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Woman founds handbag company out of her closet during COVID-19 pandemic

Jasmin Barmore, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Fashion Daily News

DETROIT — About a year ago, Angel Reeves was forced to resign from her job at Medilodge of Farmington, Michigan, where she worked as a licensed practical nurse for four years, after COVID-19 ripped through the state, claiming the lives and livelihoods of many.

The novel coronavirus pandemic had shut down the school of Reeves' 5-year-old son, Cameron Sy, meaning he would have to be homeschooled full time and Angel was his only option because his dad worked days. The loss of income was devastating, she recalled. And she had no idea how she was going to provide for her son.

But "someone had to stay home with him," the 30-year-old mom said.

Reeves said it was a struggle at first to figure out a way to generate income while not being able to work outside her Westland home. Nursing was all she knew to pay the bills, and that was something she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to go back to. So she had to come up with a plan, something she could rely on to provide for her family in the event nursing was no longer an option.

That is when Haus of Sy was born. And business has been good.

Haus of Sy — the name inspired by Reeves' son — is an online handbag store that she created, carrying two different styles of purses: a signature logo bag that is available in colors like black, brown, red, hunter green, lilac, hot pink, orange, yellow and navy and baby blue, and retails for $150; and the mini tote that comes in black, gray, lime green, aqua and two cow printed designs: black and white and brown and white, and retails for $110.

Each purse, designed by Reaves and manufactured in China, is made of 100% vegan leather, Reaves said, and since her first live sale in November, she has sold over 800 purses. But it wasn’t until her most recent sale earlier this month, when the site sold out of all its inventory in 19 minutes, that Reeves said she realized she was really onto something.

“I made just under $50,000 in that one drop,” she said, still in amazement. “I had 250 orders and sold all 265 bags. I couldn’t believe it.”

Reeves credits the content that she pushes out on her social media platforms — Instagram, Clubhouse, Twitter and Facebook — and the people who follow her, as being key to her success. While she has had some local celebs buy her handbags, the bulk of her support is from everyday folks who just want to see her succeed.

Reeves' online success is a bright spot in what has been a generally gloomy year for many businesses, especially small and minority-owned businesses. The coronavirus relief loans that the federal government made available for businesses were troublesome for many Black business owners during the application process, with many more reported denials than non-minority-owned businesses , according to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife. Two in three minority-owned, small businesses have said they are concerned about having to close their doors permanently, the report said.

So when Reeves dumped her entire savings into starting Haus of Sy, she admitted she was on pins and needles.

 

“It was very nerve-racking at first. I kept contemplating on do I really want to take this leap of faith and do this,” she said. “But, you know, I prayed a lot and manifested everything I said I wanted to have and here we are.”

Haus of Sy is not the only Black-owned business that was able to successfully open during troubling times. Detroit rapper Tone Tone opened Toney Island, a Coney Island restaurant with a soul food twist, which brought huge crowds to pick up food on Detroit’s east side.

Other successful businesses that started during the pandemic include a selfie museum and event space called The Pose Experience in Southfield and Dose Collective, a retail space for small businesses to set up shop. And coming to Detroit's east side this summer is Neighborhood Grocery, the first Black-owned grocery store since 2014.

Reeves, who grew up on Detroit's west side and attended Detroit public schools, said that prior to going to nursing school, she always had a love of fashion.

“Before I had my son, I spent time as a stylist, a personal shopper and I would even distress denim and people would buy them from me” she said. “I knew I always wanted to create my own fashion line, and I wanted to start off with something that would stand out, so I started with designing a handbag.

“But never in a million years did I think things would move this fast for me. I’ve literally shipped a bag to every state in the U.S and even one to Paris.”

Reeves, who is the sole employee of her business, said she only releases a limited number of handbags on the website each time she restocks the site, because in the beginning she didn’t know how her sales would do. And now she does it to make sure she keeps up with the orders. On Friday , Haus of Sy will be having its fourth live sale on its website, with about 300 purses available to purchase. She said she has a feeling that the sales will do just as well as her earlier 19-minute sellout, if not better.

Her supporters and customers help to keep her business alive and relevant. But the key that unlocked this door for her, she said, is her faith in God.

“My world for sure changed in a way I never imagined, and I am just glad that my faith was still strong enough for me to step out on it…because honestly, some days, it still shocks me that I birthed a business during COVID.”

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