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
"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
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,"
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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