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Ep. 158: How this former finance manager left a thriving career to become an eCommerce entrepreneur with Diana Fung

In this episode, I speak with Diana who is the travel blogger behind In Between Pictures and the founder of Gatta Bag – al line of very chic camera bags.  

Diana carved a thriving career in finance, working for the top investment banks. But on her journey to explore her more creative side, she uncovered her passion for travel and photography. And in the process, she left the corporate world and founded In Between Pictures and Gatta Bag. 

Listen on to find out how Diana has become a successful eCommerce entrepreneur.

Listen Below:

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Transcription :

Debbie:

Hey everyone! Thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to speak with today’s guest Diana. Hey Diana, how are you? 

Diana:

Hi Debbie, how are you? Thank you for having me. 

Debbie:

Thank you so much for being here. Can you tell us a little bit about you and why you live an offbeat life? 

Diana:

So, my name is Diana. I’m the blogger behind In Between Pictures, it’s a travel luxury blog, and I’m also the founder of Gatta Bag which is a line of stylish camera bags.

Debbie:

I love Diana’s bag. I actually saw her first bag when I was in Miami and I met you the first time and one of our mutual friends Marissa had it on her and I was like, “Oh my God! I’ve never seen a bag like this and it is such a genius thing.” It’s such a genius bag and you’re such a genius for making it, Diana. 

Diana:

Thank you so much. I mean it was something that I really wanted and I was looking for and I couldn’t find it and it’s just something that happens. Like I need something that works for me when I’m traveling but also looks like a regular bag that I can just take it everywhere and it just came out like that. So, it’s something that was born out of a need. 

Debbie:

Absolutely. And I think that’s one of the best ways to create a company and to create a product is from your own needs. And the thing is, you and I, I’m sure we’ve all searched for that bag that wasn’t ugly, was stylish, where we could fit our bag, and also feel safe about our cameras and I’ve never seen anything like that, except yours. 

Maybe there are things popping up here and there now, but I feel like you’ve had yours for a while. What was the process like of you actually creating this product and making it come to life and I’m sure it’s been a really long road in terms of that.

Diana:

Actually, it wasn’t that long because I’m the kind of person that once I have an idea and I know it is going to work – I just go for it. So, what happened is that I was looking for a camera bag and I have a very specific image in my mind. Like I wanted to be like this, like small enough because I don’t want a camera bag that is going to weigh and make my shoulder hurt. 

And I don’t want it to look like a camera bag because I don’t want attention. I don’t want to bring attention to myself when I’m traveling. So I just want to blend in with the local people and then make it look like a regular bag. 

So once I had the idea, I started sketching my ideal bag. I wanted it to be made of leather, I wanted to be like this and like that. And then, after that, I started looking for a manufacturer. From there, I started asking for samples because when you’re looking for manufacturers, you can’t just go all-in.  You have to ask for a sample, you have to research the company to see how reliable they are. Some people even go and see the manufacturer. I didn’t have to do that when they sent me the sample was good enough for me. 

So from there, I started testing my products. I made like a few samples just in case. So, I tested that and once I was ready for it, I asked for the manufacturer to produce it. And f from the idea to the product – to actually took maybe a few months. 

Once the bag was in production, I started working on the website. 

Debbie:

Wow. Well, that is pretty fast and you definitely work very quickly which is incredible and that’s how you were able to make it. And it’s been featured in a bunch of blogger sites and everybody loved it. I just did a feature on that actually included you in one of my gift guides ‘cause I think its such a great product. 

Diana:

Thank you so much. 

Debbie:

And before we talked I was telling Diana I’m like, “I wanted to get her bag,” but it was all sold out and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” This is how you know her bag is incredible because everybody just loves it and everybody is raving about her product, her incredible camera bags. 

So that’s so exciting Diana. 

Diana:

Thank you so much. I mean that’s one of those things about being in a small business, you get a lot of flexibility so you can go from design to production in a very short time because I know a lot of the bigger companies they take a lot of time in producing,  designing, and everything. And for me, because I’m doing everything, I can go from design to production in a lot shorter time. 

Once I see a design, I make it and I like it, I get a sample tested and then go into production. 

