Friday, March 30, 2007


Merle O’Brien of OlovesM has perfected the art of combining function, fashion, and eco-friendliness through her line of cool, hip, and sassy bags made from new remnant materials that companies would have discarded to the landfills. Here, Merle talks about her business, from her day-to-day activities, challenges, and inspirations.

Downward Dog Inspiration
“[My inspiration for my ecofriendly business] came to me while on my yoga mat… I was in downward dog [position], and all of a sudden the idea popped into my head. Of course all I could do for the rest of the class was create this line of fun bags in my head- by the time I got out of class and home, I was making prototypes from materials around my house. A few prototypes later- the OlovesM line!”

Products that Transcend Generation
“ I feel everyone is a customer. Kids love them, moms love them, and even men love the new messenger style bag. My customer is eco-conscious, as well as fashion savvy. My clients also are outdoor active people. My mother is also a client, and she is a hip 70-she loves the eco-m and eco jute bags!”

Learning to Delegate
“At this time I do not have employees - but I do have someone who sews for me- I just could not do it all. That can be the hardest part of running your own business- letting go of some of it. I knew I could not do it all, so finding someone to sew my bags was most important. I [also] hope one day to hire a marketing person, since that is such a major part of any business.”

The Art of Selling
“Right now, [I sell through] my OlovesM website, and in two [brick and mortar] stores, Birch Clothing in Minnesota, and Ecology Sports in Wisconsin. I have two stores in Aspen and one store in Chicago that will be carrying [my bags] as well.”

“I got my first [wholesale] account via email. I had searched the internet for stores I felt would be good for my bags, and emailed them- Birch Clothing replied and were very excited to work with me!”

“ I find stores to sell through mostly via searching on the net, as well as friends have told me about stores they like in their areas. Living in Aspen Colorado is great, but trying to start a business is another story. I have to admit, when my friends are all out skiing, hiking, and biking, I am at my home office working hard to find good stores to carry my bags.”

The Power of Guerrila Marketing
“Marketing, so far, has been via my website, emails, and word of mouth. Lots of grassroots guerilla marketing seems to be the best. If I start talking about my bags, people seem to get closer to listen in. I was at the Salt Lake City airport and while in line, I started talking to the person next to me, and then added that I was there for my bags, which went to Sundance, and about 6 people in line started listening… And after about 5 minutes of me talking about the bags, the 6 people chimed in and said how cool they were, and that they would look out for my bags in magazines, and contact me via my website. Oh yes, I hand out business cards everywhere I go.”

“[I generate press] mostly via email. Once again living in Aspen is great for skiing, and the perfect outdoor lifestyle, but it also makes you work extra hard on the net to search out media to cover your products. Making it to Sundance Film fest has been really good, since the press was all over the festival. I have used this in my own press release as well as in my media kit coming out soon. Right now I have done all [press] myself. I have been able to get my bags off to Hollywood, and at the Sundance Film Fest, as well as to the Telluride Fashion show gala.”

Nature, Family, and Friends

“[I am inspired by] my boys. Plus, being outdoors and in the mountains always bring me inspiration. Yoga class has also been a huge inspiration, as this is where I came up with the idea for OlovesM. The name, which is OM- which we chant in yoga, did come to me while driving back from Utah.. I had just been to the Outdoor Retailer Show with a dear friend of mine, and the name popped into my head somewhere between Salt Lake- and Green 6 AM!”

“I love my bags, and what they stand for. Having my boys watch mommy start a business from the ground up and hear them tell their friends-nothing beats that for motivation. Plus, I love what I am doing- and love to learn something new everyday.”

Business Mentors
“ I have a dear friend, Bill, who I have known since I was 16. He is a business owner, and he has really been there to help me- [answering any] business questions and pricing issues, taking me to the Outdoor Retailer Show and letting me sit in while he had meetings with companies so I could see how they do it. Basically, just someone I can count on to be there if I have a question.”

Words of Advice
“Make sure you are doing something you love and care about. Do some research to see what else is out there, and don’t be too caught up in the fact other people might be doing it, as you can try and do it better, or with a different twist. I do think the biggest step to make in starting out, is don’t be afraid to take a step.”
Merle O'Brien

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