“When I’m making bags I am breathing,” Nadira El Khang said.
El Khang, an international accounting major at LaGuardia Community College and Jamaica resident, got an economic boost for her handmade, leather bag business on July 5 when she won $1,000 in the Capital One Student Design Entrepreneur Challenge.
Seven students participated in the 10-week training program that included workshops on how to write business plans among other things and mentoring from Capital One small business bankers in partnership with the college and NYDesigns, an incubator for design businesses ranging from fashion to architecture.
The other participants, whose products range from technical support services to fashion to photography, won grants of $750 and $500.
The biennial program started in 2008. Last year’s winner, Karel Powery, launched her web-based footwear retail business, ShoeLife.com, this year.
“The exposure to professionals in the industry encourages our students to dream bigger,” NYDesigns Director Natalia Arguello said.
El Khang grew up in Marrakech helping her father in his leather store. Her love for the leather craft grew from there and she started making her sturdy totes and purses for friend’s graduations and birthdays.
“The smell of the leather reminds me of my country.” she said.
She moved to the United States in 2009. Her brother then recognized her talent and started selling her bags last year at markets in Chelsea and Williamsburg. He sold about 55 backpacks, wallets and purses.
On her etsy website, a forum for crafty folk to sell their wares, etsy.com/shop/nadirabag, the unisex bags sell for anywhere from $50 for a small pouch to $350 for a larger bag.
The totes take about eight hours to make depending on how many pockets and details the item has.
“They are handmade, fashionable and fit a need,” El Khang said.
Since moving to the States the young entrepreneur began thinking more about how the bag will hold laptops and how to utilize its pockets for organization — something that El Khang said wasn’t sought after in Morocco.
El Khang will use her winnings to create a personal website and to buy materials and a camera to better document her products.