How I started a bespoke bag brand by collaborating with emerging and established artists

Consequences of change brand profile image
Beverley Johnson founder of Consequences of Change
Beverley Johnson
Founded: August 2019
No of employees: 1
Location: Australia

Consequence of Change is a fairly new company, having been founded by Beverley Johnson in 2019. It uses unique pieces of art to design limited edition bags in collaboration with some of the world’s best artists. No bag is repeated, making each one completely bespoke. Her aim when starting the company was to prove that art can become moving canvases to be admired – not left in galleries or on the screen. 

And giving back is also very important, with the brand supporting the upward social mobilisation of marginalised communities wherever and whenever it can. One initiative is the Sewing The Seeds project which is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty for women in india. By purchasing a Consequences Of Change item, customers are actively participating in the rising fortune of others. To find out more about Consequence of Change, we chat to founder Beverley about her journey so far.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

Hi there, my name is Beverley Johnson and in 2019 I founded Consequence of Change. We design limited edition bags in collaboration with various artists across the globe.

I have worked in lifestyle marketing for many years and really wanted to take all the knowledge I had gained and turn it into my own business. Located in Melbourne Australia, Consequence of Change is a brand that embraces change by using unique pieces of art to change the look and feel of each bag. 

Each bag features a unique piece of art and has a limited run that is never repeated. Our vision is to create a global handbag and lifestyle brand that brings people together through their love of art, while supporting artists globally. Our target market is mostly women who are looking for something different and who connect with our brand’s purpose of supporting artists. They are also looking for ethically-sourced product and might not like leather.  One of the proudest moments, apart from actually starting the business, was selling out of two of our belt bag styles.

How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for Consequences of Change?

Change in life is an inevitability and it can be either a positive or negative experience. I had just survived three of the most challenging years of my life, losing my parents and best friend, and I thought that I could either lie in the foetal position for months or go out and do something that would make them proud. So that is the inspiration behind the name.  

The other inspiration behind the brand is my son, who is a designer and illustrator, and would always look at this amazing work and wonder how I could promote it and get it out into the market.

I am at my happiest when I am surrounded by art and I wanted to see how I could bring that happiness and joy to other people. This is where the idea of collaborating with emerging and established Australian artists was born.  

It was important to prove that art can be taken out of the galleries, off the screen and showcased on people’s arms as moving canvases to be admired on the street. It was also important for the brand to differentiate itself from sites like RedBubble and Society 6.  

Giving back is so important to us which is why wherever and whenever we can, we support the upward social mobilisation of marginalised communities. For example, we support the Sewing The Seeds project which is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty for women in india.

Describe the process of launching Consequences of Change?

Having a background in retail was a definite help as I understood how to take an idea to market. Finding a manufacturer was challenging as I knew I wanted to try and work with someone locally. After lots of Googling, I found a company based in Melbourne who produced out of Sri Lanka. They were amazing to work with and got my sampling just right.  Their quality was also great.  

There are so many hurdles to get over as a start-up and one of the biggest is how to fund. In my case, I used my savings. But whichever way you fund your idea, there will always be a degree of risk.  And whatever you think your start-up costs are going to be, my advice is to triple them if you are a product-based brand. 

One of the areas I invested in heavily at the beginning was branding, making sure my brand imagery was exactly how I had envisaged it. This really helped me with getting artists on board – when they visited my website, it looked like a brand that had been around for a long time and they could really understand the brand story.  

In the beginning, I used Facebook ads to promote and also grew traffic organically through my social profiles. One of the most memorable moments was the day I launched – I received a text from a friend telling me they had just bought one of my bags. Support from family and friends is so important as an entrepreneur.

Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

Recently, it has definitely been about pivoting due to COVID-19. I have decided to use my bags as gift bags and sell them with pamper products so that my customers can send them to people they can’t see, whether for special occasions, birthdays, or just to cheer themselves up. 

