Natacha Seroussi first developed her passions for sustainability and fashion as a child in her father's workshop, where he sold jewelry and vintage leather bags. She remembers spending hours watching him work, fiddling with beads and scraps of fabric, in between her time spent riding horses and roaming the French countryside.
Later, as a horse trainer in New York state, she traveled to trade shows in Manhattan with her father. Inspired by the fashionable women there, she decided to make a career out of her two passions.
Together with her father, Elie, Seroussi created LaFlore Paris, an ethical, sustainable handbag brand for women.
"I decided to create handbags that were elegant, and made out of an alternative to leather," Seroussi said. "My father and I collaborated to create LaFlore Paris, which represents our values of aesthetics and ethics."
LaFlore's bags are made out of all-natural cork, a waterproof, biodegradable, leatherlike vegan material. The harvesting of cork also helps the trees to flourish, and the company uses any leftover materials in other ways to reduce waste.
The brand currently offers four products: its flagship convertible backpack, the bobobark; a clutch wallet; a coin purse; and a glasses case. In September, it announced the launch of its newest product, the bebebark, a smaller, day-to-night version of the bobobark.
Seroussi said that she and her father designed the bags to be unique and speak to their heritage of craftsmanship.
"The design of [our bags] is very different from what you can find on the market. I believe that we are showing women that they can have it all in one bag, without compromising on beauty, practicality, or their efforts to limit their impact on the environment."
Launching the business
Getting the brand off the ground took a lot of hard work, resilience and an unwavering devotion to her vision, but Seroussi knew there was space in the market for a brand like LaFlore.
"First I had to convince my father to use vegan material," she said. "Then it took some time to create a brand identity and design the bag. Gathering the right team and finding the best channel to introduce our designs to the world was also very challenging and stressful. We failed more than once. The first three years were tough, but I believed in the project."
That belief led Seroussi and her father to post their business on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site that focuses on creative projects, in July of 2019.
Since then, LaFlore Paris has raised $1,385,803, the highest amount for any female-founded business on the site. Seroussi, however, doesn't define herself as a female founder, but as a founder, period.
"I am a founder, that's all," she said. "I don't think my gender has anything to do with my success, or that it can make it more or less impressive. My hope is that LaFlore Paris can become the highest-funded project of all genders combined."
How to be successful at crowdfunding
Crowdfunding has been increasingly popular over the last decade, with posters asking for funds for everything from medical treatments to bucket-list trips. Like LaFlore, many businesses have seen success on crowdfunding sites, though it's not always easy to get momentum.
"Crowdfunding takes preparation," Seroussi said. "You need to work hard on your product, your campaign, and anticipate [sales] in terms of logistics."
Seroussi also highlighted the importance of a strong team and partners surrounding you, even if it takes time and money to find the right ones.
"Crowdfunding is like any business – you have to take a risk and invest in order to achieve results," she said. "If you think you can do everything on your own, you might never take it to the next level."
Seroussi offered some tips for success with crowdfunding:
- Don't cut corners. Good things take time; the faster you go, the smaller your chance of success.
- Be authentic in everything you do.
- Find good partners and good service providers, even if it takes time.
- Put effort into your pre-launch campaign.
- Make sure your page has quality videos, images and page content.
- Hold on to your dream, and don't let others discourage you.
Seroussi credits her success with LaFlore Paris to her preparation and the company's ability to fill a true gap in the market.
"There is a real need for women to own elegant and practical backpacks that are also eco-friendly and vegan," she said. "Until now, women had to pick either an elegant tote bag or a bulky backpack, but there wasn't any chic backpack that could convert into a shoulder bag."
She also noted that she and her father have a strong brand identity as a family business with a craftsman heritage, a strong eye for aesthetics, and a focus on working hard to reach their goals.
"I believe the transparency of our storytelling touched people, and they could identify with us," she said. "If you put in the work and create a beautiful product with real purpose, while being honest and sincere about your story, you will have more of a chance at succeeding."