The latest innovation combined with sleek styling and modern fabrics has seen the revolution of an 80’s icon! The ‘bum bag’ has been transformed by Emily Bitkow (30) and Sarah Hua (33), young entrepreneurs from Brisbane who founded the startup VIVRA – a simple yet sophisticated solution for carrying essential items such as keys, credit cards and a phone, perfect for anyone on the go!
Bitkow redesigned the bum bag after becoming frustrated by the silhouettes, prints and fabrics used by fashion and sports brands that don’t enable the wearer to carry essentials‘on their body’ unless it’s bulging in pockets that are often too small.
Bitkow witnessed the steady growth in the health and active wear market after relocating to Melbourne and decided to capitalise on the opportunity. The sector was worth $3.05 billion in 2016 and is forecasted to grow an average of 6 per cent a year over the coming five years, reaching $4.1 billion by 2021, according to Euromonitor.
“I saw this growth as an opportunity. As I took on a busier and more active lifestyle the struggle of where to put my essentials while on the go continued. I wanted to create a solution where I could forego the belt completely so that it was less restrictive, allowing the wearer to be completely hands-free and enjoy working out, travelling or whatever day to day activity they were participating in.”
What has VIVRA achieved so far?
Since officially launching in October 2016, the startup has experienced rapid expansion. Bitkow and Hua are both completely involved in all facets of the business, including design, production, marketing, sales and distribution.
Bitkow’s first foray into her the accessory business was with her label ‘Be Bitko’ which had a similar aesthetic but utilised eyelet attachments. However after three years, the label was unable to achieve the growth needed to be sustainable. Knowing the use of eyelets from her first design attempt wasn’t viable she started to think outside the box and concluded that magnets would be the best solution.
“Navigating manufacturing was a steep learning curve,” says Bitkow. “But with my previous business experience, I was much better positioned to know that manufacturing had to take place overseas this time. Having ruled out both China and Vietnam after much initial research, I came across Fiji which proved to be fortuitous.” And so the VIVRA pouch was born and Bitkow shortly thereafter took on Hua as her business partner.
What is the story before VIVRA?
Bitkow started her entrepreneurial journey whilst studying a Bachelor of Business majoring in Management in 2008 and 2009. A regular festival goer at the time, she struggled to find a suitable product for carrying her essentials and yearned for a hands-free option to enjoy the full experience of the festivals. Bitkow started buying cross-body bags and tying them round her waist to create a type of bum bag that was more fashionable than what could be purchased. It got her thinking, ‘why doesn’t anyone bring back the bum bag and make it more stylish and sophisticated?’ And the seed was planted, starting with the process of understanding design and manufacturing.
Having been mathematically, scientifically and medically minded , Hua trained to become a sonographer. However, despite enjoying her career, Hua knew that being a sonographer wasn’t her passion and she was determined to seek a more creative path. In hindsight, with strengths that included being financially savvy, methodically thorough and exceptionally well organised, working in her own business was an inevitability.
Hua met Bitkow when she became her first customer and soon became friends. “Every time we caught up, I was really interested to hear how the business was going. I could see that she was struggling in those early days, financially, physically and emotionally, as she was doing this all on her own and I really admired her bravery. I offered to help from the financial and operational side of the business,” Hua says.
Hua and Bitkow clicked from the start and were a perfect complement to each other’s skillset. Hua could see where immediate changes and improvements needed to be made, such as the creation of visually appealing packaging for the product, which led to the design and creation of signage and merchandise, which in turn led to an increase in sales and stronger brand awareness. Both were firm proponents for the empowerment of women in business and shared a common passion for building their own brand, in the hope that they would inspire other like-minded women to pursue their own passions.
Bitkow and Hua are continuously developing innovative designs based on customer feedback and market needs. For example, VIVRA recently incorporated RFID protection into their range to help their customers travel safely and to protect them from having items such as their passports or credit cards skimmed. Their strong pipeline for further product development has seen the Mummy & Me range launched just before Christmas.
VIVRA is available in a variety of designs and sizes online at www.vivra.com.au with a starting RRP of $44.95.