Christy Collins is a manufacturer of handbags made from used textiles and an Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) graduate. Her business, founded on the principle of nostalgia, re-purposes beloved materials into one-of-a-kind accessories.
Collins says the purpose of her first bags were to “remind me of other women who came before us.” Travel is big source of inspiration and influence for Collins, a fifth generation native of California.
For 30 years, she remained outside of the U.S, observing the cultures of people and the customs of women. When she traveled to West and Central Africa with the peace-corp, she reminisced “in areas where I lived there was a strong tradition of dressing very simply but having a lot of culture in your accessories.”
Regarding her return to the U.S. she says, “I had traveled so much, I was away for about 30 years of my life since my mid-20s, and coming back to the U.S and going to thrift shops was the only way I had a real sense of connection with my grandparents.” She says, “I think I ended up feeling that those memories, or that those parts of me, were important, to me.”
At her daughter’s encouragement, she made her first handbag in 2010, assembling it from used materials. Collins desired to expand her craft into a business so she turned to the Entrepreneur Training program at Empowered Women International. “I had basically been unemployed, except for a couple stints” she said. “For a long time, I had trouble making ends meet, I might have lost my house and I wasn’t sure about what to do next. I was invited to apply and I got in.”
In anticipation for retirement she yearned to hone her skills in a rewarding craft that could potentially generate revenue. The advice she received through EWI was vital to gaining new perspectives about her passion. “You may come in here with one business idea and leave with another. The evolution and the reflective process is very important and I don’t think that’s easy to do on your own” she said.
The ETS class helped her explore new ideas and revise as she went along. The community of women she became a part of supported her and helped her to see that her bags were not only beautiful, but desired. It was in her ETS class that she realized she had a real market for her products.
“By getting more realistic, understanding my market, and by getting feedback from peers and professionals who are all genuinely interested in what I am doing is very empowering,” Collins says.
For Collins, life is ephemeral and to waste it is to undermine one’s potential. This belief propels her to weave her bags from threads of memory, so one may carry an accessory that transcends time and that creates a sense of pride and connection for the present, the future, and the past.