Monday, June 23, 2014

Moms on Mondays - Christine from Block & Battaglia

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This Monday, I have the honor of featuring my bestie, since 1993, Christine.  You have probably seen her many times on here, and on my Instagram, we have been friends for a very long time.  She is one of the most amazing women I know - the best mom, the most devoted girlfriend (to her significant other, Jeremy) and she is oh so talented.  If she wants something, she learns how to make it or if she sees plywood floors on Pintrest, she sands and lays them herself in her new house - I often wonder when she sleeps.  She is the best friend a girl could ask for, is the yin to my yang and I am so proud of the woman I have watched her grow into over the last 20 years.  You can actually catch us debating on questions you ask, talking about beauty, fashion and being moms on our site - She Said, She Said Girls.  I am so excited to give you this glimpse into her business and I hope you GO SHOP!  :)

What is the name of your shop and how can we find you?

My brand is Block & Battaglia. I currently sell my bags on Etsy but you can also find me online at too.  I’m also obsessed with Instagram and post to it daily (under my personal account @chrissybchrissy). 

Tell us about what you make/sell in your shop.

I currently make and sell limited edition, or one of a kind clutches and tote bags. I use and abuse my bags but typically the styles I make are not necessarily ‘daily drivers,’ but bags that you’d want to use on a night out with the girls or a casual date.


How/why did you start making these products and open this shop? 

Block & Battaglia started out as a way for my sister and I to spend more time together and explore our creative sides. I work full time as a real estate agent and she was a stay at home mom, so we both needed a creative outlet that we weren’t getting at the time. I had an old sewing machine, that belonged to my mom, and started making small bags, wallets and iPhone cases, not to sell, we were just experimenting. We were also dabbling in jewelry making, visiting local bead shops and building a supply of material and tools.

My sister was never really interested in the business side of Block & Battaglia but I ran with it. That was back in 2011. I started out selling handmade necklaces on Etsy, but last summer started selling my bags.  

What is your background (college/career/etc.)? 

I sell real estate full time so that’s where a lot of my energy goes. I went to the Art Institute of Phoenix where I focused on graphic design, web site design and coding, but I knew as I was approaching the end of my schooling that a career in any of the above was not for me.  So, my last month at school I also attended classes at a local real estate school and got my license the same month that I graduated from the Art Institute. I’ve always had a ‘job’ in the real estate field and have actively sold real estate for the last 4 years and I love it; but there is something about hunting down fabric, playing with materials and creating something I can use, or someone else would want to use or wear, that is pretty satisfying for my creative side.  

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

I live for my family! My boyfriend just completed law school and is currently spending every hour of the day studying to take the BAR exam. Our son, Espen, will be 8 in August and he is a real easy-going young boy, rambunctious when he can be but is such an awesome, cool kid. I love being surrounded by boys, I don’t understand them, but I love it.

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How does this company help your family?  

Block & Battaglia really started out as something fun, and making extra money here and there was an added bonus. But, looking back, especially since my boyfriend has been in school and unable to work, it really has alleviated some of the stress of trying to support our family on one income, all while being able to spend a little more time at home with my family and without taking time away from my real estate career.  

Does anyone help you with your shop? 

Nope, I am a one-woman shop. From marketing, production, product photography, order fulfillment and shipping - it's all me. Most of the bags in my shop are made to order, so once an order is placed I have to find time to make them by shuffling things around, sometimes it means staying up after everyone has gone to bed or working while half watching a movie with my family - but I make it work.  

How do you find time to run your shop and create products? 

Lots of coffee, sometimes early mornings or late nights and I definitely create when it feels right, or when I’m inspired to. Because it’s a second income, I have the luxury of playing around with ideas when they pop in my head, not because I have to, but because I want to. I think that is one reason why I like the pieces I make so much; they aren’t made out of necessity, they are made out of love and my own vision.  [I love this!]  

What do you love about this business? 

I love that it gets me out of my comfort zone. It’s really hard to put yourself, or your creations, out there for people to judge. That’s one of the reasons why I knew a career in graphic design would be horrible for me because it’s a constant critique session, but this is teaching me to get over it. Each bag I make is made because I love it, because I would personally use it, so essentially it’s for myself and not for others. But, I put it out there and if someone likes it and buys one, that’s an awesome feeling.  If someone doesn’t like it, or a style doesn’t sell, I just don’t care (ok, I do care a little).  

What is the most challenging part of this business? 

Right now, I’d say figuring out how to take my business to the next level is the most challenging part. I honestly don’t make too much of an effort to expose my business to the world, but there’s a reason for that lack of effort. First, and it’s a pretty big ‘first’, there is the fear of failure! It’s a stupid fear but it’s real. I know if I fail at trying to grow my business I should be proud, ‘Hey, at least I tried,' but still the thought of failure, for me, is huge. There’s also the unknown of what to do, or how to manage a business if, or when, it does pick up. Right now, it’s just me, so I’m fearful of seeking out retailers or buyers because of the time it takes to produce a product. I’m not sure how to get from point A to point B and make the brand bigger, but it’s something I really hope to overcome.  

Where do you see your shop in the future? 

I’d love to see my brand grow (screw you, fear!) both online and in stores. That would be so awesome. And, as much as I love making each bag, I would also love to see more and more woman carrying them, and to do that I’d need to ramp up production so I hope to seek some additional help in the future.  

Tell us your favorite product or your most favorite thing you've created? 

 Oh man, I definitely have a few favorites. My ‘dearest to my heart’ bag has to be the Camelback bag. I took a photo of our iconic Camelback Mountain, here in Arizona, from the balcony of the legendary Hotel Valley Ho hotel in Scottsdale, and had it printed on fabric that I then worked it into a simple clutch. It incorporates so many things that I love, both physically and emotionally, if that makes sense. I’m also obsessed with the leather fold-over clutch, it’s a challenging bag to make but it’s one of my favorite styles so far. It’s simple, chic and goes with anything. The oversized zipper pouches I make, with hand embroidered Otomi pieces, are also some of my favorites, how can you not love the vibrant colors and quirky animal motifs that you find on Otomi textiles?! And, the beauty in the amount of time and dedication it takes to embroider them is like magic. 


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Do you have any advice for future mom-entrepreneurs? 

I hate to sound super cliché, but you truly will never know unless you try. You can think about an idea, or talk about it until you are blue in the face, but unless you pull the trigger and put yourself out there - you might as well forget it. I’m working on taking my own advice now!

What are some of YOUR favorite shops/products, besides your own? 

I die for the rings by YumiLuv. Every Christmas my boyfriend buys me a small ring and I’d be happy with any of the pyramid stone rings in her shop (so rad!). Speaking of rad - Rad Life Denim is a great source for distressed denim. I’ve bought two pairs of shorts from them and lived in them all last summer, and they are in heavy rotation now! 

Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share a little bit about Block & Battaglia!! It's been fun! 


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