Hot! Stephanie Sumarsono, Court Couture

Court Couture and Karisa Renee by Court Couture, launched in 2009, brings 21st century fashion to the tennis courts by providing fresh styles and new looks.

‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching this business: Playing tennis has been a big part of my life. When I think of tennis, I think of great exercise and friends. There were so many fashionable outfits at the tennis courts from cute miniskirts, matching tennis shoes and hats. One thing I noticed there was no tennis bag available to match those nice apparels. With design backgrounds, my love of tennis and my obsession of handbags, I combined all my passion into tennis bags. This was how Court Couture was born. With the success of the tennis bags, I was asked so many times: “You can create tennis bags this nice, why don’t you create other bags for those who don’t play tennis?” This was my second “Ah ha” moment. Karisa Renee by Court Couture was born soon after.

Ideal Customer: Women age 18-70 years.

First Customer: I opened a sponsor booth during a women tennis tournament.

Measuring Success: I measure success by: doing what I am good at and passionate about, where I can grow as an individual and say that I am a better person today than I was yesterday; by creating products that make life easier for women while making them feel good; and by impacting the lives of underprivileged people in Africa. Part of my profits goes to Global Reach Africa.

Biggest Struggle: Finding new markets. I overcame it by making new connections with buyers through attending trade shows and being involved in various sponsorships events, such as Spark & Hustle.

Surprise!: Running a business is like climbing a ladder. The higher you are up there, the better view you can see. The sky is the limit. The hardest step is the first one.

Two things I wish I would’ve known: The value of good marketing strategy and the importance of investing money in infrastructures such as website, SEO and a professional photographer.

What keeps you up at night (business-wise!): New design ideas and new business strategies.

Ever tempted to throw in the towel: No, I love what I do so much and every morning I am excited to find out what kind of adventures I will have that day.

Moving Forward: Better marketing strategy by placing new ads in national magazines and event sponsorships. Building better infrastructures: more effective, visible and accessible website.

Pricing, Getting It Right: Pricing my bags is always a challenge for me, especially in the current market. My advice is not to be too greedy. Some businesses want to make 100% return on investment. We need to be able to lower our expectation to move the inventory faster.

A Few Good Tips: I manufacture my products overseas. I researched online. I conducted interviews. The few manufacturers I chose will receive my design and specification. When the samples, pricing and other details meet my requirement, I make a visit to the factory. This process takes time, money and energy, but once you find the right manufacturer, it’s all worth it.

The absolute best part of owning my business is: I can set my own schedule and am fully in charge of the direction of the company.

If I had to start over again, I would have: not changed a thing.

I never imagined: finding the right manufacturer would be so difficult

If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: “Hang tight and don’t give up. Take one step at a time and stay focused.”

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