Bringing Sustainable, Fashionable Products to Market with Pisidia USA’s Jonathan and Deborah Miller
October 1, 2014
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good. I’m so excited to have on the show today Deborah Miller and Jonathan Miller. They’re the owners of Pisidia USA. I had the great pleasure of meeting them a couple of weeks back at an eco-event in Los Angeles. Welcome to Green is Good, Deborah and Jonathan. JONATHAN MILLER: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be on here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, you know, before we get talking about your great new products that you’re going to be selling and launching and you’re going to have on your website, pisidiausa.com, I want you to share first the Miller family story leading up to the founding of Pisidia USA, and share about how you guys came together, where you had been, and how you came together to found this great new brand. So, I’ll let you guys take it from here. DEBORAH MILLER: OK. Thank you again for having us on, John. Anyway, our journey has been such an exciting one. We went over to visit Jonathan; he had graduated from Georgetown University and was over in Hong Kong. We went over to visit him, and what happened was we saw this great line of eco-friendly silicone handbags, and we went, “Oh, this an amazing product.” We researched it, we found out, we changed a few things, and we decided we’re bringing it over to the United States and the Caribbean. So, we brought it over here. Jonathan came aboard. We’re in partner with three of my other sons, which is an awesome opportunity for me, and so here we are launching it in the United States. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is awesome. I’m on the website now. It’s a beautiful website. It’s www.pisidiausa.com for our listeners out there. So, Jonathan, talk a little bit about Pisidia. Why does it stand out from other fashion brands? JONATHAN MILLER: Yes, so, what’s so unique about Pisidia is when you actually get to feel the product and see what it’s like, it’s made of silicone, so other than being a sustainable product, the colors and all the bags are water-resistant. Another unique thing is that all of our products are nontoxic, so unlike rubber or plastic bags, there’s no toxins in them, which makes them nonharmful for you when you’re carrying them around you. On top of that, even though we have the eco-side, we’re also very stylish, and we took classic designs and punched them with color, and made them very trendy. This ultimately culminates to product that is not only green, but stylish, and it shows that you don’t have to compromise style to be eco-conscious. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there, I’ve seen your bags in person at the event where I met you at, and not only are they amazingly vibrant and colorful, but they’re gorgeous to the touch, they’re gorgeous to the feel, and they’re visually just eye candy. They’re beautiful. They’re just really beautiful. So kudos to the both of you for creating something that’s not only sustainable, but just absolutely gorgeous. So, you’re starting the brand now. Where are you first launching the brand, both physically, and I’m on your website now. Are there online sales available as well? JONATHAN MILLER: Yes, so we just launched January 8 in the U.S., and we’re based out of Palm Beach, Florida, and we took it as a very slow process the past seven months, where we’ve just been building a strong foundation of the brand by introducing and branding this new affordable luxury collection. I would say one of our goals the past seven months has been just to educate people about Pisidia USA, the material it’s made out of, and the foundation that we’re building to help others. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Deborah, you have your three sons in the business. Is this the first time you guys are doing a family business together, or have you had experience historically doing family businesses together? Is that why you wanted all the boys working with you on this? DEBORAH MILLER: Well, we have been in business together. Some of them have been in college, so not all have been involved with different businesses that we’ve had, but, in fact, one of my sons isn’t in business with us. I have four sons. We had one prior to this that was consignment high-end furniture and design store, and that also with that and Pisidia, we decided that we are really leaning more to going green, that we really feel the importance of being eco-friendly and having an eco-vironment, and for me as a mom and a grandmom, I want to be able to pass this environment onto my children and my grandchildren. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I like it. So, how did you divide the duties of the company? Who has what position? You and Jonathan I met at this great event, and you both were out there making sure everyone saw the bags and touched them, and it was just really a wonderful evening. Who’s doing what every day, or is everybody doing a little bit of everything every day? DEBORAH MILLER: Well, I tell you, I’m very blessed because each one of us has different gifts that we bring to the team, and we all work really well together. The boys are really close, but they each have their own strengths, and I’ll let Jonathan tell you about their strengths. JOHN SHEGERIAN: OK. JONATHAN MILLER: Yeah, I would say it’s definitely good each one of us has a unique set of skills, so we’re not stepping on each other’s toes. So, for myself, I do the majority of the marketing and sales. I helped launch a startup company in Washington, DC, when I was in school, so I have the experience of gaining traction and trying to build a brand. One of my brothers majored in finance and accounting, so he does a lot of the financial areas, which some of us aren’t as strong in. Then my other brother, Matt, he does a lot of the client relations and negotiation of sales and getting orders for the company. