Classy purses impress

Many entrepreneurs suffer moments of trepidation. For Della Murphy Ruston, one came after she sent $5,000 to a Chinese manufacturer she’d found on the Internet.

Della Ruston

Della Ruston

Many entrepreneurs suffer moments of trepidation.

For Della Murphy Ruston, one came after she sent $5,000 to a Chinese manufacturer she’d found on the Internet.

“I kind of had the attitude, ‘No guts, no glory,’” recalled Ruston, who had decided to start a handbag design business. “I just kind of kissed my money goodbye and said, ‘I hope I get something back.”

Luckily, she did: a big box full of purses that were true to the design she’d provided and produced to a high standard.

“The quality was just fantastic.”

Two years later, and Della Designed purses continue to impress.

“They’re just really classy, unique bags,” said Ruston.

“People get really excited about them and they bring back their mother and their sister and their friend.”

The home-based business now boasts 34 designs, including clutches, totes, shoulder bags and purses — even laptop and iPhone bags. Ruston creates the designs and chooses the leather and hardware; her Chinese manufacturer assembles the handbags by hand, one at a time.

Last fall, Sears approached her about selling Della Designed products through its online store.

“I thought at first it was just spam,” she said of the invitation, adding that the relationship has since worked out very well.

Ruston, who is principal at Westpark Middle School, has her own online store and has also sold through open houses, trade shows and the Red Deer public market.

“It’s a hobby job that’s just gone really well.”

She confesses to a lifelong affinity for handbags.

Prior to starting Della Designed, Ruston sold products from an American company. But she thought she could do better.

“I had some ideas, and thought that I could design bags myself and sell them.”

The creative part was easy for Ruston, who at one point considered enrolling in a fine arts program at SAIT. It was the production that made her uneasy — particular when she had to put her faith in an unseen manufacturer thousands of kilometres away.

“I was very fortunate that I found an amazing manufacturer that’s been in business for a while.”

Another challenge was developing the business skills to support her venture.

“I had to do quite a bit of research, as far as complying with government standards and so on,” she said, listing import regulations, duties, taxes and GST as among the sources of paperwork she has to deal with.

But Della Designed is ideal for Ruston’s schedule, requiring time only when she isn’t involved with her school responsibilities. And it could someday take her to China.

“I definitely plan to go over there,” she said, describing how she regularly interacts with her contact at the production shop in Asia.

“I feel like I have a personal relationship with her.”

Additional information about Della Designed and its handbags can be found online at www.delladesigned.com or by calling Ruston at 403-347-9175.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com