“It wasn't actually completely clear to me how complicated this process was at that point.”
How do you decide to toss aside one vision of your career for another one—especially when the new path is littered with failure? Lisa Hu's journey into fashion entrepreneurship as a designer of high-end women’s handbags.
Lisa Hu, PMBA ’16, failed at least 40 times before succeeding. It’s as simple as that. The founder of Lux and Nyx, maker of handbags designed for “jet-setter luxury and boardroom quality,” had the idea in mind, and worked on it while ascending the corporate ladder. Yet she failed over and over to find the right manufacturer to execute the vision she had in her mind.
She tried doing it herself. She hired a seamstress. She looked at professional bagmakers—all the while, collecting prototypes that didn’t fill the bill. Mind you, all this was happening while she was still working as finance director for a large corporation. At some point, the process became unsustainable. The moment came. She had to make the leap. It was all or nothing for this handbag. She quit the corporate world in October 2017 and focused exclusively on Lux and Nyx.
In some ways, this is a story about being unwilling to compromise. She wasn’t fulfilled in the corporate world. She wasn’t satisfied with the first 40 prototypes for the bag she envisioned. That may be what she means when she says the pivotal moment was the moment when she found her “ultimate voice.” “It was never really about just bags—it was what the bag made possible,” she said. “It made possible an emerging community of rock-star women, moving fluidly through daily challenges with confidence.”
Cliff Holekamp, founder of Cultivation Capital, WashU Olin alum (MBA ’01) and former director of Olin’s entrepreneurship platform, lends professional perspective to a story that carries a lot of … well, a lot of baggage.
See the Lux and Nyx website. The site includes Lisa’s story.
This podcast is a production of Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School. Contributors include:
- Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick and Judy Milanovits, creative assistance
- Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
- Hayden Molinarolo, original music, sound design and editing
- Nate Sprehe, creative direction, production and editing
- Angie Winschel, production assistance and project management
- Olivia Hanford, social media
- Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
- Mark P. Taylor, strategic support
- Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support
Special thanks to Ray Irving and his team at WashU Olin’s Center for Digital Education, including our audio engineer, Austin Alred.
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Download the podcast transcript (PDF)