Fashion-forward bags, accessories, and apparel for the independent woman on the move
By Stephanie Finnegan
Mona Bhatia is the talented creator behind the Mona B line of bags, apparel, gifts, and accessories. Reducing her last name down to the single letter of “B” captures much of what drives Bhatia. She is a firm believer in cutting back on excess and reducing the depletion of natural resources.
The indefatigable designer embraces the motto of “R, R,and U,” which is shorthand for “Reduce, Reuse, and Upcycle.” That commitment to making a difference motivates Bhatia to utilize what many people would consider waste and cast-offs. Her company has built a solid reputation by turning “trash” into treasures.
“We just think that if you can make a great product, and help the environment at the same time, it is better for everyone,” Bhatia explains.
The Ohio-based designer has been plying her artistry for 13 years. Her company is five years old, and the Mona B line has been around for 18 months. The array of bags, scarves, upcycled belts, socks, boot wraps, and boot cuffs all reflect Bhatia’s free-spirited and adventuresome personality. It is not a coincidence that her line’s logo encourages women to “Be Fearlessly Authentic.”
A lot of Bhatia’s personal experience and lifestyle is incorporated into the line, and she has very specific notions about who the product appeals to: “I see our ideal customer as a strong, independent woman who is fashion-forward and has a sense of environmental responsibility.”
Bhatia’s connection to these women is right on target because the Mona B line is very much in demand.
All of the accolades and the orders please Bhatia greatly. This is what she imagined when she rebranded the line. She says, “We started as a quilt handbag company following the established players. Then I decided we needed to have our own identity. That is why we went in this entirely new direction and stopped producing the quilted bags, and we have never looked back.”
To gather inspiration for the line, Bhatia and her team travel to runway shows in the United States and Europe. “Ultimately, our products need to be Mona B—loyal to our brand direction and not anyone else’s.”
Because the line reflects her name, her identity, and her belief system, Mona Bhatia is very hands-on. She is involved with
overseeing, guiding, and building the brand on a daily basis. “I have a team here, and I give them ideas. We work as a group to bring those ideas to market. As the creative director, I need to make all the final decisions.”
Keying into her love of travel and new adventures, Bhatia makes sure that throughout the year she meets as many retailers as she possibly can. She cherishes these one-on-one exchanges. “I work all of our trade shows and personally assist our sales team and write orders with our customers. In addition, I travel to stores and discuss our customers’ needs and what else they want to see from Mona B,” she states.
The colleagues that Bhatia hires to work on her team mirror her enthusiasm for the designs and share her respect for the retailers who showcase her work to consumers everywhere. “We have a great customer service team in our office. They are very experienced. Many of them work out in the field at trade shows and can help retailers make their selections. In addition, we have put in place some of the best sales agencies in our industry to represent our brand in the field, working with the local retailers,” Bhatia says.
Recognizing that the Mona B line is a hit, the company expanded their warehousing and shipping operations. “We have dramatically improved our turnaround time on orders in year two, and our fill rates are very strong,” she shares. “We are developing a retail fixture program and merchandising guide that we will be publishing soon.”
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Business Name: Mona B
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Opening order: $350
Minimum order: $150
Stephanie Finnegan is a senior contributor at JP Media LLC. A former editor of THE CRAFTS REPORT and SMART RETAILER, she is well versed in how commerce and creativity intersect. A contributor to HANDMADE BUSINESS and SUNSHINE ARTIST, Stephanie loves to showcase how artists rise to the challenge of being enterprising and entrepreneurial in today’s competitive climate. An author of several books on collectibles and American artists, she has also written a time-travel book and a series of short stories. Stephanie can be reached at www.stephaniefinnegan.com