urban city streets filled with friendly smiles. We envisioned THE BLACK COLLECTION bringing our brand full circle by adding an edgy, urban feel to our product line.
The Black Collection \\ Top Three Products
7. Made South Artisan Markets
Every year since 2015, we’ve taken part in Made South’s southern artisan events. As Made South has expanded its reach and grown across the southern U.S., we’ve gone with them.
Meg and I had so much fun at our first Made South event at The Factory in Franklin. I introduced her to the delectable delights of donuts from Five Daughter’s Bakery.
This year, Urban Southern is part of all five of Made South’s events! If there’s one happening near you, be sure to come out and see us. We’d love to see you!
8. Top 3 Blog Posts: Come on in and make yourself at home!
We want our website to feel like more than just a product website. Our vision has always been to create the type of atmosphere within our brand that might feel like you’re grabbing coffee with your best friend — a place where we can chat about a wide array of lifestyle topics. Here we should all feel free to be ourselves and share our stories. We feel grateful that you’ve not only read our stories but also shared yours with us!
Without further ado, here are our top three blog posts from the past year!
From Amish to New York Fashion Week || 9,062 Views, 980 shares
How I Went from Amish to Finding My Fashion Joy by El Stoltzfus || 8,380 Views, 621 Shares
Your Day Trip Guide to the Charming Community of Muddy Pond, Tennessee || 3,735 Views 3032 Shares
9. Behind the Scenes: Friday Stories on Instagram Stories
Every Friday we look forward to what we simply call, Friday Stories. Here we upload behind the scenes glimpses into our lives, from childhood stories to what we both do at Urban Southern.
We suppose we could turn all of these clips into a book someday, who knows?
10. Facebook Live: What’s in my Bag?
In June, we started taking turns to go Live on our Facebook page each week. This is another way for you to get to know US, but we always want them to be valuable for YOU. We’ve shared everything from personal style tips to recipes, a painting tutorial, and travel tips. They’ve been a big hit!
Our most viewed video has been from when my sister Ruby sewed a bag from start to finish in the leather shop.
Join us every Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. Central Time to catch us on a live stream. Sometimes we do a live giveaway. Make sure the “live” notifications are turned on for our page so you don’t miss anything!
11. #WinWednesday Emails: Nurturing our audience!
As we’ve grown this year, we have continued to focus on how we can bring value to this community versus. Meg had a brain child to start what she called “The #WinWednesday Club.”
It has nothing to do with a sales pitch or a website update. This email is just about two women who’ve come together to say that they want to claim an overlooked day in the middle of the week as their #WinWednesday. Each week we share something that encourages us or a lesson that we’ve learned.
Since April, we’ve written a total of twenty-three #WinWednesday emails to a group that has now grown to over a thousand subscribers! We love the responses that we get each week.
“This is why I love this company — these women are here to be real with you and friends with you. They are quality people you want around, and they stand ready to cheer you on. This [email] was written by Meg, and although she writes for all of us, it always feels like she’s written it just for me.” —Nancy Center