Debbie:

That’s an incredible thing to just to have that flexibility because there’s only you and you’re in charge of everything which is also a scary thing because whatever mistake is all on you. 

Diana:

Yeah. I know. I mean for the first time that I made the bag, I literally asked everyone I knew, “What do you think about the bag? Do you like it? Does it look like a camera bag? If you have a camera would you use it?” I asked everybody about everything like every single detail, “Do you like the tassel? How about this color? Do you like this leather? Is it soft enough? Is it not soft?”

I mean every single thing because you don’t know. And then one of the things is that I’ve put all my savings into. So after this, if it didn’t work out,  I will be out of savings. So it was very, very scary.

Debbie:

The styling of it is really beautiful. It’s very simple and extremely stylish and it’ll go with everything. That’s another thing that I love about it ’cause I think I’ve seen other bags that were camera bags and they were just very too intricate. And I’m the type of person that’s like I need something that matches everything too. So I’m like, “This is perfect.”

Diana:

Yeah. That’s another thing because I wanted it to be very streamlined. I don’t like bags that have too many things going on” too many pockets, so my face and makes it look very busy. I wanted something to be simple so I can style it wherever however I want it. 

So, it’s not only for one person style. It’s simple enough to be able to start with whoever wants to style it with. It just makes it more appealing for a broader audience.

Debbie:

 

And you definitely accomplished that for sure. You touched upon this a little bit where you freaked out because you pretty much put all of your savings on this product ’cause obviously really believed in that. 

What was that moment like when you finally realized, “Okay. I’m actually going to put my money in this”? Did you have a “what now?” moment after everything was going and you had no choice you had to go forward after you invested all of this, all of your time, energy, and money obviously on this product?

Diana:

Yeah. I didn’t even have a plan B. I’m usually a very big planner: I like to have plans B, C, and D. But at that time I didn’t have a job because I had quit to start my blog and I needed a bigger income than my blog. So, I decided to go into this business and for me, it was very, very scary. 

But It was one of those things that I have to make it work and I have a little bit of experience in e-commerce because I used to have another website which I sold. From that experience, I have a little bit of knowledge. 

So, I wasn’t as scared as let’s say when I started my first website, but it was very scary to think that if it doesn’t work out I will have no savings, no money and I will start with like a large inventory of a camera bags 

Debbie:

That is a really scary thing. And obviously you’re looking back at it now and you’re really proud of everything that you’ve done. But at that moment when you’re faced with that, it’s just a scary experience. And the thing is, too, it’s knowing that you took that risk. 

So, I don’t know, every time I see somebody take that risk and they actually do something with it even if its a failure, you always learn from that. And you make things so much better.

Diana:

Definitely. Yeah. Since this wasn’t my first e-commerce, I did have a lot of failures.  They were progressively better. I started very young, I started like maybe when I was like 13-14, I started selling stuff online.

I never made a big or never made enough money to sustain myself. But it’s just that it takes a lot of failures for you to finally do something that’s going to be successful. And from each of the failure you learn something and from each of my businesses, I took a little bit of something and then incorporate it on to the next. 

So, for example, from my last business, I learned that I need to keep my expenses low. Because I was with the mentality of,  “Oh! This is for business. I’m going to buy this and buy that.” And I spent a lot of money on things that I really didn’t need. And for this business. I was like, “No. I need to keep all my expenses as low as possible. Unless I really need it, I’m not going to buy it.” 

From each business, I learn something. And then finally, I have a business where I can live off from. So if you fail like one or two or three – don’t give up because every failure you learn something for the next one. 

eCommerce entrepreneur

Debbie:

That is such a great way to explain that. I think we all get pushed down when things like that happen and it can take a toll on your mental health. And a lot of times, you really want to give up and you need that motivation. And I think listening to what you just said, Diana, it just shows you that it doesn’t usually happen the first time around. 

You have to constantly be figuring things out, making mistakes, making sure that you’re advancing. And then, I guess, switching however way it needs to be because otherwise, it’s just not going to work. 

And its just another learning process, I mean, everyone’s told to go to college and learn that way. But I think, for me, at least, the biggest way to learn is just to go out there and do it yourself. 

