Two years ago Riverside residents Mary Margaret Collins and Kelly Navarro were sitting over margaritas, talking about how they could never find purses they really liked. They were too big, too small, they didn’t have the right handle, or they never came in the right color.
And that’s when they decided to start making their own. The two took samples of ribbon and cloth to Navarro’s stepmother’s house in Wisconsin, where the three women began experimenting with different designs in her sewing room.
“We just thought, ‘How hard can it be?'” Navarro said.
Fast forward to today, where Navarro and Collins’ company, Two Crazy Daisies, sells about 400 to 500 purses a year and has expanded into other accessories, such as watches, belts and headbands.
“Business has been better than either of us ever expected,” Navarro said. “It started as something fun, maybe a way to earn some extra money, and has surpassed all of that.”
Navarro said the two design about 50 new purses every year, ranging from casual tote bags to more formal “night on the town” designs. To tie them together into a kind of unifying theme, each style is named after a stop on the London subway system.
“We were thinking of naming them after streets in Riverside, but obviously some of those names aren’t as appealing, and we realized we would run out of names quickly,” Collins explained. “I had just gotten back from England, and we thought they had some great names, so we decided to go with that.”
Collins added that the London theme was carried into the name of the business as well. In England, the word “daisy” is used as a moniker for “lady.”
The production side of the business is handled by Navarro’s stepmother, Jill Bartz, as well as a second contract seamstress. Only five or six copies of each purse is made, which Navarro said helps to keep down the cost of supplies as well as maintain the individuality of their purses.
“We’ve been really careful not to replicate too many things,” she said. “We want our purses to be fresh and new.”
As for selling their products, Collins and Navarro take advantage of many different outlets for reaching the public. They have an online store, at www.twocrazydaisies.com, and also hold purse parties at private homes.
Various boutiques in the Chicagoland area also carry their products. Navarro said the reception they’ve received from store owners has always been enthusiastic.
“Every time we walk into a retailer, they buy everything we have,” she said.
For all the success that they’ve had with Two Crazy Daisies, neither had any previous business training. Over the years, Navarro said, both of them have had to do a lot of learning as they went along.
“It’s a completely different world,” she said. “Even just finding fabric companies for our materials was something new. You can’t just go to Jo-Ann Fabrics to do something like this.”
Despite the work they’ve put into building the business, however, it remains a secondary job for both women. Collins owns her own interior design company, and Navarro is an assistant state’s attorney. Both said that Two Crazy Daisies mainly exists as a side project to allow them a creative escape from their careers.
“We were really just looking for a way to get our creative juices flowing,” Collins said.
That need has certainly been satisfied with Two Crazy Daisies. Collins, who works mostly with the designing side of the business, said purse designs and material hunting is always in the back of her mind.
“I could go on and on and on, I love to design,” she said. “And we literally find material everywhere and anywhere-at the Merchandise Mart, at local shops, on vacation, anywhere. I’m not shy.”
As for the future of the business, Collins said they may continue to expand their line into other accessories or novelty items, but neither is looking for it to become a full-time pursuit. For all its success, Navarro said Two Crazy Daisies is still mostly about two friends coming up with something creative.
“We’ve really been very lucky,” she said. “Our friendship has gotten stronger, and our families have become closer through working together. It’s really worked out well.”