Interview with Andrea Sallese and Suzanne Schumacher from Ipnotica LLC – The Smartbag
The Smartbag by Hipnotica LLC
The Smartbag is a fashionable bag on the outside whereas on the inside it’s wearable tech. The bags, which come in four styles and an array of customizable color combinations, have 2 USB chargers, internal lights, a USB tracking device in case of loss or theft and Bluetooth connectivity for cool app functions including an SOS button, the phone finder and more.
As time goes on, those who make wearables are starting to understand that this technology has to evolve. Creators have to make wearables not only for early adopters and those who will wear technology just because it’s new, but for everyone. We want to be part of this new movement of attractive wearables that can be used by people looking for a beautiful product that is also highly functional.
Andrea Sallese: I’m a software developer and project manager. I’ve always been interested in innovation and the interaction between software and electronic devices.
Suzanne Schumacher: I’m the other co-founder. I have a long history of communication and take care of all the marketing and comms for The Smartbag. I’ve also always been interested in innovation, new technology and the integration of technology seamlessly into all aspects of life.
We were asking ourselves what object a woman would always carry with her or put in her bag when I stopped and realized that the answer was in the question. A woman carries a bag, so why not make THAT the wearable?
Andrea: I wake up and read the news and answer email. I then take time to plan my day and spend the rest of the day doing what I planned.
Suzanne: At the moment I’m in California and Andrea’s in Italy which means there’s a 9 hour difference. I try to start working by 7 am so that we have a few hours of the working day in common. We spend this time catching up on any news regarding the project, speaking about upcoming strategies and planning out my day and his next day. Then I take it from there: emails, Social media comms, content creation for marketing, investigation of what others are doing well. The only other thing that’s typical is trying to stop work several hours before I go to bed to let my mind calm down.
Andrea: I love Asian food.
Suzanne: I hate being disorganized, in the sense that I am disorganized, but I hate it. I’m always looking for ways to get more organized. That’s a large part of why I cared so much about the internal organization of The Smartbag.
Suzanne: We were in the Milan, Italy area which is one of the global epicenters for fashion. We’d been playing in the wearables sector for a while when we starting speaking of wearables, of how unappealing or uncomfortable several were. We were asking ourselves what object a woman would always carry with her or put in her bag when I stopped and realized that the answer was in the question. A woman carries a bag, so why not make THAT the wearable? It was great because Andrea had been talking about creating a project for traditional non-tech bags in the summer of 2014 and it was like all these ideas around fashion and tech just came together.
We basically decided to go for it as soon as we came up with the idea because it sounded to cool not to at least test out the waters.
Andrea: We decided to go with crowdfunding because it’s a model that’s sustainable with limited investments from others. It allows us to keep control of our own company. It also gives you immediate feedback on how good your idea is.
Suzanne: For me, crowdsourcing this entire project from the beginning and now doing crowdfunding has offered a unique opportunity: the chance to work with the people who are interested in owning this product. People can’t talk to big brands about what they want and the big brands don’t normally just go out and talk to consumers. Crowdfunding is special that way. We have people writing in and asking for changes, they want to know what specific features are like, if there’s any room for change and we keep answering that yes, there is. We can investigate things if they’re popular enough and don’t ruin the appearance of the bag. For example, we won’t even consider solar panels until they are an integrated part of the material the bag is made of. They just aren’t attractive looking enough.
Suzanne: For me, getting the idea out there and seeing how people reacted was the best choice. When you come up with an idea, you can either protect it and try to keep people from taking it or you take a risk and get the idea out there. The amazing thing about getting it out there is that if people think it’s a good idea, they get back in contact. This whole process has given us a buzz from all the positive energy and the support that our team of supporters has given us.
Andrea: I think it was to offer the chance to customize the bag by offering several models and color combinations.
Andrea: Investigate possible partners better and find more options before settling too quickly.
Suzanne: I honestly don’t know if it would be worth it or if I’d listen to myself. I guess I’d tell myself that it takes a lot longer and requires a lot more energy than I could have imagined, but I think that every mistake has been an incredible learning experience, so I’d probably choose not to go back at all.
We decided to go with crowdfunding because it’s a model that’s sustainable with limited investments from others. It allows us to keep control of our own company. It also gives you immediate feedback on how good your idea is.
Andrea: Myself and my own mistakes.
Suzanne: My last job. Working for a large organization, I realized that if I wanted to grow professionally in the direction I wanted to go in, I’d have to just bite the bullet and become my own boss.
Thank you for your time Andrea and Suzanne!
Wrapping it up
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