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. So, explain the launch. I saw some of your products a couple weeks back. I’m on the site now. First of all, for our listeners out there, again it’s www.pisidiausa.com. The photos you have on the site are just gorgeous, as the bags are in person. So, explain a couple things. How many different lines are you coming out with first? How many different shapes? How many different colors? Explain to our listeners again where they can buy the bags, whether online or where physically they can buy these bags. JONATHAN MILLER: OK, so, we actually have 21 different styles, and those can be handbags, those can be clutches, and then we also have smaller accessory items, and then also laptop and tablet bags. We are actually reaching an exciting time right now because you can place pre-orders with us and be one of the first in the U.S. to actually have our bags. For those who place pre-orders will receive their items at the end of August once we begin delivering our inventory. And, so as you said, you can go onto our website, pisidiausa.com, to see our items, and then feel free to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to place your order. We will be able to respond to you and give you any information that you have and secure your order, so you can be actually the first one in your neighborhood to have Pisidia. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And will there be stores that are Pisidia branded, or you’ll be selling within other people’s stores in the United States? JONATHAN MILLER: So, currently, we are in 21 boutiques and spas across the U.S. and Caribbean right now, and those range from across all over the U.S. Our goal is to continue to get into high-end department stores, cruise lines, and resorts, such as Nieman Marcus, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, to just name a few, as we continue to grow. You’ll be able to purchase on our website as well, but as we’re finalizing the last portions of our e-commerce back-end, we’re going to be taking them through e-mail currently, and then once that’s finalized, you can go on our website and order there as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. So, talk a little about at the top of the show, you mentioned that the bags are made out of silicone. Can you and Deborah discuss why is silicon such a good component to make your great bags out of, and why is it a more sustainable product than other things that you can make bags out of? JONATHAN MILLER: Of course. You know, John, I love when people ask me that question because it’s so invigorating to talk about for me. I think in today’s society of excess and destructive use of just about everything, there’s a need for a silver lining or a gold standard in sustainable practice. We’re committed to making Pisidia USA more and more sustainable every day. This can be seen by our selection of only materials that are biodegradable and environmentally friendly in production, as well as creating a product that is manufactured and assembled that ensures maximized utility for decades. So, our hope is to minimize overconsumption by providing a product that will accompany their owner forever, and combatting the mass consumerism behavior that kind of overruns and outdoes its products. DEBORAH MILLER: And I can speak from experience. I have carried mine in a downpour, and the water just runs right off of it. A friend that I was with had a leather handbag, and it is spotted to this day. It goes from the beach, wipe it down, to night, to out to dinner, so it’s a bag that can be used all day long or switch to a different style for the evening. JOHN SHEGERIAN: No kidding. Has silicone been used before in these kinds of bags, or is this a real new application of silicone now? JONATHAN MILLER: This is becoming a new application, so we’re the first silicone collection, and we have the patent for the hand-stitched material that we incorporate in our designs. What’s so unique about it is we have been getting to know the process so well and fixing all the critiques that have been made and making sure the products are not only high-quality, but durable and will last forever. So that’s why the time we’ve been putting into making the product not only better for its consumers, but better how it’s produced and just make sure that what we are promoting is a brand we stand behind and one that we know will not only last for our lifetime, but can be handed down into another lifetime. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Deborah, how’s the reception been? When you’ve gone to events and you’ve shown off the bags, like the event that we met at a couple weeks ago at Fred Siegel’s in Los Angeles, how’s the reception been by both men and women to your products? Are people responding and leaning into the whole message that green is good? DEBORAH MILLER: Everybody is. I tell you, I can be out at the airport, at the grocery store, or wherever, and people comment on my bag because it look different, and then when they touch it, like you know, it’s soft; it’s not hard like a rubber. Then when I go into detail and tell people that it’s eco-friendly, that it’s from a sustainable product, they get more intrigued because they realize, “Wow, I can have style and fashion, and still be eco-conscious.” One thing that’s been great is men love it because we have a men’s line that really can be men or women, and we’ve got men carrying our laptop bags and our tablet bags, and we have a weekender that is great, that men and women all love. It’s small enough that you can put stuff in just for a weekend, but it’s durable enough. That one is trimmed a little bit with leather too. