“I wake up thinking about this; I go to sleep thinking about this. I lose sleep over this. Even when I think I’m not working, I look down and realize I’m sourcing material,” says Pansy Maiden Founder Laura Collins.
“It’s my passion.”
Collins is a self-taught entrepreneur who has matched her zeal for creativity and the environment with a growing customer base to produce organic, vegan, and sustainable bags and accessories. If that’s not enough, she does this all from her home studio and uses the opportunity to support a manufacturing revival in the United States.
Collins looks back on her playground days, creatively embellishing school paper and turning a profit from her schoolmates, and realizes her youth could have foreshadowed her ultimate founding of Pansy Maiden. After jumping from theater major to television production assistant, summer camp associate director to administrative assistant, Collins realized she was lacking one thing: a purpose.
“I asked myself what I wanted to do 20 years from now, and would I be happy being an admin assistant?” Collins says.
“I wanted something I could take pride in.”
Having designed bags in college, Collins decided to try using Etsy as a creative outlet as she figured out her next career move. Soon after launching her handicrafts on the site, she found her designs gaining popularity among and beyond her friend base. “My first year in business, I decided I would open my own store on my own website, and it’s somehow really taken off. And somehow I’ve developed some business savvy.”
Around the same time, Collins says Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, left a substantial impact on her.
“I had been a vegetarian for nine years. To be a true environmentalist, I decided I needed to be vegan.”
Collins researched all aspects of environmentalism and knew social responsibility needed to be a part of her company’s mission. “I wanted my business to match my own ethics—if we don’t start doing the right thing and acting in socially responsible ways, we’re doomed.” Collins saw too many business ventures putting profits above humanity. “I didn’t want to be part of that problem.”
Pansy Maiden works exclusively with ethically sourced materials in the United States. Collins ensures every piece of each product Pansy Maiden sells adheres to her three standards:
sustainable, locally made, and cruelty-free and earth friendly.
Collins says she even mails a special glue—free of any animal products—to jewelry artisans in the creation of a particular necklace to stick to this mission, and any dyes used leave the lowest environmental impact of any on the market.
“I’m working towards showing that this can be a socially responsible product. Making a 300 percent profit ultimately doesn’t matter if you’re sacrificing humans and the environment.”
At present, almost all of Pansy Maiden’s profits go right back into the company. “Hopefully somewhere in the near future, I’ll see substantial profits. That said, I don’t need to be some sort of huge company that overtakes the world with handbags.”
Collins credits her husband for allowing her to pursue her passions. “I found a partner in my husband who has allowed me to see my full potential.
There’s something to be said about a partner who supports what you’re doing and really propels you.”
A word of advice to aspiring social entrepreneurs? Collins says, “do your research, stay authentic, and just stay true to your ideas.” Following the advice of Collins: overall, love what you do.
Pansy Maiden bags and accessories are available online or in select boutiques and craft markets nationwide.