Do you ever get a good idea that you think to yourself “I should do something with this? If I love it, others will love it too”? I have always been a “doer.” When I was younger, I started a recycling program in my neighborhood and my in 30s, I started an environmental advocacy group for Long Island Sound. When I see a problem, I want it fixed.
When I finally got around to having my kids, I was 39 and 41 years old, and I was a hands-free, practical sort. I was not a fashionista but a “functionista” and I searched for a nice leather bag that could be a fanny pack during the day with my kids and then turn into a cute purse when I was not actively being a mom. I found something like this by Prada that cost a mere $600. That was not my price range or my style. So I designed my own bags that did what I wanted. Men and women bought them even though I really designed them for women.
They were made in a small shop in Queens, NY by a wonderful Egyptian man named Mohamed El Sayed. I would jump in my car several nights a week after getting my kids to bed and work with him and his wife in the small hole-in-wall. It was a magical place, loaded to the ceiling with all sorts of interesting materials and equipment for making bags. That was 2002 when I was just beginning to Google things and put in the words “handbag manufacturer, New York” to find them. I would run all over the place in the garment district in Manhattan sourcing zippers, leathers, lining, closures, webbing for straps and other pieces of hardware, all of which had to match but wasn’t necessarily found in the same places. All of this took many hours of my days off from my almost full-time nurse-midwifery job in the Bronx where I lived. I would rush home to the Bronx to pick up my kids from school. Mohamed constantly told me I needed to make my bags in China. They were complicated and expensive to make in New York by hand, a few at a time. I was quite committed to sticking with the USA. We made several hundred of the various styles, and I sold them at crafts fairs throughout the tri-state area.
Sometime, shortly after the first styles for women were developed, I was asked by a male friend of my brother’s, if I could make a bag for men that was more masculine. I drew a picture of what is now the patented (US Utility Patent 2012) Sucaro Freedom Sling and brought it to Mohamed who masterfully crafted a sample. It has changed little from that first design other than a few upgrades like adding long pockets on both sides instead of one and making it a bit wider so it can more easily hold items like a checkbook and passport. The Freedom Sling has been the biggest seller.
Mohamed eventually gave up his little space and moved to Florida to be a sample maker there. Still committed to USA manufacturing, I called all over the country to various places and flew to Chicago to work with a company there. It didn’t work for multiple reasons. I tried the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Mexico. None of these places worked out, and eventually, Mohamed introduced me to the brother of his employer who had connections with a good factory in China. I liked him and decided that even though it was expensive having him as a middleman, it made the whole process doable for me to continue creating. Finally, I made a direct connection with a factory and cut the cost to a price people might be able to afford during the severe recession that began just as I was starting to increase production and sales. As a midwife, I didn’t suffer from the recession. People kept having babies. But as a businesswoman, I felt it acutely and honestly Sucaro is still trying to recover to this day.
Being the main bread winner for my family, wanting to be nurturing and involved in my children’s lives, supporting a loving marriage, having a social life, learning to be a designer and business woman and staying in shape, proved to be a major juggling act. It was a good thing I had great enthusiasm and boundless energy for them all. For that, I am most grateful.