SRQ Magazine | March 2017
It’s the plight of professional women everywhere—how do you maintain a fashionable presence while keeping personal items organized in a tiny bag unfit for more than a compact and lipstick? Certainly Marsa Tuscott has felt the struggle before. “I’ve been in boardrooms ready to make a presentation, and I’ve been put together with my content and what I was there to talk about,” she says, “but God forbid if the person next to me asks to borrow a pen.” Tired of reaching into the “black hole” of a handbag but remiss to turn to a boring or masculine briefcase, Tuscott and business partner Andrea Billups developed Be Brilliant Bags, an accessory to let women keep their professional gear organized but still retain a sense of style. Purses with both a space for a smartphone and baubles that sparkle may seem an obvious pairing, but through intense market research and interviews with high-fashion retailers in New York City, the women found no one devoting resources to the needs of the gadget-armed working woman. Tuscott knew there was a need in the market during an appointment at Barney’s when an attendant explained she could not find any designer that carried the type of chic but organized handbag the women were looking for, but the bag manufacturer that started offering one first would be “surely brilliant.”
A political professional who had worked on President George W. Bush’s transition team, Tuscott now devotes her professional efforts toward Be Brilliant Bags. She taught herself the ins and outs of the industry, the mechanics of actual handbags on the market from O-ring openers to interior linings. Tuscott met with investors gathered through Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Big Ideas on the Gulf Coast initiative. The company, based in Sarasota, spent 18 months developing the silhouette of its first product before bringing it to market in 2015. The company now has three products—the Brilliant On-The-Go Tote, Brilliant Day & Night iPad Clutch and Brilliant Dasher Smartphone Wallet—on offer, the clutch and wallet both just released in 2016.
And while Tuscott won’t offer specific proprietary figures on sales, she shares that a business consultant said first-year profits put Be Brilliant Bags in the top 1 percent of startup companies. That’s been done largely with online sales and boutique retail partners. Each quarter since the company put its first product in the market, sales have trended upward. “That’s a good feeling,” Tuscott says.
Where does the company go from here? Will the line expand past its fundamental pieces now on shelves? “We are always open to ideas,” Tuscott says. “We listen to our customer base.” A purse with a cross-body strap seems high on the request list, Tuscott says, but it’s ultimately demand and partnerships that will drive the company’s next move. Until then, Be Brilliant hopes its inventory proves perfect for making the boardroom a little more stylish.