Most successful entrepreneurs revel in telling stories about how

arduous their climb to profitability has been, how hard it was to

launch their products, how years of experience went into their

inventions. To hear them tell it, the view from the top of the

mountain is glorious, but the climb was pure hell.

Jan Haedrich tells a different story – or she tries to. Haedrich is

the founder of My Flat in London, a company that, most appropriately,

has recently opened its headquarters on Princess Road. The enterprise

designs, manufactures, and markets posh handbags. On these exquisite

pieces of arm candy oversized bumblebees wear crowns and scottie dogs

sport diamond necklaces. The company’s wares have a decidedly upper

crust air about them, invoking a sense of effortless wealth. The model

on its website, pictured walking in front of a Rolls Royce, is clearly

a lady out for a day of shopping and air kisses.

Haedrich tries to put herself in the picture, but is soon unmasked and

shown to be every bit as smart, hard working, driven, and ambitious as

any entrepreneur who goes from zero to $5 million a year in annual

sales in not much more than five years.

"I grew up in Europe," she says. "I left home young, traveled in

France, Germany, and London. I’ve lived a jet set life, it’s been

wonderful.

"You go through phases in your life," she continues. "You start with

pampering yourself. I had a flat in London. My life was taking bubble

baths, walking around in a robe."

Were her parents diplomats, or perhaps financiers? Well, no, Haedrich

admits. "My father was a professor at a university," she says. "He

taught nuclear physics at Southwest Missouri State." She did want to

study abroad, and her family made that possible. She traveled and

studied in Europe before returning to the United States to earn a

degree in English literature and psychology from Harvard in 1994. She

then returned to Europe, but not exclusively to loll about in bubble

baths.

Haedrich took a job with designer Wolfgang Joop, or Joop! as he is

known, at his headquarters in Hamburg. "I was international press

showroom manager," she says. When a top fashion magazine, a Vogue or

Marie Claire, called for an outfit, it was her job to coordinate the

clothing, accessories, and shoes.

On weekends she did indeed retreat to a little flat in London.

"Germany can be very depressing," she says. "The affluent go away on

weekends." The flat soon became more than a place to loll, though. "I

got the inspiration to do something on my own," she says. "I was

submerged in fashion all day, constantly thinking about image."

That would explain the attempt to portray herself as a footloose jet

setter. But a little probing reveals, London Mirror-style, that she

was in fact – gasp! – working hard.

Not only did Haedrich use those weekends in London to come up with the

concept for a new product line, but she also did a fair amount of

sewing. "I started to make the bags by hand," she says. Soon she could

not keep up with demand, so she left Joop! and returned to the United

States. She headed to Boston, where she had gone to school. There, on

a blind date, she met Todd Haedrich, and knew instantly – just like in

the fairy tales – that she had found her future husband, and also her

technology and numbers guy.

"We met at a place called the Good Life," she says, relishing the

upscale tie-in with her brand’s image. Todd Haedrich is now CEO of My

Flat in London, which was officially launched in 2002. The couple live

in Frenchtown with their two children, five-year-old Lexington, and a

one-year-old whose name demonstrates the depth of the family’s

commitment to their company. The baby is London.

Little London’s parents incubated their product line in New York City

when it became clear that there was no way that home sewing could keep

orders filled. "We needed to take manufacturing to New York," says

Haedrich. "We went to the garment district and found a wonderful

manufacturer. In about one year we were doing 2,000 handbags a day."

Once again slipping up, and revealing herself to be a typical

obsessively involved entrepreneur, rather than a lady who lunches,

Haedrich says that, wonderful though the manufacturer was, she did not

completely trust it to get everything right. "I glued on the

rhinestones myself," she says. She also saw that other decorative

touches were properly applied, again by doing the work herself.

"Then," she says, "the quantity got too much."

The next step is one that she hesitates to reveal, despite the fact

that everyone does it. "We moved the production to China," she says.

