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Accessories to raise awareness

Santa Clarita entrepreneur uses product line to design handbags for cause near and dear to heart

Posted: November 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Susan Handley, founder, designer and president of Beijo Inc., discusses her product lines in her Santa Clarita office. Susan Handley, founder, designer and president of Beijo Inc., discusses her product lines in her Santa Clarita office.
Susan Handley, founder, designer and president of Beijo Inc., discusses her product lines in her Santa Clarita office.
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Coinciding with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer, a Santa Clarita businesswoman traveled to New York to donate a beautiful handbag and her time.

Susan Handley, president and founder of Beijo Inc., designed Pinky’s Promise, a handbag created as a reminder to women to schedule mammogram appointments and support cures for breast cancer, after her own mother was diagnosed.

“This bag is the result of my desire to take my creative abilities and combine them with a way to make a difference,” said Handley, 41.

With a feeling of helplessness and the blessing of a successful business, Handley thought of a way to tie the two together and support her mother, who is now a cancer survivor.

Exclusively with the patented Pinky’s Promise bag, Beijo Inc. began what Handley refers to as Random Acts of Kindness. Handley personally “hits the pavement” and passes out bags to remind woman and empower patients. Handley added that Pinky’s Promise is sold year-round.

Random Acts
Recent Random Acts of Kindness were held in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills earlier this fall. In Santa Monica, a woman ran away from Handley at first, assuming the gesture was a scam. 

“This woman actually made us empty (the bag) out to make sure there was no trick inside, because it’s a $100 handbag — people just don’t do that,” Handley said.

During the month of September alone, roughly $15,000 in products were handed out to residents in both cities.

Handley decided to take Random Acts of Kindness to New York for the first time ever this year.

Currently, there are approximately 1,000 consultants across the United States.

Handley and her team sat with patients in oncology offices and mammogram centers on the East Coast. 

“The stories were just unbelievable,” Handley said. “We just impacted a lot of lives.”

They passed out T-shirts, and by the end of the trip, Beijo Inc. gave away $27,000 worth of product, according to Handley.

“People were so appreciative,” Handley said. “I could’ve been standing there handing out a pamphlet. It was the fact that we took the time to even be there that meant so much to them.”

Aside from the custom-made Pinky’s Promise, there are 400 other pieces to choose from, as well as 70,000 items in the Beijo Inc.’s Santa Clarita warehouse. 

Personal designs

Handley conceived the design of each bag, including size, shape and name. 

“The funny thing is the creative aspect of it; I’m a rare breed, because of the fact that I can go left brain to right brain,” Handley said.  “It’s unique, but it can be exhausting.”

Looking at her success, one would never guess that Handley had no design or business background when first starting the company out of the trunk of her car.

“We’ve sold at least over 1.6 million bags in nine years,” Handley said. “That’s very conservative.”

The first show Handley agreed to do was hosted at a golf course where she left with 400 fewer bags and a long list of demands from more shows and new contacts.

“I never visualized myself as being able to make a living at something that I liked to do when I was little, I thought those kinds of things happened to other people,” Handley said.

Handley, a single mom, travels to China for fabric ideas four to five times a year, but will drop everything if her 15-year-old son Kyle seems distant.

“Any job and any business can absolutely consume a person,” Handley said. “But I really work hard at keeping a balanced life.”

A kiss
The company was named after Kyle’s first word, “beijo,” which means kiss in Portuguese. When Kyle was young, his father spoke to him in Portuguese, in hopes he’d be bilingual.

As a young boy, Kyle would go into Handley’s bedroom each morning and slide across her tile floor in his footed pajamas. His routine was to go up to the bed while Handley pretended to be sleeping and ask for his morning kiss.

“‘Beijo, Mama, beijo,’” Handley said, describing her son’s routine. “It meant the world to me,” she said.

Local operations
Beijo Inc. has offices located in Santa Clarita and New Mexico, and smaller offices in Florida, Kansas City and Las Vegas — it also has plans to continue its growth, according to Handley.

The classic elements to each bag and the affordability of the product are only a few ways Beijo Inc. stands out, she said.

“I would say 99.9 percent of the time when I’m approached by somebody ... they will say to me, I have never been stopped for a bag in my life, and I’ve carried Coach, I’ve carried Chanel, I’ve carried everything out there,” Handley said.

 “I carried your bag and I got stopped ‘x’ amount of times.”

The company sells primarily handbags, but also offers accessories, headbands, watches, sunglasses, T-shirts and is preparing to extend the product line, according to Handley.

“You never know where opportunities are going to come about, you never know how things are going to evolve — you’ve just got to sort of grab them when they happen,” Handley said.

For more information on becoming a Beijo Inc. consultant for their products, visit www.beijobags.com, 26475 Summit Circle, Santa Clarita.

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