2019 SVP Startup Profile: Porté Bags
To kick off our series of Summer Venture Program startup profiles, I recently sat down with Elia Innamorati ‘20, founder and head designer of Porté Bags. Porté’s makeup bags are made for neatly storing and transporting cosmetics and jewelry. With customizable compartments and dividers created especially for storing makeup products, as well as two removable pouches that meet TSA specifications, Porté Bags are designed for women traveling the world! Here are some of the highlights from my interview with Elia.
How did you start Porté Bags? What specific experiences led you to pursue this venture?
During the fall semester I went to study abroad in Milan, Italy and there I attended many fashion events and met many beauty influencers. I have always had the problem of organizing my cosmetics and traveling with them, being on the go and then opening my makeup bag at the hotel to find a mess. That problem resonated with other women that I talked to in Milan, so once I realized that I was onto something I started going to Italian leather shops to understand the types of leather used in making bags. I started designing the bags myself in Milan, and then I returned to Massachusetts in February and began working on the prototyping.
What lead me to pursue it was of course the feedback I got from other women. I’ve talked to so many women who need a bag like this. Not only did I do extensive market research, but I myself needed the product. So when I couldn’t find anything on the market, I said “This is an opportunity!”
What activity or resource from SVP has helped you the most so far?
I think the most valuable resource is the community itself, not just the mentors but almost everyday we have outside people come in for workshops. There are advisors, and we meet people from the Boston ecosystem. This ranges from marketing experts to people who work in financial institutions who have helped me understand the financial aspects of starting my own company.
In what ways have your SVP peers supported you and your venture?
As SVP entrepreneurs we’re often in the same boat facing many of the same business challenges, so we’re helping each other out. My SVP peers have been coming to my focus groups and they give a lot of good feedback. They’ve put me in contact with beauty influencers they know in the area or people they know who are into beauty. Even some of the guys have put me in contact with their girlfriends!
Pitching in the SVP Hot Seat was a really great experience, because even if people didn’t totally understand my product they gave me feedback on the presentation style and slide formatting.
What major milestones or accomplishments do you hope to achieve during your time in SVP? Or have you reached any already?
What I want to accomplish in SVP is finalizing my product, putting it into production and even starting to take pre-orders. I realized how important it is to market test your product, especially when it’s a consumer good. Through focus groups and feedback I want to develop the best product I can possibly launch. Also by the end of the program, I would like to better understand the aspects of my supply chain in Italy and China.
What is a valuable challenge or learning experience you have faced as a founder?
One very, very valuable lesson that I faced as a founder is the importance of making a cost-effective prototype. It was a big challenge for me to start prototyping at a high-fidelity from the get-go, I wish I had gone to the Weissman Foundry and started experimenting with some cardboard. Maybe I could’ve started by buying other makeup carriers, ripping them apart, and combining pieces to imagine the one I wanted.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, or for yourself at an earlier stage?
Don’t be scared to start and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s just evident that you will fail during the process: I failed when I made my first prototype, I lost money! So at some point you have to realize that in order to win you have to lose a little bit. Also, take your time. What I was trying to do before was to rush to the market and do everything at once, but I have learned that each aspect of my business has to be meticulously planned and thought out.
Where can we find Porté online?
You can browse our products and join our mailing list at portebags.com!
If you enjoyed learning about Elia’s entrepreneurial journey founding Porté Bags, be sure to stay tuned for more SVP venture profile blogs! To meet the entire SVP cohort and celebrate their progress, join us for the Summer Venture Showcase on Thursday, July 25th. RSVP at this link.