Alesya Opelt needed a sophisticated, professional work bag that she could take to her job as VP of marketing at a tech company. She couldn’t find one, so she designed her own. Alesya is the founder of Alesya Bags, a line of handmade bags, wallets, clutches, and card cases made in the US. Learn more about her career path and how she designed a line that takes you effortlessly from conference calls to cocktails.
What inspired you to start Alesya Bags?
My laptop needs go everywhere I do. But the bag it had to go in? Terrible. I needed a laptop bag that would step up to the rest of my life. Most working women I talked to felt the same way. They wanted a great handbag that also happened to hold their laptop and other work necessities.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own business?
The most important thing you can be is determined. Passion gets you started: Determination gets you over the goal line.
What is a typical day like for you? Please walk me through a day!
Starting at 8:00 AM, I work from my co-working space, The Holy City Collective. At noon, I take a cross fit class. After class, I eat protein and hit my inbox. At 3 PM, I pick up my oldest daughter, and then I’m with my kids through bath time. After they are tucked in, I open my laptop again for an hour or two.
Non “normal” days include meetings offsite, trips to Boston, interviews, airport delays, leather sampling, and kids getting sick. I bet about two-thirds of my days fall into this category.
What are some of the best things, and on the flip side the most challenging things, about starting your own business?
The best thing and the worst thing is carving your own path. You get to do it exactly how you want to, but there are no directions to find your way.
What has been the process of creating the bags been like? What has the design and marketing process been like?
The road to creating the bags has been long and winding. You can read about the day-to-day adventure on my blog, The Power Lunch. Let’s just say I thought I knew about starting a business, but found that manufacturing is a totally different animal.
The marketing process is like an exciting puzzle. It’s about finding out what women want, how my bags fit into their lives, then ensuring those same women find out about my business. It’s my kind of geeky fun.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
You don’t have to follow the rules. This isn’t school anymore. Do what’s asked of you, but think about what else you could be doing too. Those other things are most important.
How would you define your professional style? What are a few staples?
Show up dressed up. Even if I’m on the factory floor, I want to look pulled together and feel great. It shows everyone else that you care. My staples include blazers, dark denim, button downs, and my gold watch.
What is on your desk right now?
My laptop, zip disk, water bottle, Appointed Notebook, and a glass of wine. (Hey, it’s 10:49 PM. Time for a drink.)
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Airports, sidewalks, and elevators. I love seeing how people travel for work. How they dress. What they have with them. And what comes out of their bag when they are going through the security checkpoint. A TSA agent told me he took away hummus from ten people in one week. Who knew people needed their hummus so badly?
What advice do you have for other young professional women?
The same advice my grandmother gave me, “Work like hell.” Be known for it. Your reputation will follow you across jobs, companies, and industries. Make sure it’s stellar.
Thank you, Alesya!