I’m also always making sure that I am connecting continually with new artists and discussing different ways of working. I think that showing up personally – whether that is through video or images – is extremely important. It has never been more critical to make an emotional connection with your customers.

How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?

There is definitely a desire to expand into other categories and not just offer bags. We have just launched our new apparel range of sweats and hoodies, collaborating with artists on the hero graphics.

I am also moving to a wholesale model so I don’t have to rely on my online store. I am really excited about being a part of Life Instyle and getting feedback from retailers on the range I will be showing. I hope to establish some long-term relationships where I can create limited editions for certain retailers who want to come on the journey. It is far too early for me to talk about an exit strategy but the idea is definitely there. My aim is to sell the business within the next 5 – 10 years.

What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?

As a product-based business, my biggest lesson is around the budget for my open to buy and probably investing too heavily in stock for launch. If I had my time again, I would definitely have launched with a much smaller range for testing and learning before investing too much money in stock that ends up sitting in a warehouse for a long time.

What are your top 3 tips on how to setup an Ecom store for success?

1) I think it is really important to have a business plan before you start. This should include any research you have done, a SWOT analysis, competitive analysis, ideal customer, and start-up costs.

2) If you are going to launch a product-based business, make sure you understand your financials.  It is critical that you understand your margins – how much it is going to cost you to manufacture, how much you can sell it for, and what the margin looks like.  A strong retail margin is around 65%. However, if you are going wholesale then you need to work on a 2 x 2 strategy. This is our cost x 2 for wholesale price x 2 for retail price, otherwise you cannot run a profitable business.

3) Know your brand story and stick to it. Write an elevator pitch: if you were stuck in the lift with someone, how would you describe your business in the shortest possible time frame?

What are some of your favorite online business tools you use to run Consequences of Change?

I absolutely love Shopify as an e-commerce platform. It is very easy to use and means you don’t have to invest in web developers in the start-up phase. I also love Klaviyo for emails for the ease of setting up email flows without having to constantly think about reaching out to audiences. The other platform I love is Planoly for planning out my Instagram grid and posts. It’s also great as it links to your Facebook Page so you don’t have to think of two posts.

TypeTool Name
Project ManagementAsana
Email MarketingKlaviyo
AnalyticsGoogle Analytics
AccountingXero, Hubdoc
PaymentsPaypal, Shopify, Square
Social Media ToolsPlanoly

See what ecommerce tools other founders are using.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts or other educational resources?

Oh, there is a lot!

I love anything Seth Godin has written and have also invested heavily in lots of courses with ‘The Product Boss’. It is run by two sassy American women who have built multi-million brands. They share their knowledge with incredible online training and an online community through their Facebook groups.  

I also love Gary Vaynerchuk – he is just so inspiring and when I need a lift and some motivation, I always listen to one of his podcasts. I also like The Mentor podcast by Mark Bouris – he is very down to earth and always has really interesting people on. I also love his interview style.

Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?

Definitely my husband, who is a Creative Director and came up with the brand name. He supports me every day by either sending me articles or artwork that he thinks will be valuable to the brand. I have also worked with some great coaches – in particular Elizabeth Formosa from Fashion Equipped.

Turia Pitt is amazing. I follow her story and have enrolled in her Champion Course. I believe that any person I come into contact with on a daily basis can be influential in your brand journey. Sometimes just starting a conversation can take you somewhere you never thought you would go.

Any other advice you’d like to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs?

You need to always remember why you started to get to where you are going. There will be days when you want to just throw it all away – and that’s okay. Take some time out, go for a walk, and remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. You will always find your way back. Be prepared for self-doubt and imposter syndrome to take over, but just keep coming back to your why.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?

I work with a lot of external people but I am hoping to be able to hire a graduate at some point to give them an opportunity to throw themselves into the deep end to see where it takes them. I haven’t really considered investors but I would be open to conversations if someone liked what I was doing and could add value to the brand and the journey I am on.

Where can we go to learn more about your current offers/promotions/programs?

Want to become a subscriber?

Learn how businesses are earning up to $2m per month