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How this female-founded handbag company built a product unlike any other

In an industry that often views style and practicality as irreconcilable ideas, it’s no surprise that Melissa Mash, CEO and co-founder of the handbag company, Dagne Dover, saw an opportunity to challenge this conception in the market.

Mash, alongside co-founders Deepa Gandhi and Jessy Dover, have created a stylish and functional handbag that’s changing the game.

Offering plenty of variety in the form of tote bags, backpacks, travel bags, fanny packs, wallets, toiletry bags, pouches and card cases, all of these bags are highly compartmentalized and designed for ultimate efficiency and organization.

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Back on the hustle. 👊🏼 #AlwaysOrganized

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In discussing her product to Forbes, Mash said,

“It’s not just about having a bunch of pockets on the inside, which some brands do. It’s about making sure that the pockets are so intuitive to the consumer that she doesn’t have to think twice. Of course, that’s the sunglasses pocket. Of course, that’s the laptop sleeve.”

Wow, imagine that for a concept. Not having the bottom of your bag transforms into an endless abyss that prompts you to tip out the entire content of your bag just to find your pair of sunglasses, a pen, your business card, chapstick, hand sanitizer, etc.

In short, actually being able to find the items in your bag!

Mash, however, is no stranger to retail. In her undergraduate days, Mash vehemently embraced what the city of New York had to offer — landing internships with a clothing and bedding designer, and the jewelry company Henri Bendel.

During this time, Mash even managed to get the contact details of a sample maker for bags, whom she would later reach out to years after when the idea for Dagne Dover began to take shape.

Later working in various positions for Coach, from wholesales to account management, Mash was able to attain different experiences and a level of training that would be crucial in eventually co-founding Dagne Dover.

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Your favorite products, only bigger. Say hi to the Extra Large Landon and the Large Dakota, available on the site now!

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Mash was also able to garner international experience, as she oversaw and helped turnaround Coach’s first UK store in Heathrow Airport.

But, it was during this time at Coach that enabled Mash the opportunity to speak directly to customers; hearing what they want out of a handbag, their frustrations with the handbags they owned and the handbags that are currently on the market.

In speaking with ABC News, Mash relayed the countless times’ customers would complain about their struggle to have an organized bag and Mash having always wanted to start a bag company, saw this a business opportunity.

What is apparent is that Mash seized the networking opportunities her internships provided, absorbing all the knowledge that came with each company.

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Happy Memorial Day!

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Mash was and remains highly attentive to what consumers seek after, and it is this insatiable curiosity and investment in her customers that have instrumentally shaped her project of developing a product that is so intimately tied and catered to consumer’s needs and wants.

Despite all her retail experience, Mash and Gandhi made the decision to go back to business school. She attended The Wharton School that proved to be not only an educational site but one where Mash and Gandhi, were able to network and identify consumer wants through conducting surveys with a pool of men and women.

It was there that Mash also began to search for a person to design the bag, leading her to cross paths with Jessy Dover, who then became one of the companies founders along with Mash and Gandhi.

Financial Backing

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This one’s for the girls. Happy Women’s Equality Day!

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Though the company launched in 2013, the three female partners had been working on the brand for two years prior.

In terms of finding investors and financiers, Mash, Gandhi, and Dover found the patience to be a critical component in the process of product development. The company’s three founders decided to consolidate long-term capital instead of acquiring venture capital who often expect an immediate turn-over in profit.

In other words, they chose individual investors and small funders that were willing to wait and expend in the business’s long-term success.

Speaking to Cheddar TV, Mash stressed the importance of finding the right investors. That is to say, she advised carefully evaluating whether the financier truly understands your product or brand, and is willing to invest in the product for the long-term. After all, success in the world of entrepreneurship rarely happens overnight.

In the interview with ABC, Dover also expressed a level of uncertainty in regards to the company’s potential decision to make deals with venture capital,

“We would have probably had to make the wrong decision for the long term of the brand and I can’t guarantee that the business would be where it is today.”

Dover also concurred with Mash on the idea of “patient capital,” maintaining that it was crucial to the design process since it enabled her to actually to take the time needed to create and formulate the final product.

Workplace Culture

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Team work really does make this Dagne dream work. ✨

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Not only has the brand done significantly well in terms of revenue, but the company has also been dedicated to building a flourishing workplace culture.

Drawing from their experience in the corporate world, the three founders wanted to foster an environment, where employees could feel as though they could freely be who there are, be motivated and happy to go to work, feel appreciated and trusted in their domain of work.

In fact, Dagne Dover was high amongst the list of 100 companies voted by Mogul as being the best workplace for millennial women, in the years 2016 and 2017.

So how do you purchase a Dagne Dover bag? The bags are available on Nordstrom, in Equinox boutiques, Bandier, Revolve and other boutique retailers.

The company also had a pop-up store in Manhattan over the summer and the pop-up resurfaced this month, this time in Soho.

With their revenue doubling from the year 2016 to 2017, Dagne Dover demonstrates the success of the companies philosophy of that refuses to see stylish aesthetics and functionality as mutually exclusive and instead has crafted a bag that perfectly marries these two ideas together.