Natacha Seroussi is the co-founder and designer of the “bobobark bag” from Laflore fashion. Growing up in Paris, she watched her father Elie create beautiful handbags for his fashion house, Cecile et Jeanne. His hard work and dedication to the world of fashion inspired Natacha with a passion for design. After studying art, as well as becoming an accomplished horse trainer, Natacha found the opportunity to work alongside her father to usher in a new vision of sustainability and eco-friendliness to the industry. Combining their shared appreciation for the classic Parisian aesthetic with the ethics of today’s modern woman, they created bobobark: a beautiful, versatile, zero-waste, vegan handbag that flatters the silhouette and style of any woman. Their ultimate goal for this new venture was that women would no longer have to choose between style and comfort, beauty or sustainability. Elie and Natacha are also pleased to be on the verge of opening the first “eco-friendly, vegan handbag store in Paris” in the spring of 2020.
Where did the idea for bobobark come from?
The idea for bobobark was inspired by my business partner and father, Elie and his vintage collection of leather bags. I grew up surrounded by those beautiful timeless designs and always loved them. After my art study I started to work with Elie. During this time, my concern for the environment grew simultaneously with my passion for design. I wanted to reinterpret those classic designs of my childhood, giving them a modern touch while making them eco-friendly and vegan. bobobark and Laflore were born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Before bobobark became a big business, I worked as a horse trainer for almost 10 years. To this day, I keep two horses in training that I take care of every morning. I get to the office around 10:30am and always start by answering emails. This can often take quite a while because I answer every customer question personally. The rest of the day is usually filled by meeting with suppliers and partners, visiting the workshop and finally the best part: working on new designs. I love the design work so much, it’s easy for me to stay in my studio all night working on a specific bag or accessory. It’s my favorite part of the job.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It is not always easy to combine being an entrepreneur and an artist! I try to allow myself a few hours a day to disconnect and be in a creative mode. For me, this might mean wandering around the streets of Paris, looking at fashion and design books, going to art exhibits, or visiting second hand stores. It is usually during those moments that I find new ideas. Then I draw whatever is on my mind, go on a fabric hunt, and start the process of technical drawing. I prefer to draw everything by hand and never use a computer. Once the technical drawings are ready, I send them to the workshop and wait (im)patiently for them to make a first prototype. Then the workshop and I fall into a back and forth rhythm of reviewing the samples, making notes (good or bad), making changes, creating new drawings, exploring new materials, and back to prototyping again…until the product is perfect. It can take months before we reach the perfect prototype, but the end quality is more than worth the effort put in.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The growth of vegan and eco-friendly awareness is fascinating and very exciting to me. I don’t think of it as a trend anymore, but a reality and a responsibility we all have to the environment. The exciting aspect is seeing the fashion and art worlds making changes that allow them to adapt to this new reality. Sustainability isn’t only about making something from an eco-friendly material, but also building something to last, things that have multiple uses. That’s why we made bobobark a 4-in-1 “convertible backpack purse” that can be worn a variety of ways, fitting many lifestyles and occasions. The most sustainable bag is one that checks all the boxes, does everything you need, and won’t need to be replaced.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Definitely my daily horse training, in parallel to the work I do for Laflore. My constant efforts to continue competing at a professional level brings an aggressive spirit to my business and design work that it would be hard to source elsewhere. Bonus: it keeps me in great shape.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Always surround yourself with complementary partners. It took me time to understand that I could not do everything on my own and that teamwork is the key to success. Having partners that complement my own strengths, rather than mimic them, allows for higher creativity and more active collaboration that produces great results.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The meat and leather industries will crash in the next century! I encourage everyone to be a pioneer, instead of the last one to realize it!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Product quality. This is an absolute obsession for me and Elie! It literally took us a year to finalize the bobobark bag. The last 6 months, no one other than the two of us could tell the difference between the samples we were getting. But I was going over every little detail, being a bit of a control freak. In actual production you will always lose a small percent of that sample’s perfection, so only if your sample is better than perfect can the final product be perfect!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I am a firm believer in teamwork. The action that really gave Laflore, and bobobark, a push was when we found the right team and united all of our strengths. Each of us could finally focus and thrive within the processes we excel at while trusting each other’s talents for the other pieces of the puzzle. Surrounding myself with other young entrepreneurs, exchanging ideas, communicating, trusting, helping, giving and receiving criticism took Laflore to a whole new level. In short: Surround yourself with the right partners!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Trying to take on too much with too few people. That’s why teamwork is my ultimate strategy. At first, we thought we could take care of certain aspects of the business ourselves. But as many entrepreneurs have figured out, the world of business is too vast for one or two people to be experts in all the aspects required to find success. There was no way to catch up. Only by bringing in the right team to complement our expertise did Elie and I see the opportunities we were missing out on by trying to manage Laflore entirely on our own.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I always thought that it would be brilliant to create a dating/playdate app for pets! I don’t know if it exists but I would sure use it 🙂
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I repaired my iPhone that fell in the sea instead of buying a new one. Always fix and reuse when you can! This might seem small but it has a huge impact on the planet!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Productivity has a slightly different meaning for a designer as we’re always looking to be inspired. I love to get lost on Pinterest! I always find interesting ideas there that contribute to my understanding of my design work as well as what my potential customers want and need from their accessories.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. It is an extremely well-written, classic philosophical book that will help anyone reflect on the balance between the spiritual and material aspects of their lives.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success is 10% talent and 90% hard work” My father, Elie, ingrained this message into me since I was a little girl and I have always lived my life by it.
- Surround yourself with the right partners
- Allow yourself to dream and let go, this is where you will find creativity
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
- Make your life meaningful and be compassionate. The world is changing, you want to be a pioneer, not the last dusty relic holding onto the past.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.