Think Big, Stay Small: Westerman Bags

  •    Annemieke is the founder and owner of Westerman Bags.

‘Think big, stay small’ was my motto when I first started designing and producing my products back in 2005. I started out designing garments but soon figured out that I had put myself in a difficult predicament: In order to become successful in the garment business, I would have had to let go of my motto to stay small. So, I decided to keep my business small and switch to designing bags made of recycled bicycle inner tubes. This concept hits very close to home: Westerman Bags is a Dutch brand, and all our products are hand-made in Holland and built to last. I knew I had to create a website, blog and online store to get an audience and make my products accessible to the wider public.

With a busy family of two kids, one bouncy dog and a tendency towards perfectionism, an online business turned out to be perfect to tell my story, or rather the story of Westerman Bags.

Keeping it small means keeping it personal and focusing on Slow Design and sustainability: The straight lines and stitches on the sleeves and bags reflect the perfectionist in me and you will see the love for the product back in the design. The base of design is always the material; we only use the best and purest wool felt in combination with the most stunning water buffalo leather, tanned especially for us.

All the materials are sourced as sustainably as possible to stay in line with my feeling of responsibility for the earth, its inhabitants and its future. I buy the vegetable tanned leather directly from an Indian family-run tannery and the wool felt is produced in Europe. Furthermore, Westerman Bags invests in the future of the craft by employing students from the Fashion Academy to do their apprenticeship with the company.

After trying many other platforms such as Wordpress, Blogger and Big Cartel, Weebly turned out to be the easiest and most professional medium to publish the company’s blogs and articles. Combined with an Etsy account, the website turned out to be very successful as bag after bag went off to the USA and Canada. Even in the Stone Age of blogging, Weebly was easy to use, looked professional and offered many templates – even ones which would fit the Westerman Bag minimalist house style. So, when they eventually started offering eCommerce solutions, I jumped on the train. From then on I could edit my blog, website and shop, all on one platform! I’m still very surprised when I hear someone say they think it’s difficult to set up a web shop, when a service like Weebly does all the hard work for you.

Admittedly, I had to work hard to build the Westerman Bags brand name but with a strong, functional web presence through Weebly and Etsy, customers all over the world keep on finding me. Slowly but surely the “I got this on Etsy” turns into a “I got this from Westerman Bags”.