The fact that everything from running shoes to the highest end

electronics are also manufactured in China doesn’t erase the stigma.

"Most designer handbags made there have the `Made in China’ printed

black on black," she says. Only a high-powered magnifying glass will

give away the secret. Louis Vuitton takes the game a step further,

says Haedrich, outsourcing to China, but doing a tiny bit of finish

work in France so that a "Made in France" label can be stamped into

its pricey goods.

While she prefers to be vague about the origin of her handbags,

choosing to say whenever possible only that they are manufactured

"overseas," Haedrich can’t help but praise the way that Chinese

manufacturing companies do business. Quality is high, she says, and

work is done on time. "U.S. manufacturers are just not meeting

deadlines," she says. Furthermore, Chinese manufacturers make the

process easier for their clients.

In the United States it is necessary to give the manufacturer every

part of the product, but, says Haedrich, in China "you just give them

the design and the swatch, and they will source everything." There is

no need to deliver the rhinestones or the decorative buckles. The

manufacturers assemble materials for every part of the product.

"The service is incredible," she says. "Chinese manufacturers are also

very responsible." In her experience, if a mistake is made, they

quickly admit it, and make it right.

Haedrich says that there are five seasons in the upscale handbag world

– summer, spring, winter, fall, and resort. She designs some 60

handbags for each season, "but most get edited out." In the end, a

collection contains 15 to 30 bags. For the coming summer she is

predicting that white will be big, as will azure blue. Patents,

especially textured patents, will also appear on fashionable arms, as

will leopard prints "with a little pink."

Speaking of fashionable arms, Haedrich says that both Madonna and

Beyonce – women so fabulous that they don’t even need last names –

each requested a My Flat in London baby bag. In early January Britney

Spears was caught carrying the baby bag, too, but Haedrich says that

she’s not whether the photo of Spears, a woman who could only see her

children under court supervision, was great publicity for her company.

With or without Spears, the baby bags, retailing for $495, are top

sellers. "They sell out. We can’t keep them in stock," says Haedrich.

My Flat in London does not spend a lot of energy placing handbags with

celebrities, she says, explaining that "it doesn’t necessarily bring

in revenue." Nevertheless, she confides that Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth

Paltrow, and the Queen of England all own her bags. The handbags

themselves have appeared in "InStyle, Vanity Fair, all the big names,"

she says.

All of this exposure inevitably translates into demand among those who

may not easily be able to spend the $250 to $600 that My Flat in

London handbags cost. So, yes, there are knock-offs. "I’ve had people

say to me, `look I got this for Christmas, but it doesn’t have the

authenticity patch,’" says Haedrich. At first she was "so upset" to

see the copy-cat bags, but now she has turned around. "You realize

that if it’s happening, it’s flattering," she now believes. "More

power to it. It’s great marketing. The more your image is out there,

the better."

My Flat in London handbags are sold in some department stores,

including Bergdorf and Nordstrom, but Haedrich and her husband/CEO are

concentrating on placing them largely in high end boutiques. "It’s

better for the stabilization of revenue," she says, "especially for a

small company. When you go to big stores there is a charge back

system, and it can hurt you."

Sales are handled by a regional sales force directed from the Princess

Road office. Fulfillment, design, and accounting are also handled from

there. Haedrich doesn’t want to divulge the exact number of full-time

employees on her staff, but puts the number at less than a dozen.

Product is shipped from China and stored in a warehouse outside of New

York City. "It’s computerized, high tech," says Haedrich. Her husband,

the "IT guy" in the partnership, has designed a sophisticated

fulfillment system. "With the click of a button in Lawrenceville,

shipments go out," she says. "It’s all done within 24 hours."

Haedrich says that she and her husband, who were featured as a model

business team in a 2005 article in Entrepreneur, are in no hurry to

grow the business. Brands that skyrocket tend to fall quickly to

earth, she says. The hope is that My Flat in London will become a

year-in and year-out classic.

