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Meet Kenya Stanfield of The Mary Elizabeth Collection

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kenya Stanfield.

Kenya, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started The Mary Elizabeth Bag Collection after I was unable to get another government job due to the hiring freeze in 2017. My husband was active duty Army and we’d just moved to North Carolina. I had made these foldover clutches for my sisters for Christmas and my sister loved her so much she suggested that I make and sell them. My immediate answer was “No, sewing is only a hobby”.

After a few months of waiting for the government to start hiring again, I finally decided maybe I should look into starting a business. After a lot of prayer and discussions with my husband, I began my journey of entrepreneurship. I first bought a Simplicity pattern to learn how to make a backpack. In the beginning, I was all over the place because I just wanted to create. I’m now honing in on what I want my brand to look like.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
This has been a very rocky road- it still is. I have had a lot of doubt on whether I can truly run a business, whether anyone will like what I create, how I can stand out with what I create. There’s been the challenge of finding my target audience and building trust with them. I also have financial obstacles since my business is fully self-funded. There’s a lot of prayer and work that goes into this, then faith that what I’m praying and working for will manifest.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Mary Elizabeth Collection – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The Mary Elizabeth Bag Collection or Mary Elizabeth Bags is a handmade bag business. We specialize in bags for travel, but also suitable for everyday life like work and school. The collection mainly consists of backpacks, totes, and travel bags. What sets us apart is the use of bold colors and prints on classic styles. I feel like your travel gear should look just as fly as your everyday handbag. All aspects of the creating process are done by me from designing, creating a pattern, testing the pattern, hand-cutting the fabric and leather, then assembling the bags. I’ve been asked if I would ever outsource the manufacturing of the bags, and I can’t say for sure that I would. I think the fact that I make everything makes it special and adds to uniqueness of the bags.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I recently dropped the “Bag” in my name, so now it’s The Mary Elizabeth Collection. This is because I’m planning and will be adding a home collection to the brand in 2020. I’m so excited about this new addition to my business. It’s been a part of the plan since almost immediately after I started making the bags. I’m just now beginning to work out the concept, designs, and what I want to create.

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