DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
My name is Lorra Rivers, owner/creative director of LORRARIVERS, LLC. LORRARIVERS is a fine leather handbag and accessories company. Professionally trained as an interior designer, I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Interior Design with a minor study in Architecture from Howard University in 1987.
I’ve been a practicing interior designer for nearly 30 years and an entrepreneur for 22 years. In 2011, I started down the path of fashion accessories, honing my handbag design skills and business acumen for this industry. I officially launched the brand in 2015 landing a coveted brand feature on the hit FOX drama series, Empire (DCF: Cause they are FIERCE). The journey continues.
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
LR: Being funemployed means the freedom to express the creative passion within me and make a living at it.
My path to funemployment started when I was 28 years old. I knew that within the residential interior design profession, in order to make substantial earnings, I would have to start my own business. So, after 7 years of experience under my belt, I ventured out on my own and never looked back. It’s been 22 years and counting!
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
LR: My absolute first cheerleaders were my parents. They saw my creative potential as a child and nurtured it with creative toys such as pottery wheels (DCF: I used to love throwing pots, so fun!!) and weaving looms. They’ve never wavered in their support of me or my dreams. My Dad is still cheering me on from Heaven and my Mom continues to be my rock.
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
LR: Having been in business for 22 years now, I’m well-seasoned on the amount of sacrifice, patience and perseverance required to sustain a business. With each challenge comes growth. With each circumstance comes wisdom. The obstacles will always be there, but so will the amazing rewards. It’s a daily practice, but staying grounded in faith and knowing that I have something beautiful to contribute to society, keeps me in the game. It’s what gave me the courage to start a new venture at this late stage in my career. (DCF: I wanted to bold this whole paragraph, so true!)
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
LR: Inspiration can be very elusive at times. So, I stay constantly connected with my surroundings because I never know what will spark something within. I thoroughly enjoy communing with nature and allowing myself to daydream. Permitting myself to clear my mind of life’s clutter frees me to be more focused, see more abstractly.
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
LR: At this mid-stage of my life, I’ve experienced a lot and I’ve made quite a few sacrifices. What keeps me in balance is God and family. I’m highly driven, and have accomplished many great things in my career. But, I recognize the importance of stepping away from it all every once and awhile. I’m currently in a loving relationship with an amazing man. His support along with my family and friends, keeps me grounded. They keep me sane.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
LR: Sacrifice has taken the helm since 2008. The economic downturn in 2008 forced me to lay off my designers in order to keep my business alive. It meant having to go back to a one-woman operation. It was such a difficult decision, but a greater sacrifice was looming.
In 2014, I sold my home of 17 years. It was my designer showplace in the city! I worked from there, entertained from there, celebrated amazing milestones from there. But, it was time to let go and I did so reluctantly. I needed the capital that this home (aka investment) would provide me so that I could put this new venture of handbag design/manufacturing on the map. This ultimate sacrifice has opened up so many doors. I just had to let go and let God. (DCF: Sometimes you gotta go out on a limb!)
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
LR: In my first career as an interior designer, I initially struggled with gaining respect from my male counterparts. I worked primarily with male contractors, so seeing me as an equal took some work, but they came around. As a minority woman, the constant struggle was having to validate my professional experience. Over time, this became less problematic.
I’m new to the fashion arena, but I know that the primary struggle is establishing brand recognition. Fortunately, I have a history as a designer, so the validation step is much easier to achieve. At this point, my resume of work speaks for itself. (DCF: As it should! Let your work shout your praises!)
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
LR: I don’t know that there was any particular early wisdom imparted to me that I ignored. But, to spin this question, the reason I got into the handbag business almost didn’t happen because of resistance on my part. My design mentor suggested that I pursue this business after viewing my custom pillow sketches. It was my vision to expand my interior design business into furniture and accessories. So, I resisted and supported my resistance with facts about why I wanted to pursue my path. After several irrefutable points from him as to why I should pursue handbag design, I finally conceded. It was the best advice that I almost didn’t take!
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
LR: Not to sound cocky (DCF: Girl go ahead and blow that horn!), but I’ve been very blessed to achieve most things that I put my mind to. I’m a logical thinker/strategist. If I want to pursue something, I assess my current situation, skill level and access to support. If it all aligns, I go for it. If not, I table it for a later time. I’m a controlled risk taker. (DCF: Nothing wrong with calculating your risk!)
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
LR: I would have to say that my proudest moment is happening now. I’m experiencing a series of proud moments as I journey down this new path of handbag designer. I had a successful career as an interior designer with some notoriety, but didn’t get the exposure I felt I deserved. Now, so many doors are opening for me thanks to my amazing team. I’m so proud that I’m finally on the way to making Lorra Rivers a household name!
DCF: What’s next?
LR: Currently, the LORRARIVERS team is gearing up to launch our first Kickstarter campaign (DCF: Which is live now, see above) to raise funds for the fourth bag in the premier Femme Fatale Collection. To date, we’ve placed three handbag designs in the marketplace: Nikita clutch, Raven backpack/satchel and Chantal tote. It’s now time to introduce the Jade hobo. A sample of Jade was produced a year ago and she is appearing to be very popular with her utilitarian, yet modern edgy style. Unlike the other bags in stock, she will be produced in a color other than black for this first run. We’re very excited about getting her to the marketplace!
DCF: So how can people follow you and what you are doing??