The company’s product line, which also includes T-shirts, combines

understated elements, like its signature crest and regal bumblebee,

with unexpected touches. Some of its handbags sport demure black bows

that cry out "Madison Avenue," while others are emblazoned with a

skull and crossbones topped with a tiny crown, a look that would go

over well in the East Village.

Some handbags are designed to be carried at night, while others need

to make the leap from the office to an after work date. But, no matter

what, says Haedrich, a closet businesswoman who refuses to give up her

glamorous jet setter persona, "every woman needs a little bling."

– Kathleen McGinn Spring

My Flat in London, 4 Princess Road, Suite 204, Lawrenceville 08648;

609-895-8190; fax, 609-895-8191. Jan Haedrich, owner.

www.myflatinlondon.com.

Top Of PageExpansion

Wathne Ltd., 1 Capital Drive, Suite 102, Cranbury 08810; 609-655-8222.

Last fall the luxury handbag firm moved from 90 Stults Road in Dayton

to an office park owned by ProLogis. It is subleasing 7,700 square

feet from the primary tenant, Newegg.com, which has moved out. The

move was confirmed by the company’s New York office.

Top Of PageNew in Town

Ameriprise Financial, 2 Research Way, Princeton 08540; 609-921-1044;

fax, 609-921-1410. Harpreet Mangat, senior financial advisor.

Ameriprise Financial, a financial planning firm has opened another

area office. This one is at 2 Research Way. Harpreet Mangat is the

senior financial advisor in charge. The office manager is Simmer

Baines.

Fidelity Information Systems (FIS), 3371 Route 1, Lawrence Commons,

Lawrenceville 08648; 904-854-5000; fax, 904-357-1015. Shahid Charania,

president, FIS India. Home page: www.fix.com.

Shahid Charania opened an office for Fidelity National Information

Services at Lawrence Commons last fall.

He is president of FIS India, and all his calls and faxes go to the

headquarters office in Jacksonville, Florida. This office handles

offshore mortgage processing.

Tapestry Asset Management, 125 Main Street, Suite 305, Princeton

Forrestal Village, Princeton 08540; 609-520-4046; fax, 609-613-4235.

Afroz Qadeer, partner. Home page: www.tapestryam.com.

The hedge fund advisory firm will double its space with a move within

Princeton Forrestal Village, from 136 Village Boulevard to 4,500

square feet on the second floor of 125 Village Boulevard, an office

formerly occupied by Oliver Wyman (Multi-Modal Applied Systems), which

moved to the Carnegie Center. Phone and fax will stay the same.

It is an independent investment firm focused on creating proprietary

investment products and selectively sub-advising on hedge fund

portfolios.

Top Of PageCrosstown Move

AFLAC (AFL), 2 Princess Road, Suite 2-L, Lawrenceville 08648;

609-895-8555; fax, 609-895-8455. Robert Brentari, regional sales

coordinator. Home page: www.aflac.com.

Princeton’s AFLAC duck has moved. Last fall Robert Brentari, regional

manager of the American Family Life Assurance Company combined two

locations with a move to Princess Road.

Now five people work in 1,000 square feet at on Princess Road. Barry

Scoff had had a district office in shared space at Regus in Forrestal

Village, and Brentari’s regional office was in Regus quarters on Lenox

Drive.

AFLAC sells supplemental insurance for business groups as well as

individuals. Brentari defines supplemental as designed to take care of

deductibles, copays, out of network charges, and non-medical expenses

for accidents and illnesses.

A graduate of Penn State, Class of 1972, Brentari has a master’s

degree from the University of Scranton.

Market Action, 35 Quarry Street, Suite 209, Princeton 08542;

609-430-9029. Alex Trent, president. Home page: www.mktact.com.

Last fall Alex Trent moved his advertising and public relations office

from Nassau Street.

Girl Scouts of Central and Southern NJ, 108 Church Lane, East

Brunswick 08816; 732-821-9090; fax, 732-821-4211. Mary E. Connell,

CEO. Home page: www.gscsnj.org.