Diana:

Yeah. Exactly. I mean you can learn a lot of things in college, but unless you experience it yourself, it’s a whole different lesson. You can learn Marketing in school, which I did, but at the end of the day, what I do now has very little with what I learn from school because things change.

I never learn about social media – using social media for your business. And I run my business, basically, solely, on social media. So that’s one of my biggest platform for my business. Without it, I wouldn’t be here.

Debbie:

Yeah. And I love the fact that you’re able to use social media in a business sense and not just showing off travel experience. As in you’re really using it to sell your product and you’re selling it in such a great way. Its become more of a lifestyle, it’s part of a lifestyle – this product that you created. 

Diana:

Yeah. That’s some of the things you learn as you go. Like I said different businesses, different failures will teach you something different. For me, ’cause I’m also a blogger, those are some of the things that I learned as well: how to promote yourself, how to work social media to your advantage. 

So, from a business perspective, you basically merge the two worlds: your business world with the social media world. And that’s how you learn and make everything work together.

Debbie:

Now, you talked a bit about your setbacks from your first business. What about now? What type of setbacks are you encountering as an entrepreneur with your current business and how are you handling them? 

Diana:

I think the most challenging part is scaling because you’re such a small business. This is basically me and my sister working on it and I’m doing everything from marketing to product design to customer service. My sister helps me with everything that is with the inventory, packing.

Scaling a business when you’re this small and growing is very, very hard. You’re always needing funding for your business because you’re divided between: do I spend money on marketing or do I spend money on inventory? 

So it’s very hard when it comes to growing in that sense, but its something that you always have to go to ask for help. And that’s either in the form of a loan or someone that can take up some of the load of the work. It’s basically growing pains. So, everything that takes about growing that’s where the challenges come in. 

Because we’re such a small business and to take that to a business where you have more employees, I think that there’s a lot of steps that you need to take in order to get there.

Debbie:

Absolutely. There’s just so many different nuances every single day that you have to deal with that sometimes you’ve never dealt with before. And I think that is one of the most exciting things about being an entrepreneur  –  there’s always something new, you’re always learning about something. 

Diana:

Yes. There’s always something new. You will never think that whatever politics is going on it’s going to affect your business but it does. So, it’s a little bit of a learning curve because I never been this big compared with my other business. Some of the things that you have to learn on the go.

Debbie: 

Absolutely. Can you take us a little bit to what your average day looks like as an entrepreneur, as an e-commerce entrepreneur? Because it must be very interesting at least for us. I’m sure for you, it is just like an everyday thing. 

Diana:

Yeah. I work on a little bit of everything since I also have a travel blog. So what I do is always in the morning, I check my emails: customer service to see what orders come in, sometimes orders come in the middle of the night so, I just checked on those. I check on the analytics to see where the traffic coming, from where those sales coming from because that’s one of the things you always have to check: where is traffic coming from on the business side. 

And then, after I have taken care of all the tasks like processing orders, answering emails, I go ahead and work on the marketing side to see what’s trending, what’s working, what’s not working.

 And then, from there once I have done, I’m finished with Gatta Bag, I move onto my blog. So from there, I do the same thing: I check the analytics, I work on blog posts.  And that’s how we go. 

So I try to divide my days. Each business or each site gets a little bit of time. Because it’s very easy to get lost on one side and then completely forgot the other one, which I have done many times. I work on my blog and then all of a sudden my sales are dropping because I’m not paying attention. Snd then I’m working on my website, on my Gatta Bag, and then my traffic is dropping because I have forgotten my blog. 

So, it’s a difficult balance game for me. 

Debbie: 

That’s a really big thing to kind of organized, right? Because they’re both pretty popular and you have to make sure that you’re really on top of your game. Do you have any specific tools that you’re using to keep yourself organized so that it doesn’t get too overwhelming or, like you said, you forget about some parts of one business or the other?

Diana:

 

Right now, I use several software but for organisation, I use Wunderlist. It helps me keep all the tasks and I can divide the tasks by website. So, for Gatta Bag I have to do this, this, this, and then, for In Between Pictures, I have to do this and this and this. I can also put deadlines, reminders, priorities. I can even share the list.

For example, if I want to hire someone to help me with pinning to the boards, I actually sometimes ask my little sister. She’s in college and sometimes I pay her to help me pin. I can share my task with her and she can just click it when she’s done so I can see when she’s done with it. 

