Arts / Design / Entrepreneurs

That time Anthropologie bought a bunch of handbags designed by Morgan Berman

Or: How prom paved the way for the founder's first business foray.

The "Mary had a Little Lamb" purse, by Morgan Berman. (Photo by Flickr user Morgan Berman, used under a Creative Commons license)

Every entrepreneur has to start somewhere. In Lemonade Stand, we profile a local entrepreneur’s first venture or job. Tell us about yours.

Here’s one you didn’t know about MilkCrate CEO Morgan Berman: The pottery-crafting, jiu-jitsu-armlocking entrepreneur also had herself a lil fashion company long before she was pitching Comcast or pivoting a five-person sustainability company.

The hunt for the perfect bag to complement her junior prom outfit wasn’t yielding any results. “It was a muted gold Ralph Lauren ball gown,” Berman recalls. “I got it on the clearance rack at Bloomingdale’s. I think it was $99.”

During a visit to a thrift store with her mom, the lace overlay of an old-fashioned dress in a similar color stood out. A gold bag was purchased and the lace from the dress was used to cover it.

“We used funky old buttons to hide the seam,” Berman remembers. And thus, a fledgeling, no-name fashion design biz was born.

The mother-daughter team made a bunch of the funky handbags and hauled them out to local shops like Rittenhouse Square boutique Joan Sheppe. And then the big break came.

“The head buyer of Anthropologie dropped her biz card in my display case,” the founder recalls. “She wrote ‘call me’ on the card. A few weeks later I was at the now former Anthro headquarters on Locust for my first business meeting. They bought about 8 bags, I think I made $900.”

Morgan Berman in her senior prom get-up. (Courtesy photo)

Morgan Berman in her senior prom get-up. (Courtesy photo)

Though the company didn’t evolve further than that order from the retail giant, Berman said using design and sustainable practices followed her in later companies. But she also salvaged some lessons from the experience.

“I didn’t realize that what I was doing could have turned into a way to pay for college and build a real business,” Berman said. “A part of me wishes I could go back in time and kick my teenage butt for not sticking with it. It took me a decade to get stir crazy enough to start my own company again. I also learned that relationships and serendipity are powerful forces in life.”

Companies: MilkCrate
People: Morgan Berman

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