Lela and I often joke that we don’t miss a great number of things from the decade we spent living in Columbia, SC- but two of the things we miss the most are Sally Peek of Nana by Sally and the Soda City Market. This is Chloe, and I’m the Marketing Maven and Client Concierge here at Lucky Break. Many of you know me best as Lela’s favorite daughter 😉
I spent many Saturdays during my young life roaming down Main Street picking up breakfast and fresh produce at the weekly market- and those mornings always included a stop by Sally’s booth… and usually a pleading with Lela (who is both my boss and my mom) to let me take home yet-another bespoke clutch. Mom and I both have tidy collections of Sally’s “Nana” bags and she was gracious enough to design custom clutch and matching bow tie for my freshman homecoming dance.
Sally Peak has been at the Soda City Market almost every Saturday over the last decade. She’s bubbly and kind and she drips style from every pore. Lela and I both are excited for you to meet her, because she’s eschewed wholesale and has no plans of building an empire. She intentionally small, a decided one-woman show, and she’s earned heaps of hometown success. Once you meet her and see her work, we imagine you’ll know why!
Sally Peak of Nana by Sally
LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?
Sally: I was looking for a creative outlet when I decided to try my hand at sewing. I signed up at the last minute for a class at a local museum and the project was making a handbag. From that moment forward I was hooked. I started making them for family and friends and the demand was there. That demand is what gave me the push to take that first leap into starting my own business.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Sally: I create bags that tell a story. I want them to stand out in a crowd. I use vintage textiles and unique leathers meant to make a statement. Even my most minimalist bags have a certain aesthetic to set them apart from a factory-produced handbag.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Sally: I sell via Etsy and at Soda City Market on Main Street (Columbia, SC) every Saturday. My goods are also available for perusal by appointment at my home studio.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Sally: Because my business was born out of a necessity to feed the demand and legitimize the sales of my bags, I didn’t really have a vision at first. I still don’t plan long-term with the business and this is my 12th year of it! I do know that my business, from the beginning, was defined by the need for ladies to carry something special and handmade, a unique wearable work of art that they couldn’t go out and buy in the mass-produced marketplace. They believed in my product based on the quality and form of what I was making and that still holds true today.
LBC: Walk us through a typical workday
Sally: Each day in my studio is different and that’s one of my favorite things about my job. I try to make a plan for the day right when I wake up and am still in that liminal state of awake/asleep. I find that my head is really clear then! Some days are spent focusing on pattern drafting for a new design, others are spent cutting leather all day. Many days are spent at the sewing machine (from morning until evening.) Photography takes up a large amount of my time. Because most of the bags I make are one-of-a-kind, documenting each one with multiple photos (to list online for sale or to post via social media) is key. Taking the photos and editing each one is a huge time commitment. I try to set small, attainable goals for myself each day and that seems to work for my own personal fulfillment and the good of the business.
LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Sally: Do they love what they plan to pursue, are they experts at time managment, and are they comfortable being uncomfortable? When you own your own business, it’s a ton of work. You don’t have many “off” hours. It’s so important that you love what you do. Otherwise, your heart isn’t in it and it doesn’t bring you joy so what’s the point? You have to be exceptional at managing your time. You’re creating your own schedule and you have to be self-motivated to get the work done. If I didn’t map out my workday in my head every morning I would be lost. Finally, owning a small business means that you have to be willing to take risks and be okay with failure. There are ups and downs with each aspect of it (fiscally, creatively, etc…) and being able to cope with these and take each moment as it comes is so important.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Sally: I love to go to the woods by myself and walk until my legs can’t take me any further. It’s quiet time for me but I’m a busy body so I have to be moving through the meditation. I always emerge from that time with greater focus. Alternatively, I find that January and February are two of my favorite months because I take a breather from the business (after the holiday chaos) and just focus on family and friends. It’s so refreshing.
LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.
Sally: Incorporating leather into my work. I had no idea how much people would love it. I like the fact that the leather bags get better with age — our culture is so obsessed with staying young and “perfect” and I love the fact that these leather bags defy that.
LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?
Sally: During the first few years of my business I was selling wholesale to a lot of retail stores. It did not bring me much joy. I actually love the face-to-face aspect of selling my creations. I decided to pull back from that and focus on direct sales and have loved my job so much more ever since then. I know that it sounds counter-intuitive instead of growth-positive but the things I value in my business don’t necessarily coincide with “making it big.” I like the flexibility I’m able to have from day to day and I do still love using my own hands to create the bags.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Sally: I can say that in order to stay focused in the studio and succeed in my production I require music (often,) silence (sometimes) and one cup of coffee.
LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Sally: Because I’m not a long-term planner, this is a tough one for me. I would hope that I’m continuing to create products with both intention and form in mind. Sustainability is important to me in terms of the materials I use to create the bags so a continued focus on that is a vision of mine.
LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.
Sally: Ice cream. I love it. Chocolate in any and all frozen (or not) forms.
LBC: Have you ever held an odd job or one you weren’t particularly fond of?
Sally: I was a telemarketer for a brief time in high school. I’m a pretty good salesperson but I hated every minute of it!
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Sally: If I could eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be boiled peanuts. I can’t get enough of them. Ever.
Thank you, Sally, for sharing your talent with us. We miss you something awful!