So it’s very useful. I use it all the time for Gatta Bag, I also use it for In Between Pictures. To help me schedule the Instagram posts I use Later. 

Debbie:

Yeah. I’ve seen a lot of people use Later. Its a really great tool for social media specifically for Instagram. And obviously you use that a lot because your business, as a part of your marketing strategy, is using Instagram. And its very visual which is great specifically for your business. 

Diana:

Yeah. You have to keep on top of that because it’s very easy to forget one small task or even if it’s big you tend to forget sometimes because you have so many things that you have to keep track of. 

So, Later, for me, is so easy. I can just schedule for months and then not worry about it. And it’s just part of the business to be on top of everything. 

Debbie:

What would you say is the best lesson that you’ve learned so far that you wish you’d known when you first started your company?

Diana:

Okay. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from this website is there will always be problems – it doesn’t matter, small, big just don’t take it too seriously. I mean, don’t worry too much because I tend to worry all the time. 

For me I always have to take in and breathe and think about, “Well is if there’s a solution there is a solution so I don’t have to worry. If there’s no solution then, I shouldn’t worry anyway because there’s no solution.” So you just have to roll with it. 

So it’s one of the things that I have to always keep in mind because I always get so worried with little problems like a customer didn’t like my products so I get so worried about that. Someone doesn’t like my bag I get very worried so I asked them like, “What didn’t you like about it?” You learn from it and you move on. But I tend to hold onto a little too long. 

So, one of the lessons that I learned is that I have to let go of little problems that are not going to be helpful for me to run the business. 

Debbie:

I think when it’s your product, It’s kind of your baby. So you do take offense to that when somebody says anything.

Diana:

Yeah. I know inside. I take it a little personal when someone says s/he doesn’t like it. So I always make sure to ask why because that’s another way to learn like to improve your designs. 

You have to listen to what people are saying. You can’t just take it too personal because at the end of the day, what they don’t like could improve your sales. 

So, that’s how the bag that Marissa has come up with because people were saying, “I want something more secure for my travels.” So I took that feedback and I designed a different bag. 

That’s how the design ray came up with:  just taking in feedback. But it took me a while to listen because I was so offended a little bit. When people say, “Oh! I didn’t like your bag because of this.,” and I say, “What?!” But I just have to learn to take the the the feedback and improve the bags or come up with a different design and learn from them. 

Those are the things that I just learned from this business: you have to take in feedback and improve because from my other websites, they were not my design. They are products that are selling. If they didn’t like it, well, whatever, I just move on to a different product. I didn’t design that.

But for this one, this is what I did. So, when people say something about it then I have to listen because I have to improve, I have to make it better. I have to come up with different designs and I’m right now working on two different designs and they were 80% feedbacks from other people. 

So it’s just something that you learn as you go.

Debbie:

And its really helping you make that product even better like you said. I know it’s so hard not to internalize all of that and feel offended because you worked so hard on it. And I don’t know if a lot of people really understand how much it takes to design these bags. 

I mean, we all have our opinions, that’s great,  but for you as a designer, you’ve worked on this so long and then you put it out there and somebody says even one thing that’s negative you’re like, “Oh my God. That’s like an arrow to my heart right now.”

Diana:

Exactly. Because, like your babies, like someone coming to you and say, “Your baby is ugly.”

Debbie:

That’s so true!

Diana:

 You just have to think about it and then take it in and say, “Okay. So, what didn’t work?” So, you just have to learn to take the feedback.

Debbie:

And it takes a little bit of time. Probably after the shock then you can start thinking about, “Okay. This person is going to help me instead of making me just feel really upset.”

Debbie:

Yes. Exactly. It’s that learning curve when it comes to your babies. 

Debbie:

You touched upon this a little bit: how much money did you actually save before starting your eCommerce site? And how did you make it last and how did you budget that to last? 

Debbie:

I save up that money from my finance work. So, I used to be a financial advisor at an investment bank, and that’s how I saved up the money. I saved up between $5,000 to $10,000. A big chunk of it went to inventory and the other chunk had to go for website, design, photography, buying my camera gear, laptop, whatever I needed that I don’t have at that moment. So I have to buy them. 

