By Lori Valigra Bangor Daily News, Maine
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Dianna Pozdniakov describes her purse as the "bento box of purses." She says a Japanese bento box has well-organized compartments for different foods and her purses do that for women's electronics, make-up and other everyday items.
Bangor Daily News, Maine
Sofia Fima, a young company based in Lewiston, wants to help professional women tame their often unruly purses.
The company makes purses and interchangeable inserts that can hold laptops and other electronics as well as cosmetics and everyday items many women carry, and do so in an organized way.
"Most women have handbags that are like a big hole," said Sofia Fima, founder and CEO Dianna Pozdniakov. "They can't find anything in them."
Pozdniakov opened her shop one year ago in a building she and her husband bought and renovated at 46 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. They live on the top floor, rent out the second floor and have the Sofia Fima retail space on the first floor.
"It was February 2016. We started construction a week before I had my baby and we also launched the company," Pozdniakov said.
The company is named after her parents, who came to the United States as refugees from the port city of Odessa, Ukraine, in the late 1970s. Her father, Fima, is a sheet metal engineer who tailored as a hobby. He inspired her to study architecture in college, where she first got the idea for an organized bag.
"I wanted to create a bento box of purses," she said. A Japanese bento box has well-organized compartments for different foods. Pozdniakov sells directly to customers via shows, trunk and private events and websites, including her own website and Etsy.
Some 75 percent of her business is online, with her website the main driver of sales. She ships products and has a free-return policy.
"We sell an American-made, premium materials product directly to the end customer," she said. "Otherwise the bags would cost $1,500 retail."
The purses, which are made from imported Italian leather, cost from $188 for the smaller Convertible Crossbody bag to $465 for The Main Squeeze Tote, which holds up to a 13-inch laptop. Nylon organizers, which are washable, run from $69 to $165.
"The Convertible Crossbody bag, which most of our customers ask for, can be grabbed to take to lunch or after work," she said. "It nests inside the organizer and can contain glasses, a wallet and other items."
As customers switch to tablets and smaller electronics, she plans to add a smaller tote in the future. She also plans to launch a vegan option this summer that will be lighter weight and use no animal products.
Pozdniakov also is looking for partners.
"I did my first collaboration with a local organization called Safe Voices last month," she said. "We made a bag in their purple color and gave back $30 of each purchase back to the organization. We were able to raise $1,000 over the course of the month."
Safe Voices operates shelter and support services for domestic violence survivors in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.
Pozdniakov, who is the only full-time employee of the company, works with freelancers and consultants. She currently has the bags manufactured in New Jersey, and hopes one day to have everything under one roof in Lewiston.
"But first we need a certain revenue and level of brand awareness," she said.
Pozdniakov plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in about one month to show proof-of-concept for the company in what she called a pre-seed financing round. She hopes to raise at least $50,000, but would like to see money in the six figures.
She has put nearly $250,000 into the company since she conceived the idea in 2012.
Pozdniakov has participated in Maine entrepreneur events, including being a finalist in the Top Gun program in 2017, pitching her company on Greenlight Maine this past season and participating in Gorham Savings Bank's Launchpad competition. Last week, she pitched her company at an open casting call for Shark Tank.