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From Lawyer to Bag Lady

Posted on May 01, 2017 by Stephanie Oppenheim | 0 comments

How I got to be a bag lady.

I always wanted to be a lawyer. In our small town my Dad was my Atticus Finch. He championed causes. Our dinner table conversations included why accused murderers were entitled to due process to why topless bars were not obscene under state law (that was an interesting dinner). 

So I spent most of my first 25 years with tunnel vision. Unlike my Dad I decided to practice in New York City at White & Case -- one of the nation's top law firms. I had the job I dreamed of - all that hard work paid off. I had the fancy office, a ridiculously big salary and a killer wardrobe to go with it.

The problem. I hated it. Big corporate practices move at a glacial pace and the role of a junior associate can be soul sucking. Endless hours on tedious documents. Oh, and did I mention that the clients tend to be massive corporations? Atticus type moments? None.

So I changed gears.

I co-founded the independent consumer organization toyportfolio.com with my mother, noted child development expert & author Joanne Oppenheim. We have been playing with and reviewing toys since my older son was born. Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Awards are the benchmark of excellence with consumers. Most people know us from NBC's TODAY Show where we are Contributors.

As much as I love toys and what we do, I wanted to be more creative.

I started Quilted Koala with my family - notice a trend here?  This time, my partner is my husband David (the boy with the koala bear).  We've also recruited our sons who are now both in the business with us.

Manufacturing products is a whole new world from being a professional critic. There's the thrill of creating something that people respond to with excitement. And when something doesn't work -- you need to take a deep breath and move on, quickly.

One of the best parts of starting a new business is our team and the number of truly amazing people who have adopted me on this journey. At first being mentored, rather than mentoring others felt a little strange, but I quickly realized the vast amount of things I didn't know. I'm no longer shy about asking.

Our mission is to create bags that are fun, pretty and don't take themselves too seriously. For example, our best-selling East West Bag is both classic and refined in design, but it also gets a little cheeky when we add a word or design in glitter.  And who doesn't love glitter?

I also hate heavy bags. So that's always a starting point. I'm especially proud of our new Metallic Backpacks -- I love handing them off to people -- and getting the "ooooh it's so light!" That's when I know we've done it right. 

If you were to tell my 8-year-old self, who aspired to be a Supreme Court Justice, that I would be become a bag lady-- I probably wouldn't have believed you. But even then I loved a good bag!

If I'm a cautionary tale, it's to embrace change, creativity and to follow your passion -- and, of course, always carry a terrific bag.

Stephanie

Co-Founder, Quilted Koala, Ltd.

P. S.  Our latest Quilted Koala campaign is for our Metallic Backpacks. You can join the campaign on Indiegogo.

 

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