A big chunk of that I went to inventory which was very scary because I have never sent that much money to someone outside the country where they say, “Okay. Heres the invoice you have to pay.” I don’t remember how much was the amount but it was more than $5,000 and you’re like hoping they will send you the bag.

So, it was very scary to have that big of a chunk of money sent out. And after you buy the inventory you’re left with very little funds to support the business for a few months because you have to have money to survive for at least two, three months. 

As you grow your business, when you upload something online it’s not going to be sales right away. Sales are not going to start coming in as soon as you open. You have to keep that in mind: as you start your business, you have to have funds to survive. Whether it’s for the rent, labels, boxes, or whatever you need for your business. 

You’ll have expenses that will incur while you grow your business? 

Debbie:

Yeah. There’s, again, a lot of different things that you wouldn’t even think you were going to spend money on and it just pops up. And it’s so crucial to have those savings especially when you have an eCommerce store specifically. 

Diana:

Yeah. A lot of people don’t think about that. Let’s say they have $10,000 and they think, “Okay. Let me put the $10,000 to an inventory.” But you have to have a budget set up for the expenses that you’re going to incur for the next few months. Because that’s one thing that happens a lot of the time – that they run out of money while running the business.

 And then, they have to close the business because they can’t keep up with the expenses. So let’s say I don’t have any employees, I don’t have my sister helping out and some people have employees. If you don’t budget their salary for the next 2-3 months, then you’re going to run into problems if you if your sales are not where it should be to beat up the expenses.

So, it’s very, very important to always have a plan when you start a business.

Debbie:

Yeah. I think, with anything, you need to make sure that you are prepared for any eventuality. Obviously, you cant be prepared for any of that, for all of it. But just having something on the side is always good.

Diana:

Yes. You always have to have a little bit of a cushion. 

Debbie:

Let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life. What legacy would you like to leave? And what do you want to be remembered for? 

Diana:

Oh! I want to be remembered as the person that doesn’t matter the situation, she always did her best. For me, to go through so many things, to be where I am today, I want to be remembered as someone that is very resilient. 

So, it doesn’t matter what problems, what issue that you may face you always overcome it. And I want to be remembered as someone who overcame many problems and still learns from it, still went through it, and still kept going.

Debbie:

Well, you’ve already encountered so many of that with your business so she’s gonna keep going.

Diana:

It doesn’t matter. I mean, at what stage you are, there will always be problems that you have to overcome. And especially as a business owner, you think that you have seen it all and then something new will come up. 

Debbie:

Absolutely. It always as pretty much almost everyday, guys, so be prepared. 

What are you working on currently that is really exciting to you? 

Diana:

I think I’ve mentioned it before but I’m working on two different designs right now. They are basically all from feedbacks and I have a friend and she has been asking me for the longest time for a bag that can feed a bottle of water. So I’m working on it right now. I’m working on it. 

I’m very excited when I work on new designs because there like new babies for me and hopefully what I have in the future is to open different websites, different eCommerces. Not just Gatta Bag I love to have different other businesses as well. Because one thing I also learned is that don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 

Debbie:

Absolutely. I think that’s what we all learned as remote entrepreneurs: when you are putting it all in one basket things will happen and you never know. You may lose certain things, right? So, be prepared. 

Diana:

Yes. Be prepared.

Debbie:

If our listeners want to know more about you, Diana, where can they find you? 

Diana:

They can find me on my blog: InBetweenPictures.com or Instagram: @inbetweenpics.

Debbie:

Perfect. And where can I find your bags? 

Diana:

They can find them at Gattabag.com or gattabag on Instagram Twitter and Facebook. 

Debbie:

Perfect. Thank you so much for being here with us today.

Diana:

Thank you for having me. 

Debbie:

I’m so excited to see your new products, the new designs coming out soon. So that’s really exciting. 

Diana:

Yes, hopefully in a few months. I’ll show you a sneak peek when I have them ready. 

Debbie:

Yey! Thanks, Diana.

Diana:

Thank you.

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH DIANA WHERE SHE SHARES HOW TO CREATE A SUCCESSFUL ECOMMERCE BUSINESS.


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith


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