Randa Roberts - So Comfy Designs - Sarnia, ON
Proud to introduce one of the first Girl Gang Members with a unique small business that has won her awards and high praise in her community.
What is So Comfy Designs? How did you start and how long have you been in business?
It goes back to 2012, where my first collection was headbands and sandals made from upcycled t-shirts. The first, and most common feedback I got was "it's SO COMFY!" and my BFF suggested I name my business So Comfy Designs. Starting out I had a lot to learn, and I just tried to be open and find something that resonated with me, and to make a product that nobody else was making. Eventually upcycled sweater mittens, and then upcycled leather bags became what I was known for. And here we are!
Creating new designs and keeping up on trends can be tricky, how do you maintain your growth and keep it fresh?
Well, the materials will always inspire me, so when I get handed some leather for a custom bag, or I find a couch on the curb to strip, that's when the first ideas come to me. I've found that the trick to keeping trendy is to pick one element of a trend I love, then include it in my work. That way it's timely but also timeless. So, a recent example is I love the trend of the pieced wood art wall hangings/furniture, so I was inspired to design something similar, but with leather, and made it into a coin purse. I do my best, and if it doesn't resonate with me, then I don't make it.
Tell us about your new Vessel Collection you just launched.
It came from the need to de-stash my couch leather collection! I'd been stripping couches and had a lot of really useful leather, but no idea what to do. I was totally inspired by the thickness and the beautiful suede back that was in excellent shape, so I created a collection of bags that didn't have linings, and really are a vessel for your essentials. Wallet, keys, phone. Simple bags, that in my opinion, were very beautiful in their own minimalistic way. I've been carrying one of the fold over styles for months and I love to use it. Perfect for summer!
What was one of your most memorable pieces you’ve made to date?
Like asking me who's my favorite child. No, there are so many stories behind most of my pieces, especially the custom bags that are made from a loved ones jacket. It's very meaning for me to be able to use my skills to give a family a little souvenir of a loved one in the form of a wallet, or bag, or keychain. I'll always value every single one of those experiences. I do want to give an honorable mention to the Louis V fringe out's that I've been doing. I had one customer come to me a few years ago with a picture and a Louis Vuitton, and since then I've lost count on how many I've done. Each one unique. I'm working on one right now actually!
Looking back now what would you never expect from working for yourself?
Funny story. 12 years ago I crossed paths with a psychic who told me that I'd be in business for myself. And she told me that it would be very hard and I'd want to give up a lot, but to keep going and it would work out. I never in a million years imagined at that moment that I would be a handmade maker and actually have been able to make hundreds of bags and mittens!
Working for myself is without a doubt the hardest job because there are a million steps to take before you make a profit for yourself. And that was unexpected, because I thought that a low overhead meant more profit, but really there are so many factors. And I'm still hustling towards that profit, so you have to be resilient as hell sometimes. I had hoped it would happens sooner (lol).
What goals have you set for So Comfy in the next 5 years? 10 years?
The next frontier will be recording some of what I've learned and hopefully turning it around and teaching and selling some sewing patterns. I've been a part of the OLFA Craft team for a few years, and I hope to continue working with them. I have some really exciting projects coming up, so it's already starting! I've been super inspired by my fellow maker and OLFA Expert Carla who paid for her kids university directly from her sewing and crafting, that truly is my number one goal in the next 5-10.
How has the pandemic affected the way you work and what have you shifted that would enhance your skill set going into 2022?
Maybe I could have had a pandemic-proof business, but the truth is, I'm a mom first, and having our lives flipped with the kids learning from home affected me a lot. It definitely robbed me of my creativity because of the stress and uncertainty that the pandemic brought. Like a lot of people, I struggled, and had to accept that it's okay, and I'm okay. Not easy. So going into 2022, I've been laying the groundwork for more social media posts, more tutorials, and making answering e-mails and message a top priority. Those things had suffered over the last 18 months and they are really important to my business.
You were apart of the making of Girl Gang, over the past 3 years what would you say Girl Gang means to you?
Girl Gang is a like-minded group of super creative and fearless female makers, a lot of whom I call personal friends, and that's the real core reason why I love and support it. I know you speak to a huge market, and it is amazing that I can hand you my product, and you'll show it to them. I've loved your photography, location, mission, and marketing, and that's what I think makes the Girl Gang stand out. Also, you're pretty awesome women!
Who has been your BIGGEST support system through all of the ups and downs, the unknowns, and the successes?
My family and friends. My husband is very selfless and supportive always, and my Mom is the first person I call when something exciting happens for my business. It's really easy to have doubts, and see all the flaws in something when you're the creator, so having like minded friends who are also makers, and seriously the best customers a girl could want are the secrets to my longevity.
Lastly, any advice you would give to someone that is thinking of working for themselves?
Don't give up! Always be open to learning a new way. Search for podcasts that will teach you or inspire you. Show gratitude. Believe in yourself. Ask for help. And, don't give up (that one bears repeating).
Photography by Meghan Chute Photography