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April 16, 2018
On the record

One entrepreneur's solution to womankind's 'three-bag-schlep' frustration

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Handbag designer Dianna Pozdniakov, in her downtown Lewiston shop, with the Assistant cross-body bag, one solution to the 'three-bag-schlep.'

Dianna Pozdniakov is a Lewiston-based entrepreneur on a mission to end womankind's "three-bag-schlep" with one functional yet stylish accessory.

Drawing on her architectural training, the 34-year-old founder of Sofia Fima (which blends her parents' first names) designs artisanal handbags made in New York from Italian leather. She sat down with Mainebiz in her new shop, in a historic downtown building that she and her husband renovated.

Mainebiz: How did you go from architecture to accessories?

Dianna Pozdniakov: When I was studying architecture at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, I had an epiphany and started dreaming about this idea, 'What if I could create architecture to be used on a daily basis? What if I could create this container, this bag that could organize all of your things, and treat that as a version of architecture in a way that more people could enjoy?'

MB: What did you do when you finished school?

DP: I moved to New York and got my first job, and it was there that I was doing what I call the three-bag schlep. I was carrying everything I needed for a typical workday so naturally I had three bags. I would go into meetings and always feel unorganized. When I needed something, I couldn't really find it. That led to the concept of, 'Could I create a bag that was the female version of the briefcase? A bag that could organize women's things, but could still be this really beautiful bag that could work in all parts of their life, from personal to professional.'

MB: What can you tell us about Sofia Fima's different handbags?

DP: We have three different styles. Our smallest piece currently is a cross-body bag called the Assistant. Our most popular work tote is the Main Squeeze because it can fit everything from a large laptop to a pair of shoes. Our largest bag is called the Out of Office, because it's great for work-to-weekend. All are handcrafted in the U.S., which is really important to me, the leather and other hardware are from Italy, and the zippers are from the U.S. The game-changer is the organizational inserts we sell separately that fit into our bags as well as most totes that women already own. If a woman loves her bag but needs something to organize her stuff, she can purchase one of our organizers and throw it right into that other bag.

MB: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

DP: I love the process of designing, and I love speaking to other women to get their feedback. The second favorite, if not equal part, is hearing from women once they use their bags, and how much they love them, and how much it's enhanced the way they work or the way they organize the different parts of their lives and ultimately how they feel about themselves.

MB: What prompted you to change your business model from bricks-and-mortar retail to e-commerce?

DP: When I launched in November 2015, I was selling through traditional wholesale distribution route, which meant that my American-made bags were being sold for $1,300 to about $3,500. It was a very challenging market, and I wasn't reaching the women I wanted to. After I had my daughter in February 2016, I took a year to think through and plan for the future of Sofia Fima, 'How can I create a product that actually reaches women like me?' I pivoted to an e-commerce-based business, so I'm now selling directly to my customers. Bags that would otherwise retail around $1,500 are now selling for $325 to $585.

MB: What are your long-term plans?

DP: I would love to have a team of people working with me in what I call a design-build environment, where we're designing and creating a product all within the same room, for example in part of a mill. I want Sofia Fima to become the brand that all women associate with organization and beautiful design, a company that stands for quality, longevity and purposeful design.

MB: Any nationwide or international aspirations?

DP: We have some really exciting and aspirational plans for how we're growing nationally in the next few years and can't wait to see women throughout the country wearing Sofia Fima. We've sold to women in 15 states and are growing daily. Once we have our national model fine-tuned, we'll focus internationally.

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