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A Family Affair

When my business became the family business
(ignore the crappy picture quality here... its the idea that counts, right?)

What do you do when you're in college, you have no money, but you want to start a business?
Call your mom, of course!
But really. There is no better support than family, or at least those people who we are close to and know will support us unconditionally. In my case, this person is my mom. I remember calling her in the spring semester of my sophomore year in college and telling her I wanted to start a business and I wanted her to be my seamstress. I don't really remember her exact reaction and I'm not even sure what we agreed upon. All I know is that at the time, I knew that if I wanted to sell any backpacks while I was in school, I needed a way to make them. But at the time, I had no idea how that could happen in my dorm room without a sewing machine. What I did know was that my mom was an excellent sewer - much better than me. She was constantly sewing over the years - she'd made everything from dresses and skirts for my sisters and me, jackets for herself, tote bags for friends, equipment cases for my dad - you name it, she has sewn it. Anyways, when I called her, I don't think she was that surprised. I had mentioned that before that my friends had asked me for one of my backpacks and being the opportunity seeker that I am, I don't think she was surprised that I had concluded I should start a business.
She must have been excited because it was like the next day (ok, maybe the next week) that she texted me a picture of a huge stack of fabric and said she was out buying materials for the backpacks. I was blown away. I thought maybe would would talk about production next time I was home for break. Instead we jumped straight in.
I remember spending my free time between classes or studying for tests on Skype with her going over my old backpack pattern. There were a lot of adjustments that needed to be made to improve upon my original bag.  What was the proper size? What fabric would we use where? What shape did we want the flap to be? There were so many little details to hammer out its a wonder I ever had time for cross country practice or friends. There were way more little details to hammer out than I ever expected.
We decided to focus solely on using the recycled coffee sacks as the main body of the bags. We supplemented the burlap with other recycled fabrics - denim, upholstery, corduroy, anything and everything we can get our hands on. Soon my mom's friends were stopping by the house to drop off old jeans that they didn't want anymore. Another plus to this situation is that my mom's sewing room is right inside the front door. People would see the bag production and immediately want a backpack. My mom started selling bags before they were even finished!!
That summer I traveled to Peru while interning for Reach Trade, the coffee company I mention in my about section here. When I came back to the US, my brother called me up one day and said he wanted to get involved in the company. I have to admit, I was flattered. I mean, he's my older brother, never thought he would think my backpacks were cool. At this point the business was still in its beginning stages. We didn't do much for almost a year in the midst of school and other obligations. Momma Connor made the first round of bags and we sold them all almost immediately. Then during March of my Junior year, I officially registered the company and began to set up the official business side to the company. I spent countless days that summer on the internet researching the fabric and manufacturing industry..... I'll have to write a separate post about what I found through all that. I traveled to Peru once again that summer and brought back more fabrics to use on some of the bags. I also spent days traveling around downtown Houston meeting with different coffee roasters and asking for old burlap coffee sacks. It's amazing how nice and helpful people are to young college students... One day I came home with 67 of the most beautiful coffee sacks, all of which were given to me for free. Never be afraid to ask!!
Anyways, back to the story at hand. As of this fall, the business has truly come to involve quite a bit of the family. My brother is now involved on the marketing and management side of the business. He and I also work together on creating the Carica Road brand. Momma Connor is still working on production and new product development with me. The rest of the family - my dad and sisters - are my support system.
So to sum it all up...
Never be afraid to reach out to those around you for help. I found that my family (and my friends!) have been tremendously helpful in supporting my business. Often times I want to do everything on my own, or at least I think that I must do everything on my own, but I have finally come to realize that I don't. A good business isn't about one person doing all the work, its about creating a team of people that are enrolled in a vision and work together to make that vision a reality. Here at Carica Road, that vision is to create awesome backpacks that encourage the wearers to embrace their unique journey through life, whatever the "road" may look like. 
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