Photo by Eva Cruz
Many of us dream of leaving a full-time, stable job for a life dedicated to doing what we truly love and Beka Puran of Louise Goods has been able to do just that. Owner and sole designer of Louise Goods, Beka Puran designs and creates beautiful leather accessories from her studio in California. We recently spoke with Beka about how she transitioned her leatherwork business from a side hustle to full-time gig, her definition of success as a business owner and what advice she would give to others who are thinking about starting their own business.
DC: Tell us about yourself. What were you doing prior to launching Louise Goods?
BP: I’ve been running Louise Goods as a side hustle since 2011, and went full time in Sept. 2017. Prior to going full time with leather, I was working as a Genius at Apple in New York, and have been making art since I was young. Can’t draw to save my life, but I’ve always been crafty; I learned to sew on my mom’s 1960 Singer when I was a kid and always found my way back to creative outlets while I was in school.
Photo by Damian Calliste
DC: Where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit? Are your parents entrepreneurs?
BP: My parents ran my dad’s business – he did video production (still does!) and I grew up watching him navigate self employment while my mom managed the books and ran the logistics side. But when I was little – and I don’t know if it’s related to their business or not – I was always scheming ways to make money to save money to buy things I wanted. I was selling handmade potholders at art fairs in middle school and working at a local boutique 15. I’ve always hustled, always loved the hustle.
DC: Tell us about how the idea, or concept, for Louise Goods came to be?
BP: Figuring out the purpose of Louise Goods was a gradual thing for me. I fell in love with leatherwork and saw endless possibilities to this medium, and found some folks who were excited to buy what I was making — so I needed an entity under which I could sell my wares. I knew I liked working alone with no boss — and I’m extremely organized and neurotic when it comes to logistics. I might even like logistics. Actually, yeah, I love spreadsheets. Realizing that I could do both art and logistics under one roof really got me excited.
My long term view is still that I will be working alone. I could see myself hiring someone to help out with one or two elements at a time — maybe on production or marketing, that type of thing. One thing I do know: I have no desire to turn Louise Goods into a corporation, and will stay, at most, a small business.
Photo by Fabian Palencia
DC: How did you come up with the name?
BP: I was launching a collaboration with Mast Bros. Chocolate with these burlap & leather tote bags we were doing — at this point I was just making bags, mostly just for fun, but this was an actual venture that required a name and label, so I decided to use my middle name. The leather goods market was largely masculine at the time (this was 2011) and I liked the slightly feminine/androgynous touch that came with Louise Goods. It stuck! I’ve been Louise Goods ever since.
DC: When launching the brand what three things were most important to you?
BP: In the very beginning, in 2011, I would’ve said functionality, elegance, and glamour, because I was so focused on the product. I had very little concept of marketing or profit margins or time management — zero real life business skills. It’s still very much about the product for me, but I spent many years learning about leather and what my customer likes, and while the learning is never done, I now focus on a wider array of elements, including spreadsheets, SEO, and storytelling.
DC: What three words best define your brand? Why?
BP: In the beginning I was just trying to find a platform for my art. In the last seven years Louise Goods has evolved a lot; this evolution of Louise Goods has a lot more goals associated with it beyond sharing art. For a while I was obsessed with making couture-quality bags…I’m still into that, but I’m also enjoying making a variety of one offs, which is allowing me to have a more varied price point and experiment with a variety of new leathers while maintaining a chic design aesthetic of minimalist, structural pieces. In Sept. 2017, after going full time, I moved to the middle of nowhere in California — it’s beautiful and serene, with lots of farms and not a lot of noise. So my online community is more important than ever before, and it’s something I’m leaning on more heavily than anticipated. As I’m designing new work — I am excited to share the process with this online community I’m building, and do it in a way that’s genuine and true to who I am. So I would say the three most important things are quality, community, and authenticity.
DC: What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome as an entrepreneur?
BP: Learning to finish things! I have a tendency to make really great work and then not promote it enough. I’m actively learning, right now, to not do that. I have a natural dislike and very small budget for marketing. So I am learning about marketing. Not my favorite thing. Turns out the more I learn about it the less I hate it. It doesn’t come naturally to me – but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to be good at it. Also — time management.
DC: Tell us about your typical work day.
BP: I’m up by 6am every weekday and in the studio by 7/7:30. I drink 16 oz of water within my first hour of being awake and eat a huge breakfast! I spend the first 5-6 hours before lunch in the studio on production and then spend my afternoons and evenings taking care of marketing, shipping, logistics, or hand-sewing. No matter what, I always stop working by 8pm and am in bed by 10. I work long days so I can take the weekends off and not feel guilty — and then I’m rested and refreshed for the week ahead. Sometimes I do website maintenance on the weekend but it’s never anything too demanding. I used to work 7 days a week, used to pull all nighters or sleep 3-4 hours a night regularly. But I burned out multiple times over the last few years, so now I have a set schedule. **I’d really like to be working out a few times a week — still working on squeezing that into the schedule!
DC: What is your definition of success as a business owner?
BP: Being able to reframe how I view success/failure is important to me; I remind myself sometimes daily that success looks so different for everyone. I’m a perfectionist, so this idea of “failure” was terrifying for a long time; this fear of disappointing people or being judged negatively for my work or how I present it — that was something I had to learn to not care about. I believe in myself and what I’m doing, and I don’t release work I don’t love, so the artist in me feels successful in that light. For the business owner in me, success is partially about making a profit, but I think it’s also in finding a lesson in perceived “failure.” If you screw up — learn from it so you don’t repeat the mistake. It’s never failure if you get up and try again.
DC: What is your greatest achievement to date?
BP: Going full time. I ran Louise Goods on the side for years. It was great as a side hustle — it’s my passion and I enjoyed it, but there was no pressure to maintain a steady income from my own work to support myself living in New York. I had a rhythm going — being employed elsewhere 3-4 days a week and spending the rest of my time focusing on Louise Goods was working for me, to an extent. But after 7 years of that nonstop schedule I was like, “yeah, this has to change.” I did what I needed to do for my mental health – but not without a lot of preparation and a good amount of savings. Going full time was a fairly calculated move, but one I had been procrastinating because I knew how much work it would be. I can see now that I had plateaued a bit with Louise Goods, so this was kind of like the “promotion” I needed to kick things up a notch and give myself a whole new challenge professionally.
DC: What advice do you have for others who are thinking about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship?
BP: I think all entrepreneurs, if given the time, could fill very large books with all their hard-earned experience-turned-advice. Entrepreneurship is so challenging. I can speak more to self-employment than start up culture, where there is a team working alongside you…two totally different versions of entrepreneurship. I’m sure some of the skillsets overlap. With self-employment, you never “go home” from work, don’t have a team to rely on, and time management is your entire life. Everything takes longer than you think it will, and costs more than you think it will cost. If you keep clean books, tax season stops being terrifying. Yes, anything can be outsourced, but first do it yourself so you know what to ask for. You are often your only motivation — momentum is key, so don’t let yourself lose all of it over some little perceived failure. Take breaks before you need them and don’t forget to drink water. Set weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual goals and evaluate progress. Every Friday I have a 30 min call with a friend of mine who is working on a massive project — it’s an opportunity for both of us to have some camaraderie in our endeavors; we both share the successes and opportunities of the week. Find your people with whom you can find camaraderie — not just your spouse or family members, I mean other folks who are also building something from the ground up. And don’t forget to have a sense of humor — and have fun — through all of it!