As a result of merging councils, the Delaware Raritan Council closed

and moved to Cherry Hill, and the East Brunswick office is now a

service center.

The Central New Jersey council also includes the former Camden County

and South Jersey Pines council and is comprised of the following

counties: Mercer, Middlesex, parts of Monmouth, Atlantic, Burlington,

Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem.

The new council serves 27,000 girls and 11,000 adults.

Textile Creations, 2435 Route 33, Robbinsville 08691; 609-631-4433;

fax, 609-631-4434. Jim Hankins, manager. Home page:

www.textilecreations.com.

Jim Hankins moved his import company, Textile Creations, from 5,000

square feet at Ibis Plaza at 3535 Quakerbridge Road to 3,000 square

feet on Route 33 in Robbinsville.

This seven-person family business, founded in 1999, imports, exports,

and resells fabrics, especially for quilting. Hankin is the fabric

designer (U.S. 1, November 24, 2004). Phone and fax remain the same.

Top Of PageLeaving Town

Diamond Player Development, 670 Route 33, Hamilton. Jim Cuthbert,

owner. Home page: www.dpdacademy.com.

Diamond Player Development , a company dedicated to developing young

baseball players through camps, one-on-one instruction, and practice

facilities, has closed. The 16,000-square-foot baseball academy was

founded by Jim Cuthbert, who is also a professional baseball scout

(U.S. 1, January 25, 2006).

The baseball training venture began in 2006 and had as many as 13

employees. Its goal was to nurture young baseball players, while at

the same time evaluating their talent, and setting realistic goals for

their future in the sport.

Chartwells Dining Services, 104 Interchange Plaza, Suite 102,

Cranbury. Larry Gebar, vice president.

Chartwells Dining Services, a food service company for schools and

large companies, appears to have left its offices at 104 Interchange

Plaza. Neither the company’s parent in North Carolina, nor its

regional headquarters in Rye Brook, New York, were able to supply any

information. The 104 Interchange Plaza office has had as many as 10

employees.

Princeton International Press, 3175 Princeton Pike, Lawrenceville

08648; 609-896-3396; fax, 609-896-3322. Bill Miller, plant manager.

Princeton International Press has moved out of its office on Princeton

Pike, which it shared with Imaginet.

Imaginet, meanwhile, moved in with its sister company in North Bergen.

Total Plastics Inc., 5B South Gold Drive, Hamilton 08619;

609-689-0990; fax, 609-689-1555. Irwin Edelson, branch manager. Home

page: www.totalplastics.com.

Total Plastics moved from its South Gold Drive location to a new

facility closer to Philadelphia – 1313 Old Kings Highway, Maple Shade

08052. Phone and fax remain the same.

Top Of PageDeaths

Edwin Philip Hart, 83, on February 14. A lifelong farmer, he was field

crop manager for Wilgorian Farms until 1965, when he became manager

for Edward M. Boehm-Duncraven Farm. He then managed Helen F. Boehm’s

Washington Crossing Estate until 1997.

Thomas Grehan, 48, on February 14. He was a street mechanic for Public

Service Electric and Gas.

Kathleen Marie Kolesar, on February 14. She had been a guidance

counselor at the Grice Middle School in Hamilton.

Joseph Pelc, on February 13. After retiring as a lab technician at

Rhone Poulenc, he worked as a suite supervisor at the Sovereign Bank

Arena.

Marjorie Jaeger, 88, on February 12. A Princeton resident and real

estate agent, she had worked with Peyton Associates for 30 years until

her retirment in 2006.

Frances A. Stockton, 67, on February 11. She was office manager for

Wiss Janney Elstner Associates in Princton Junction until her

retirement five years ago.

James A. Cipriano, 54. A Cranbury resident, he worked as an auditor

for Price Waterhouse before starting his own human resources

consulting business.

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