The Journey From MBA to Entrepreneur
Rachel Chang (MBA '16)
Last year I purchased a Michael Kors “Saffiano Leather” Hamilton Satchel on Amazon for $230, 35% off the retail
price of $360. I was pretty pleased with myself for being such a smart shopper and “saving” $130. I showed the bag
to my husband to brag about the great deal I had just scored.
Edward examined the Michael Kors but the expression on his face was nothing like my excitement. He pointed
out that this bag – like many others in the handbag industry – wasmostly made of polyester, plastic and zamak.
It likely cost less than $40 to make!
I wasn’t so happy with my new bag anymore. To make it up to me, Edward – ever the craftsman - took the time
to make me a real leather bag. Not “genuine” leather but real grain leather from the top layer of split calfskin.
Edward had worked as an in-house corporate attorney at the world's largest athletic footwear company where he
lived inside factory compounds in Taiwan, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. He learned how to make things and
developed expertise in Sustainable Manufacturing and Sourcing.
I loved the experience of a real leather bag and I realized there was room in the market for a brand that made
real leather bags that could be sold at the same price point as many other premium brands.
That’s when we decided to launch our new brand, Wellington & Cromwell. We didn’t want to compromise on
quality design, materials, and craftsmanship to compete on high volume margins but we also didn’t want to be
ridiculously overpriced like traditional luxury brands so the business plan for Wellington & Cromwell is direct to
Wellington & Cromwell creates moral and economic dignity for workers by paying them a fair wage for crafting a
beautiful luxury item, and for clients by offering a luxury item where the value is inherent in ethical craftsmanship,
not wasted in retail markups, celebrity endorsements, and high fashion marketing campaigns.
The Wellington & Cromwell brand is Rugged Luxury. We emphasize the authentic beauty and durability of
natural materials like calfskin leather and pigskin. Rugged luxury goods are those rare items whose quintessential
beauty improves with age and wear. These items have intrinsic value from their authenticity and craftsmanship
but appreciating rugged luxury requires a discerning level of sophistication, taste, and class.
Rugged luxury is linked to the artisanal movement; things that are handcrafted or authentically imperfect
appeal to patrons who shun cookie-cutter, mass-commodity driven goods and seek treasures that offer something
Wellington & Cromwell has been validated by consumers on Kickstarter and investors on Kickfurther and we are
heading towards $70k in sales for 2015 since starting in September. Starting a new company and creating a luxury
brand from scratch is difficult, but like any good entrepreneur, we will continue to innovate and endure as we look
forward to our next chapter.