Five Minutes with the Founder | Sarah Haran, Founder, Sarah Haran Accessories

Over the next few weeks we will be spending five minutes with the founders of our 12 new Brands of Tomorrow, getting to know them and their businesses, and finding out the stories behind their brands. Today we meet Sarah Haran, founder of her eponymous brand, who shares her journey with us: why she decided to leave a highly successful career in IT to set out on her own, and all the challenges and opportunities that she’s faced since.

Tell us about Sarah Haran Accessories

At Sarah Haran Accessories, we design and produce a range of luxury handbags for modern women which perfectly balance beauty and function. In today’s hectic world, your handbag needs to do more than look good – it must meet the challenges you face every day keeping your day organised, managing activities, and transforming to suit your every occasion.

Tell us the story of how you built your brand

I built my brand from the ground up really. I had no formal training in design but in March 2017 left a successful career in IT to pursue my passion for designing and producing luxury handbags.

In January 2018 I launched my brand online using the experiences that I had gained during my IT career to build the foundations of my business. I made plenty of mistakes along the way but started to get some traction in 2020 and then Covid kicked in. When the first lockdown was announced I had just completed a podcast with Jenni Falconer and Anthea Turner had agreed to be a brand ambassador. I did not think that handbags would be a particularly attractive proposition during a lockdown situation but decided that I didn’t want to lose momentum either. So I spent my first week of lockdown trying to figure out what I needed cash-wise to keep the business going and then created a promotion that involved spreading joy to key workers. I targeted my existing customers to help and rewarded them for their support and loyalty with a complimentary bag based on their personal quarterly spend with us. This approach blossomed and has helped increase our revenues four fold on the previous year.

Why did you choose to set up your business in the luxury sector?

I think really this was a decision based on what I wanted to offer a potential customer base – high quality products, trust, excellent customer service, offers that were high end but also well priced and I wanted to build a community that would really resonate in the minds of my target customers. I also wanted to build relationships with the right type of partners. All these elements I thought would be hard to replicate in a volume lead business model and with my personal enjoyment and appreciation of luxury products it seemed like the authentic choice for me.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

I think my favourite thing about my job is the genuine excitement and satisfaction I get from the feedback that we receive from our customers who are enjoying our products. It’s what keeps me going through the tougher times of running my brand. I also enjoy the design process and the challenge of bringing our products to market.

What and is your source of inspiration and motivation?

When I started my brand I was inspired by my own situation to create a range of products that would assist me in my daily life as the Chief Operating Officer of a publically listed IT company. I was always inspired by function over form, but as my brand has grown it has been the feedback from my customers (to date over 1700 5-star reviews) that has really motivated me to keep designing our beautifully functional products. I take very seriously the feedback that we receive and use it in all that we do. We have managed to grow a very supportive and loyal customer base and that is something that I never take for granted.

If you could have any other job in the world what would it be?

I guess I consider myself fortunate in that I am in the job that I really want to be in. Having had 30 years in IT I am delighted that my previous career gave me the opportunity to strike out and start my own brand.

If you could do something differently in your career what would it be?

I sometimes think it would have been good to have started my brand in my twenties with some formal training in design and merchandising rather than the career path I took. That said, without the experience I gained and the financial freedoms that my previous role gave me, I doubt I would have been able to get my brand to where we are today. So on balance waiting ’til later on my career was the right thing to do.

Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years’ time?

Oh that is such a long time but what I see for myself and my brand is that we continue to inspire joy in women, and continue to creating an enthusiastic and ever-increasing network of followers. Over the 10 years I want my brand to be well be established within the UK and to have extended its reach to identified global markets – like the US and Germany. If I manage that, then I see myself having a slightly more relaxed lifestyle since I will be well on my way to some sort of retirement in 10 years lol!

What does success look like to you?

I want to be able to look back and say I enjoyed my adventure, that I succeeded with my goals and hope, that in some way I was able to touch my customers and bring them joy with my products. I want to be able to say “I did it, my handbags bought joy and made a small difference to someone’s life”! For me that would be a success.

What advice do you have for any young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?

Every day is a school day! I know it sounds a bit old hat but it really is true. Even now, after 30 years in business I still find I learn something new every day. It’s incredibly important to be open and willing to learn and to keep looking upwards and outwards. It’s so easy to get stuck in your day to day and not learn from what is going on around you.

What is your greatest luxury under £10?

I absolutely love praline chocolates! What a terrible confession!