Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
My name is Sydney. I am the founder of the brand BANDITS.
Committed to making your life easier, the Bandit is a functional zipper pocket, hidden within a stylish wrist accessory. The Bandit provides freedom from worry, whether that be about losing your new wedding ring on your honeymoon or figuring out how to bring an essential medication out and about. Simplifying the little things is what we are all about.
According to a recent survey, 40 percent of men and 80 percent of women will lose their wedding band. And given the current safekeeping options, it’s no wonder the statistics are so bleak. Throw it in your bag or locker, and you risk damaging the jewelry. Keep it on during physical activity, and you risk injury. (I interviewed a jeweler who told me he often has to cut rings off customers’ fingers due to accidents that occur while they’re wearing them.) All that’s left is to not wear your ring at all, but then what a waste!
The Bandit is the innovative alternative. Both stylish and safe, the Bandit provides peace of mind, allowing you to accessorize while not worrying if your most precious items will be left behind. Providing this product for people around the world is truly something special to me.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Bandits was born from hearing about and experiencing the problem. I never knew where to put my wedding ring when I was enjoying the great outdoors, and I knew I wasn’t alone.
The Bandit was designed in my basement, and it is the first (and probably the last) thing I have ever sewn. When you have a ton of faith + are committed to solving a problem, you’d be surprised at what one can accomplish.
Last year I had the opportunity to partner with Brian Smith, founder of UGG. I met Brian at a speaking engagement called “The Birth of a Brand.” I had a lot of questions and thought, “Who would be better at helping me think through them than Brian, someone who has built a globally recognized brand from the ground up?” After a completely out-of-character and bold email on my part, our friendship began. He put himself in my shoes and imagined how much he would’ve appreciated the advice back when he was creating the UGG brand.
What makes this brand something special?
I once pitched Bandits to a large room of people. The very first thing I did was ask the audience if they had some sort of connection to one of the following: a special piece of jewelry, a key to their home, or a medication they must have on their person at all times.
Every person in the room had their hand up.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
Trial and error. You do the best you can with what you have. If it doesn’t work, you try and try again until it looks and runs how you envisioned it. Day One of opening my store was so raw and nerve-wracking, but I will never forget that feeling of receiving my first order. Every brand starts somewhere, and each hardship and challenge makes holding a finished product you are proud of that much sweeter.
At the beginning, I was every type of “professional”: the photographer who never used a legitimate camera, a web designer who didn’t know how to code, a financial manager who hated math. But I quickly learned that knowing a little about a lot of things was essential for me to get Bandits off the ground. It’s crazy to think that now I have a team of seven! I am super proud of my people.
The brand took off after a fitness influencer (@paleomg) posted a photo of herself sporting a Bandit. This post alone created more than 300 orders in one day. Word of mouth carried orders for the next two years, and that was five years ago. We only began marketing online one year ago. Organic growth is the way to go.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Ok, I am about to get real quotey. But you should repeat these words of wisdom to yourself daily.
Go into it with the intent of helping others and to solve a problem. You’re not in it for the money, and if you were you wouldn’t survive the first few years anyway. You need to be genuinely involved in raising your baby (your business), and to do that you have to nurture it properly.
Know your customer. I learned this from the Small Business Development Center here in Peoria, Illinois (local business developers are everywhere—it never hurts to schedule a meeting). They taught me the importance of knowing your customer base and really understanding what it is that they are looking to get out of your product. This is a big one.
Let doubt fuel the fire of inspiration. If you don’t feel supported or have been told you can’t do something because you’re not talented enough, don’t dwell on that. Use it as fuel and as a reason for overcoming that self-doubt. On the flip side, take criticism kindly.
Give it to God. If it's meant to be it'll be. Ever since I can remember I have been told, give your problems to God- let him work in your life. It hasn't failed me yet.
Take in the little things. Running your own business is something many people dream of. Every little glance of light is a victory. Celebrate that.
Be you. We all have a combination of different talents. Use what you have been given and be the best you can be. With this mindset and a kind heart, you’ll be unstoppable no matter what’s thrown your way.