Phil Castle, The Business Times
JaCee Apple worked hard to marry form and function in a unique line of handbags she designed. She wanted handbags that offer the style and quality that appeal to fashion-forward women. But she also had a practical purpose in mind: quick access to a concealed handgun.
Apple believes she’s developed a product that fits the very definition of concealed carry couture. Given the increasing interest among women in carrying guns for protection, the Grand Valley entrepreneur has equally great expectations for a business she’s named Fashion Firearm Handbags.
The Fruita woman is off to a fast start in not only selling her handbags online, but also recruiting a growing list of retailers to carry her products. She’s just reached an agreement with Sportsman’s Warehouse to sell Fashion Firearm Handbags. The outdoor sporting goods retailer operates a total of more than 50 stores in 18 states. “It’s been really exciting,” she says.
Apple launched Fashion Firearm Handbags in early 2013 to meet what she recognized as a need: more fashionable handbags for women with permits to carry concealed handguns.
Apple says she obtained her own permit in part because of job in which she’d go to strangers’ homes by herself to close real estate transactions. She didn’t want to carry a gun beneath her professional clothes. But when she searched for a handbag in which to carry a gun, she found many products were poorly made and unattractive. “They were not fashionable at all.”
Shortly after Apple realized she could make a better handbag than she could buy, she decided not only to do just that, but also go into business in the process. “I saw a need, so I figured I’d try to fill it.”
Working with a manufacturer in China, Apple developed a prototype that she refined and went on to create several styles and colors of handbags. By August, the handbags were ready for production.
Apple says she originally planned to order 100 handbags she hoped she’d be able to sell. But the response she received shortly after marketing the handbags on the Internet prompted her to increase her first order to 500, an inventory that sold out in only 60 days.
Apple says she’s been playing catchup ever since in selling handbags online and through a growing number of retailers. “It’s been going great.”
Four Grand Junction retailers carry her handbags: Brown’s Shoe Fit, Jerry’s Outdoor Sports, Klik Clothing and Top Shot. A total of four more retailers in Cortez, Durango and Montrose also sell her products.
But distribution extends far beyond Western Colorado and into far-flung locations in Arizona, Ohio and South Carolina.
Apple says she was approached by Theisen’s, which operates a chain of 20 retail stores in Iowa, to sell Fashion Firearm handbags. By later this summer, Sportsman’s Warehouse stores in 18 states also will stock the handbags, she adds.
Apple attributes strong demand to a number of factors, including the quality and functionality of her handbags.
The products are made with top-quality leathers stitched by hand.
Each handbag features a dedicated compartment for a concealed handgun with access from the top and two sides. An adjustable holster accommodates various models and sizes of guns, including semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. The holster holds the gun firmly in place and attaches with Velcro to the bag. That means each woman can position her gun in the way that works best for her.
With practice, a woman can reach into her handbag and draw her gun within three seconds, Apple says.
The products also offer safety features, including zippers that can be locked when the handbag isn’t in use and steel cables that run through the straps that prevent the bag from being cut or ripped away and stolen.
The line of Fashion Firearm handbags has grown to eight styles, and Apple says she’s designing more styles as well as matching wallets. She also hopes to design diaper bags and brief cases with compartments for concealed handguns.
Even as she expands her product line, Apple hopes to expand distribution of those products nationwide.
While her business has grown far faster than she initially anticipated, Apple expects to tap what she considers a mostly untapped and rapidly growing market.
Apple says her ultimate goal remains the same, though, and that’s to empower women to take their safety into their own hands if the need arises.
But if they look good in the process, Apple figures she’s successfully married form and function.
For more information about Fashion Firearm Handbags, visit the website located at www.FFHandbags.com.