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. So, both men and women are really liking it, and they’re responding to the whole mantra that green is good and to have a bag not made out of leather, but made out of silicone, that’s virtually sustainable for decades to come. They really appreciate that sales point. DEBORAH MILLER: They do. I think it’s an eye-opener to people that are not eco-friendly or they don’t really think about it, when the realize, “Wow, I can be. This is something I can do for the environment.” I think it wakes them up a little bit. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Are the boys, Jonathan and his brothers and yourself, Deborah, are you partners in this venture, or do you have other partners as well? DEBORAH MILLER: Right now we’re a family-run business, and it’s just us at Pisidia USA. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Jonathan, what’s the goal, though? Is it going to stay that way, or are you going to take on private equity or venture capital money, and you’re going to grow it much bigger much faster? What’s your real vision on this? JONATHAN MILLER: You know, our goal is to obviously grow as fast as possible, and so we’re definitely open to bringing on other partners who can help with building our foundation and stick with our core meaning, and building a business the right way. We’re definitely open to bringing on other partners that we know have the same philosophy as us, and see the potential of building not only just a fashion brand, but building a lifestyle. We are definitely open and encourage anybody to talk with us and help us achieve the dream of growing this brand. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Jonathan and Deborah, when you look at other brands out there that have succeeded, both as lifestyle brands, both in sustainability and just in cultural acceptance, social acceptance, where does Pisidia fit in, and what is your role model brand that you’ve said, “Wow, if we can do with our brand like they did with theirs?” Do you have some sort of hero brand or role model brand that you’re emulating? It doesn’t have to be in handbags, per se, but it’s had success both on the green side and also the adoption side. DEBORAH MILLER: For me, there’s a lot of fashion lines, handbag lines, that I think have done a great job over years and years and years of branding their product, but I really haven’t found anything – and I’m thinking just in the fashion line – that is eco-conscious and stylish. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. Jonathan, how about you? Do you have any favorite brands out there that you’d like to follow some of it and blueprint what they’ve done? It doesn’t have to be fashion; it could be food, it could be anything else where it was a new paradigm, but it’s also had a green touch to it, and it’s had great adoption. JONATHAN MILLER: I would say there are many brands that I admire who have a green philosophy, and one thing, just me being a car person, I would say I really enjoy seeing the innovations that car companies such as Tesla are really making with their products. The uniqueness that they can create a car with having less of a footprint and just also having their own imaging that they know that they’re different, but they can still produce things the right way. They’re creating a new model now which is a more affordable model, and having that kind of mindset that, with overconsumption of cars and gasoline, they actually have the mindset of creating a car that will run more efficiently and on less gas. I would say one of that is what jumps out to me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re down to the last two minutes, unfortunately, but I’d like you both to share your final thoughts on why people should buy and wear Pisidia products. JONATHAN MILLER: I’ll start with this one. As we discussed, Pisidia is stylish, it’s fun, and it makes a statement. It makes a statement that you support a company and product that puts others first and respects the environment. So, Pisidia’s changing the way people should look at fashion. We have styles and colors for everyone, and when you realize just how unique Pisidia is and roads that we’re trying to make to create a sustainable product, it shows that life is a blessing and you should not have to worry about destroying the environment or things around you, but just enjoy it. DEBORAH MILLER: One thing, we’re also building a strong foundation with Pisidia USA, is we want to give back. With the sale of each handbag, we give back a portion to cancer research. We’ve been blessed to team up with various charities for cancer, as well as the Sugar Ray Leonard Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Not only are we working with the environment, but we’re also working to make a strong foundation to help others. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. So, it’s safe to say for our listeners out there, buy a Pisidia bag, not only being green, but there’s more bottom lines to not only the environment, but also to helping to find a cure for cancer. DEBORAH MILLER: Exactly, and we team up with other charities as well as each portion of each handbag goes to cancer research. This is what we believe is business with a purpose. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, thank you both for coming on the show today, both Deborah and Jonathan, and we’re going to have you back and be telling the further success story of Pisidia USA. For our listeners out there that want to look at these gorgeous bags – and like I said, I saw them in person. These bags are just unbelievably gorgeous and amazing. Please go to www.pisidiausa.com. Thank you, Deborah and Jonathan, for being inspiring eco-preneurs. You are both living proof that green is good.