By now you’re probably familiar with ectu and our bags, but it’s time for you to meet the women behind the brand! Our founders, Connie and Elizabeth, sit down to share more about their backgrounds, the challenges of running a business, and of course, their favorite ectu bags!
To start, can you each share 3 words that best describe each other?
Connie about Elizabeth: Driven, Stylish, and Generous
Elizabeth about Connie: Caring, Creative, Considerate
What made you decide to start ectu?
We both do not have the typical background that most fashion startups have in this industry. We met in business school and bonded over our shared love of fashion and style. Years later, when we were taking a trip together and laughed at each other’s choice of carry-on bags, we had the idea to create a functional, travel bag that felt and looked luxurious.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you encountered starting the business?
Determined with the idea to bring beautiful travel bags to women and a whole lot of courage, we started from scratch in terms of teaching ourselves about the industry, finding the right vendors and partners, marketing with the power of social media. We exhausted all our resources, both financially and personally. And although it was a lot of trial and error (and stress) in the beginning, we realized that starting from scratch led us to lesser-known factories where the quality is just as comparable to those that work with luxury brands.
This also led us to finding materials that are functional, beautiful, and even sustainable. Partnering with less well-known factories means we are passing those savings pass through to our customers. By personally looking for the right partners, we allow other small businesses to flourish and shine especially during some tough times. It took us a lot longer than other startups to get to where we are, but we feel that this journey has brought us lifelong partnerships and knowledge that we would not pass up for the world.
How has the pandemic impacted your business?
We are a travel bag company and given that the pandemic has upended the travel industry this past year, we had to shift gears. We wanted to create a new bag that is more than just a travel accessory. We envisioned a compact style that hugged our body to avoid accidentally touching anything. This new design also allows easy access to the “new” essential items that we now carry everyday, like hand sanitizer.
The result is our Veda crossbody, a functional and beautiful mini bag that has more capacity than the average mini bag. In the end, the pandemic compelled us to create one of our bestsellers!
What has been the proudest moment since you both started ectu?
It’s been amazing to witness some of our favorite influencers (i.e. Arielle Charnas, Helena Glazer, Jenny Tsang, Chriselle Lim...etc.), who we follow personally, carrying ectu bags. It offers a sense of accomplishment and motivates us to do even better.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Connie: For the first few years of college, I took on tons of classes and activities because I thought that was what was expected of me. I burnt out very quickly and my grades reflected that. That’s when I decided to take 2 semesters off to study abroad. It was my first experience abroad and on my own. Although it took me a longer time to finish college compared to everyone else, the decision to take time off kickstarted my love for travel and new experiences.
Elizabeth: I graduated with a double degree in Electrical Engineering and Economics from undergrad. Upon graduation, I joined a global consulting company. My career goal at that time was to climb the corporate ladder and to be a part of the upper management team one day. Never did I imagine myself changing my career path and having the courage to become an entrepreneur!
Which is your favorite ectu bag and why?
Connie: I love the Veda. On a typical day, I’m all about jeans and a t-shirt with minimal jewelry. To me, the chain detail and the leather of the Veda adds a polished note to my otherwise very laid-back style. I also find the card slots inside of the Veda so useful that I don’t even bother with a wallet anymore!
Elizabeth: I love the Palermo weekender, especially the newly upgraded version that has more interior compartments than the previous version. The Palermo is roomy enough to pack all my travel essentials for the weekend, and the luggage sleeve allows me to easily slide it through the luggage handle so I can avoid carrying a bag on my shoulder. Most importantly, unlike all the other travel bags out there, the Palermo has such a sleek design, it elevates my style regardless of whether I am traveling for leisure or for work.
How do you mentally and physically balance your work and family life?
Connie: I make sure to book a social hour for myself once a week during the week. Whether its meeting for a cup of coffee or video chatting with an old friend, I make sure that there are plenty of laughs! It gives me a break right in the middle of the week and gives me the opportunity to share and learn from others’ experiences.
Elizabeth: I am a strong-believer in the notion that everyone needs some “me-time”. As a mother of 2 young kids during this pandemic, it is especially important that I find some time to take care of myself. I wake up an hour before the kids wake up to exercise or to simply enjoy a cup of coffee. I also reserve time for myself on a weekly basis to just read or to connect with friends, which gives me more energy and patience, and allows me to be a better wife, mom, and business partner.
What’s next for ectu?
Many things! Now that the world is (hopefully) opening back up and travel will resume, we’re expanding our assortment. New weekender styles are currently in the works, as well as smaller travel accessories. In addition, we will be debuting existing styles in new colors ways. We know that our customers are eager to get dressed and travel again, so we’re excited to deliver new options for them to travel in ease, stylishly!
To be the first to know about the new styles when they launch, sign up for our newsletter! Keep checking back for future blog posts where we’ll be sharing more behind-the-scenes looks at your favorite products.