World Reimagined

How One Woman Is Creating Handbags That Encourage Self-Expression

Alli Echelman

Alli Echelman, Founder of Calin, is creating interchangeable handbags that allow people to embrace their ever-changing style.

As someone who loves expressing themselves through fashion, Alli wanted to find a solution that allowed individuals to invest in fashionable items that were both high quality and sustainable. After realizing there weren’t great options that fit that criteria for handbags, Alli came up with the idea of creating a product with interchangeable covers that could easily be switched out to match anyone’s style. And thus, Calin was born. 

We asked Alli about the story behind Calin’s founding, how her personal journey has shaped her experiences as an entrepreneur, and how she navigates being a solo founder.

Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Calin? 

A: As I began to learn more about the environmental impacts of the fashion industry, I started to become more conscious about the purchases I was making. I began moving away from purchasing fast fashion brands and instead invested in items that were of higher quality and lasted longer. After a while, I found that if I couldn’t wear something multiple times with many different outfits, it wasn’t worth the investment to me. So I ended up with a closet full of neutrals. I felt there had to be a better way to build a wardrobe of high quality items that reflected my personality and didn’t cost a fortune. At the time, companies that provided flexibility were starting to become popular, but there wasn’t anything specific to handbags. This gave me the idea of creating handbags with interchangeable covers so that people could easily change the look of their bag and express their style with a high quality, ethically-made handbag. 

Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur? 

A: I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I always loved fashion and dreamed about becoming a designer. I started my career in the corporate world before realizing that I didn’t want to follow a predetermined path. At the time, this made me feel so different as many individuals I knew had more traditional jobs. However, as I learned about more people who carved their own path, it empowered me to carve one out for myself. 

Q: What were the most difficult and most impactful lessons you’ve learned starting and running a company?

A: To fully embrace the lows. There are going to be times when you feel like everything is falling apart. But that doesn’t mean you should throw it all away and give up. Instead, figure out what you can learn from the situation and pivot from there. Those “failures” are your most valuable learning opportunities. 

Q: What’s been the hardest and most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey?

A: One of the hardest parts is how this journey can feel very isolating at times. Especially as a solo founder, I don’t always have someone who is coming from the same perspective to talk things through. But I’ve built a great community of other entrepreneurs, which has been so helpful to lean on. 

Alli Echelman

Q: Have you felt like giving up? What made you persist?

A: This journey has taught me so much about myself as a person, especially learning how resilient I can be. There have been many ups and downs and moments where I’ve wanted to give up and imagined it would be so much easier to just close my business. But I always push through. I believe in my product and the potential of my company and that’s what keeps me going. The desire to see my many ideas come to fruition drives me. 

Alli Echelman

 Q: We dare you to brag. What achievements are you most proud of? 

A: There are so many accomplishments I’ve made through Calin that I’m proud of, such as receiving a patent, being featured in Forbes, and seeing people light up as they wear our bags. But one of the biggest achievements that I’m most proud of is how this experience has evolved my definition of success. Of course, financial success is important. But there are many other ways to measure success and I have taken that philosophy into how I live my life. 

Q: What’s next for you and Calin?

A: We’re adding some amazing new covers and expanding into new handbag styles. We also have a very exciting update that was years in the making that I can’t talk about just yet, so stay tuned!

Alli is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Gesche Haas

Gesche Haas is the Founder/CEO of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through visibility opportunities, resource exchange, and collective support.

Read Gesche's Bio