You may or may not be familiar with the brand Tesoro, but you will be. It’s an affordable luxury handbag company founded by one badass millennial babe, Brittany Reed. Tesoro creates beautiful handbags from leather sourced right here in the United States of America.
We were wondering how this beautiful business came into existence, and it is such an amazing story. Brittany was creating handbags from her parents’ basement for close friends and family with the hope to one day make it her full-time gig. One night, an angel in disguise named Miranda offered Brittany and her former partner, Emily, the chance of a lifetime. Miranda and her husband encouraged Brittany to leave her job and start her own company. The couple offered to be mentors and investors in the budding business. Both Brittany and her former partner quickly jumped on the idea, and the rest is history. Since that conversation with Miranda and her husband, Brittany has launched multiple collections, a website and opened up her first brick and mortar store in West Chester, PA.
Harness was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Brittany about business, life and the inspiration behind the Tesoro brand. Here is a peek inside our conversation with the Tesoro founder.
You strongly believe in sourcing leather from the US – why is the creation of the handbag so important? What are some damaging effects of the leather industry? How does Tesoro combat this?
“Sourcing our leather in the United States is just another way to make our brand more conscious and ethical. The most simple reason is that we use less fossil fuels by purchasing leather in the US because the leather does not need to be shipped as far. Another key reason is that leather tanning is a very chemically driven process. Here in the US, there are regulations which tanneries must follow, including chemical and water recycling. In towns like Kanpur, India, leather tanneries are a part of their DNA. In 2009, India was producing 8 percent of the leather used worldwide. In this region, the water supply in the Ganges River is heavily polluted, leading to cancer, kidney failure and dementia. Although steps have been taken to start to recycle water, many of the workers in over 400 operational tanneries are still not wearing the proper gear to protect them from the chemicals they are knee-deep in. In the USA, most tanneries are still family owned and operated, which means they care for their workers. This is really a human health issue, and we are working towards using vegetable tanned leather. These leathers do not use Chromium to finish the hide, but rather use natural items like tree bark to do the job, and therefore are much more environmentally friendly than most other leathers. There is still so much work that needs to be done, but we think this is a great first step to making our brand more guilt-free for our customers. The other side of this problem is obviously the labor laws around the world where most large companies have their bags made. The workers are sometimes far too young and are almost all underpaid and undervalued. Here at Tesoro, we think every human life has value, and we put that into practice by making our bags with love, by someone who loves their job,” Brittany said.
What is the mission behind Tesoro?
“To empower women, minimize our carbon footprint, raise awareness on the leather industry’s damaging effects, and conquer the world.
You could say we’re an ambitious company.”
Female empowerment is a cause near and dear to your organization. How is Tesoro Design empowering women?
“Absolutely! We empower local women makers by selling their products in our shop and through collaborations. Our photographers and videographer are all women, a few of whom are still in or recently graduated from college. We also created a Nasty Woman choker following the results of the 2016 Presidential election. A percentage of every sale from the chokers are donated to Planned Parenthood,” she said.
“Our styles are also created to empower women by giving them options. A lot of our bags can be worn two to four different ways allowing women to have a handbag that is prepared for any occasion.”
You’ve accomplished so much, do you have any advice for other women who are trying to get a product based business off of the ground?
“My advice to other women trying to get a product based business off the ground is to take the time to figure out your brand image. I think as much as I tried to figure that out before starting, I got a little too excited about the design process and didn’t do all the brand development I could have,” said Brittany.
Brittany, running a handbag company is no easy feat. Can you share some of those challenges with Harness readers?
“My biggest challenge is the design process. Since I went directly from school at FIT to this job, I never had the opportunity to see how other designers work. Because of this, I had to work hard to figure out what works for me. It’s taken over two years, but I think I am finally designing the quality bags that I always hoped I would.”
Hindsight is always 20/20. Share with us something you wish you knew back then.
“I wish I would have known that asking for help does not make you weak, it makes your brand stronger. For about a year I tried to do everything artistically on my own. From designing the bags, sourcing leather, making the bags, down to the photoshoots, website, Instagram and so on. Once I started hiring photographers and asking for advice on the site, everything really came together. Although Tesoro is still 100% my vision, there are so many people who have helped elevate the brand.We especially love our photographers Arantxa Mosqueda and Sabina Sister, and our videographer Maria Vattimo,” Brittany said.
What does 2018 have in store for Tesoro, and what will your main focus be?
“In 2018 the focus will be on spreading the word. I finally feel happy about the designs and ready to start reaching out to influencers and more shops outside of Pennsylvania. So get ready to see us everywhere!”
Brit, which bag is your favorite?
“My favorite bag is the Brittany Clutch. It is the first bag I designed, and what really caught the eye of our investors. It is a fully reversible clutch that also lays flat in your luggage. It is the ultimate travel bag. I loved the design so much that I named it after myself. The shape and size has stayed the same since day one, but after talking with customers, the bag has become a cross body, and now has a different closure than the original,” Brit said.
When you aren’t creating amazing handbags, what are you doing in your free time?
“In my free time I spend a lot of time at the gym, outside hiking/camping, and with friends. I find that all of those things are also a source of inspiration in my work as well. The women around me have really helped to shape this company into what it is. I also recently started a t-shirt line that is all about empowering women, and I do all of that work in my free time. We all need a little side hustle.”
Finally, Brit, we love quotes here at Harness. What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is by Amelia Earhart, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
It was such a pleasure interviewing Brit. If you want to see more of the Tesoro line, please check out the Website, Instagram, or Facebook. Please note this post is sponsored. However, Harness carefully curates all sponsored posts and only promotes products we believe in.