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A Luxury Sarasota Handbag Company Has Won Big

Gretchen Bauer wants her Sarasota-based high-end handbag brand BSwanky to compete with — and beat — industry titans.

"We want consumers to select us over Gucci, Hermès, and Prada," Bauer adds, referring to worldwide fashion labels that sell handbags that may cost more than a (new) vehicle in some situations. "We aim to outperform every other firm." Bauer has long had lofty ambitions for the firm she launched in 2017. However, some recent victories have positioned her to advance even faster for the brand, which is known for both its exotic materials and some bags that can easily transition from backpack to shoulder strap. The latter includes ostrich, alligator, and python, and all bags are "hand-cut, hand-painted, and hand-delivered" in the company's Sarasota showroom, according to the company.

Prices range from $1,450 to $6,200 over six lines and 24 goods, although Bauer says her recent sales have been in the $3,800 to $4,500 area. As it seeks to gain ground on global competitors, the business recently hired manufacturing process executive Jim Cavanaugh to handle operations. Cavanaugh is well-known in Sarasota-Manatee manufacturing circles, having spent years working with his family's musical accessory firm, the Super-Sensitive Musical String Co. Cavanaugh and Bauer met first while attending school functions for their children. They then connected over their love of the Japanese industrial idea of Kaizen, or continuous improvement, according to Bauer. "Every organisation needs someone like Jim who is careful and quality-focused," Bauer adds.

"We're attempting to develop standards in an industry that doesn't have any." The second victory, according to Bauer, is a collaboration with Fort Myers-based bespoke jewellery designer Mark Loren. According to Bauer, working with Mark Loren Designs will allow BSwanky to add gold chains, tassels, and bracelets to certain of its bags. Those bags could then sell for up to $20,000, according to Bauer, catapulting BSwanky into a new, even more elite group of customers. "We are very well-known in Florida, as well as a few other areas, such as Chicago and Dallas," she says, "but we want to expand our special clientele."

Other victories are on the way for BSwanky, including a collaboration with an organisation that works with NFL players' wives and product placement at Super Bowl-related events. Bauer's constant motivation is to chase those wins while avoiding complacency, which would undermine the brand's quality and luxury customer service ethos. Bauer says. "I still walk through that door at 8 a.m. every day."

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