Debra Chin: Founder of MotoChic Gear Bags
The new series highlighting entrepreneurs and their road to success!
1-Can you share with readers a little about your background.
I’m originally from New York City but moved out to California after I received my MBA from Columbia Business School, having worked in marketing for several Fortune 500 companies. I relocated to San Francisco during the dot-com boom and fell in love with its unique blend of cultural diversity, amazing weather, and endless places to explore.
2-Were you always an entrepreneur?
Both of my parents’ families owned and operated laundry businesses after immigrating to the U.S. When I was growing up, my mother and father often stressed the importance of education, hard work, and having control over your own destiny. They encouraged me to be a doctor or a lawyer — their version of entrepreneurship in those days! After moving to the Bay Area, I got bit by the start-up bug and loved helping early stage companies grow to be sustainable businesses. My first entrepreneurial experience in fashion was being owner of a bridesmaid boutique. Let me tell you, there’s nothing more challenging yet rewarding than helping women make their wedding dreams come true!
3-When did you conceive the idea of the MotoChic Bags?
I discovered the joys of motorcycling as a way to explore the Bay Area backroads with my boyfriend (now fiancé!) in 2013. However, I soon discovered that the gear options available for women were limited to the “shrink it and pink it” approach taken by most mainstream manufacturers.
I founded MotoChic in 2013 to answer the need for high quality, design-conscious clothing and accessories for ladies with active lifestyles. I was inspired by the many women I met and surveyed on and off the bike during the development phase of my first product — the Lauren convertible backpack/tote.
MotoChic bags and accessories offer a combination of fashion and functionality for all women on the go as they balance work, family, travel, and play.
4-How long did it take from conception to retail?
I began researching concepts for MotoChic in 2013, raised funds for production in 2014, and began manufacturing the Lauren backpack/tote and Valerie cross-body essentials purse in early 2015. My e-commerce site www.motochicgear.com was launched and our first retailers signed on in the second half of 2015.
5-Can you share some of the pitfalls you experienced trying to get the bags designed and ready to go to market.
Quality control…I have very high standards and MotoChic’s high quality bags reflect this. I had to reject many of the earlier prototypes, samples, and some partial shipments of the bags throughout the manufacturing process due to material and construction issues. It was frustrating but I never gave up, never cut corners, and never wavered. The final products and the positive reviews I’ve received have made it all worthwhile!
6-Did you need investors to get the bags produced?
I raised over $30K in just 30 days on Kickstarter in December 2014. That’s when I knew for sure that MotoChic was a viable brand with a diverse market of women in need of its products.
7-Can you describe the bags and why they stand out from other bags/ backpacks. Are they for everyone or just motorcycle enthusiasts?
Although MotoChic was conceived with motorcyclists in mind, its versatility and style has proven perfect for all women with active lifestyles. Men also love to rock our products!
8-Who is your target market?
Women who value functionality and style whether they are travelers, commuters, moms, students, fashionistas, or bikers. Also, the men who love to shop for them!
9-How are sales to date?
Sweet! The bulk of our sales are through our e-commerce site, and we’re also available through selected Bay Area retailers. We’ve fulfilled orders from around the globe including across the U.S., Australia, Scotland, Ireland, the UK, Canada, and Singapore. Some of our celebrity customers in the moto world include American Motorcycle Association Female Athlete of the Year — Erin Hunter Sills, 7x Land Speed Record Holder — Valerie Thompson, and Fastest Woman on Earth — Eva Hakansson.
10-Future goals for MotoChic?
We added a high performance base layer top for men and women to our product line this year, and are in the process of developing a sport version of our popular Lauren convertible backpack/tote based on input from customers who want a lighter weight, vegan-friendly bag. We look forward to continuing on our mission to supply women around the world with functional, fashionable gear they love.
11-If you could share 3–5 most important tips for an entrepreneur wishing to start a new venture and launch a product, what advice would you share?
1) Be original by using your personal experiences as a filter. It’s likely that someone has or will come up with similar ideas. What they can never imitate is what you bring to the entrepreneurial process — your personal experiences, passions, and persistence.
2) Build a strong team, a few key players who will inspire and motivate you to keep going when times are tough, and celebrate with you when you earn a win.
3) Strive to improve relationships versus sales. I treat ever interaction with a customer as an opportunity to meet someone new, hear their story, and share mine.
12-Is there an entrepreneur, male or female who inspired you to launch your company?
The enduring beauty and adventurous spirit of Lauren Hutton, the American model, actress, and motorcycle enthusiast was the inspiration for the Lauren backpack/tote. Seven times land speed record holding motorcyclist, Valerie Thompson, inspired the Valerie essentials purse based on her versatility and need for speed. Both have created their own personal brands representing beautiful, accomplished, and empowered women.
13-Please add anything you want to share about MotoChic, new announcements …
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