A handbag with an insulated section for perfect temperature control: a unique product with e-commerce and business learnings that will resonate universally.
Cool Clutch is an Australian owned and operated, multi-award winning family business located in Gisborne, Victoria. Like many business ideas, Cool Clutch was born when its founder, Suzanne Carroll, identified a gap in the market. Cool Clutch Cooler Handbags are a stylish handbag that hold regular handbag contents, with an added insulation section to help keep everything cool: think lunch, lipstick, medication or water bottles. Or wine. Because obviously if you’re carrying around a beautiful bottle of white on your person you want that baby to be temperature controlled. There are six styles and 56 different handbags in total, some with a removable insulated cooler pocket which has been granted an examined Australian Innovation Patent and is currently being patented in USA, Canada, EU (which includes 17 European countries) and China.
With a niche product and an aim to be one of the largest employers in the Macedon Ranges, Cool Clutch has been on quite the learning journey since it first launched. Carroll woke up on 30 October 2015 with the product idea, brand name and tag line. But we all know that a strike of inspiration isn’t all it takes to get a business off the ground. “Although I had vast experience in the sales and marketing arena, I knew nothing about designing handbags and lacked experience in dealing with overseas manufacturers and the pitfalls associated with that,” Carroll explains. The first design process involved contacting handbags manufacturers through Alibaba, meeting in Hong Kong and choosing one of three manufacturers based on samples they provided. “Our first order arrived and out of 2,500 handbags, 1,700 were so badly made the handles could be pulled off. We have now engaged the services of an agent in China who checks every order prior to its dispatch,” she explains.
Manufacturing was just one of the many learn-from-mistakes experiences for the company. Cool Clutch had three “disastrous” website builds before finding a programmer who finally understood their customer’s needs and built a “world-class” site. Carroll strongly believes in identifying weak areas of the business and ensuring she fills these gaps with experts in those fields. “We use an expert in Mailchimp Email Campaigns to connect monthly to our customers and followers, a graphic design expert to create flyers and point of sale items, and I have just connected with an expert in Instagram to concentrate on growing our followers,” she explains.
In December 2017, Carroll engaged a Business Mentor to work closely with the company to analyse sales, costs and pricing structure. “He identified a need for us to change our business model and move into wholesale sales, especially wineries. This has resulted in a 76 percent increase in sales in 2018. In March we increased sales by 218 percent and in June by 349 percent.”
Many companies talk about the importance of customer experience, but Cool Clutch is all about walking the walk not just talking the talk. “Our Cool Clutch philosophy is that the customer is always right, (even when they are wrong),” says Carroll. “We have a fuss-free returns policy and do everything in our power to go the extra mile to assist a customer with an issue. We feel that if they have gone to the trouble of telling us of an issue or concern then the issue is serious enough to them that it should also be a serious concern to us.”
The company is always looking for new ways to ensure customer satisfaction at every point. “If there is an issue with our website for example, customers can phone the office or contact us on our instant chat,” Carroll explains. “We then help them process their order and give them a personal code for free shipping. We are extremely appreciative of customers who persevere when hitting an obstacle while placing an order.”
Customer experience extends to all elements of the business. It has a 90m2 warehouse in New Gisborne with over 3000 handbags ready to dispatch to all customers within 24 hours of a paid order. “We use Fastway Couriers as most of the couriers are franchise owners and therefore also small business owners and we feel their service philosophy mirrors ours,” Carroll tells us.
So, what’s next for Cool Clutch? “We have huge plans for 2019,” Carroll tells us. “We are currently patenting our products in USA, Canada, EU and China and intend to take Cool Clutch worldwide in the next 5 years starting with EU in 2019. We have engaged an agent in England who is currently assessing the market to find the best way for Cool Clutch to move into Europe.”
After some massive growth, the business’ sales target for 2019 is to double their 2018 total. “We aim to do this by increasing stockists but also by increasing our online sales,” Carroll explains.