Keri Andriana is a former lawyer, Award-winning self-taught handbag designer and CEO/Founder of Amschela. the UK’s emerging handbag accessory brand. Keri’s rise in the fashion accessory business came about in 2016 after a significant revamp within the legal profession and facing redundancy from a once-stable industry she launched herself into her lifelong passion of designing handbags, thus unleashing her entrepreneurial spirit.
Keri uses her knowledge to mentor and empowers disadvantaged young women into vicariously following their dreams and aspirations and becoming future leaders of their own destiny, with a firm belief in writing your own story with confidence. With a wealth of knowledge in transitioning from one career to another, Keri believes that for women anything is possible with the right mindset, drive and determination.
Thank you for joining us Keri, your own professional love affair with handbags started at the age of 6yrs old when your grandmother taught you to sew. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your journey prior to launching Amschela?
Thank you for having me. Yes, my mother was a nurse and often worked weekends so I would be left in the care of my grandmother who was a seamstress. My grandmother came to the UK from Jamaica during the now notorious Windrush Era and would sew clothing for her fellow Christian church members. I recall just sitting at her feet watching her on this amazing contraption making beautiful things. I loved it, the fabric, buttons, thread, everything. My grandmother didn’t make bags but I always remember that for every outfit she would wear to church there was always a bag to match.
As I grew up she would give me her old bags and I started to adapt them to make them young and trendy. That is really how my love affair with bags began. Later, I trained as a lawyer and although I loved handbags, making them became a hobby to unwind after a long week in the courtroom. It was only after finishing my legal career in 2016 that the vision of creating my own handbag brand became a reality. Amschela launched in 2017 and I have never looked back.
When preparing to launch Amschela, what courses, workshops, extensive research did you study to gain market knowledge within the retail sector?
It’s funny because I am often asked this question and people are always bemused at my answer, but I didn’t really do any extensive research of the handbag industry prior to launch I just knew that I was going to create something different. I didn’t want my creative vision for the brand which was fun, affordable and chic designs that still embraced the quality of workmanship/ materials to be clouded in judgement by what our perceived competitors were doing so I tried hard to rely on what I was feeling instead, almost like my gut instinct.
Obviously, I looked at price points but my real focus was defining who Amschela was a person, almost like acting, getting into her character and thus identifying with women like her who would resonate with the brand. Maybe, this is my way as I am self – taught. Prior to launch, I spent most of my time focused on the practicalities of actually making the products as in the beginning everything was hand made but we have now moved the manufacturing operations to cope with the demand of the business.
How you are balancing the work/life strife?
I think anytime you have to balance the logistics of work and life itself, it can be difficult, but as women, I feel that we are born for these challenges. Personally, I take it day by day and will often prioritise my life commitments over work commitments because as a mother and grandmother you cannot get certain milestones back. Earlier on in my legal career, I felt as if I missed out on so much family time so I make it my duty now to ensure I have balance. The key is to stay organised and have good prioritisation skills, otherwise, it can become overwhelming.
Who are the team behind you currently at Amschela and do you currently have any other mentors?
I have a great team, small but great, that consists of myself, a business consultant, a junior accessories designer, photographer, web designer, social media manager, several brand ambassadors and a fashion intern. This is my core team. We are a family. I take great pride in our appointments as for me it’s not so much about the talent but their vision and desire to make the brand the best it can be, talent can often be taught. I look for a person’s key attributes such as kindness and humility as this is an important feature of the brand’s genetic makeup.
I just think that in today’s climate core values can be lost in the competitiveness of the industry and I am against that in principle. With regard to mentors, I don’t have a personal mentor but I do have a great circle of friends who by working in various fields within the industry provide this role for me, almost unwittingly.
What platforms are you using as marketing tools for Amschela?
We currently use platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and we have just recently opened a Google Business shop. These are the main tools that we use in terms of marketing.
Do you currently use any apps or tools to help the functionality of Amschela?
Yes, we operate the functionality of the brand through a management tool called Asana. It’s a great tool to use operationally and to manage projects as a lot of the teamwork remotely.
It’s very easy to use and the best feature to me is that you can literally create your departments and invite who you want to certain aspects of the work required. The plus side is that by large it’s a free app so its very cost-saving which is good for small brands like us.
Who is the most influential female powerhouse that you admire and why?
Kanya King MBE, the MOBO Founder. I love how she took an idea 20 years ago and ran with it, creating one of the greatest music awards show for the music of black origin. I met her once at an Odyssey Media Event in London about a year ago and became so overwhelmed I nearly cried, and yes I did get a photo.
I was just so honoured to be in her presence. Her determination and work ethic to achieve what she has done is phenomenal and she is my inspiration of a female leader who did not take no for an answer. She came, she saw and she conquered.
If you could tell your 18-year old self a solid piece of advice, what would it be?
Oh gosh – good question! I think it would be to “walk unapologetically in your truth and be unafraid, take risks and have fun with life”
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
It means empowerment of yourself, taking charge of your life and writing your own story and ending. More importantly, it means acceptance of who you are as a person and loving her and revelling in her beauty, flaws and all.
What does 2020 look like for you and how are you planning to expand Amschela?
2020 looks great so far, we are currently designing our Signature Bag range for the brand that I hope will last for generations and cementing ourselves deeper into the market. We have just launched our 1st Vegan Bag and hope that the brand is fully vegan within the next 3 years. I am really focused on making the brand eco-friendly and sustainably without harming the environment.
Equally, I want to expand the brand into other markets when the timing is right. Overall, we have a few things in the pipeline so watch this space.
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