Gregory and Terri “Sylvia” Pope are a North Carolina couple that created a luxury handbag and leather goods brand, Gregory Sylvia.
We reached out to find out more about their journey as partners in life and in business.
SB: What inspired the creation of Gregory Sylvia?
Greg: We have both always wanted to be business owners even before we met. Terri has always loved handbags but realized there weren’t any prominent Black-owned handbag companies in the market.
So, in 2010 we worked to establish our company with our name, logo, manufacturing, etc. We wouldn’t start sales until 2012 but we sold out of our inventory at our first event and had to take backorders so we knew we were on to something. The rest is history.
SB: What are the biggest challenges you encounter as entrepreneurs?
Terri: Our biggest challenge is that we’ve encountered as business owners is creating brand awareness. Unlike our large handbag competitors, we don’t have the big marketing dollars to make high end commercials or ads so we rely a lot on social media and word of mouth.
Another challenge we had to overcome was finding the right manufacturer. We’re perfectionists so finding the right manufacturer that can execute our designs and maintain a very high level of quality has always been a very important focus.
SB: You describe your products as luxury items. How did you decide on the price point for your bags?
Greg: We describe our brand as luxury because of the high quality leather and hardware used to make each product.
Through the use of pricing formulas, we work to keep the prices for each of our bags within the affordable luxury price point. Overall, we want to provide value by giving our customers a super luxurious design and feel at a great price.
SB: What advice do you have for other couples who are in business together?
Terri: The best advice that we can give to other couples in business together is to continue to make time for each other. Just like how you put in time and energy to grow your business, you need to do the same for your marriage.
We have a scheduled date night once a week in which we may go out or stay in but we can’t talk about our business. We both enjoy our business but having time away with each other is very necessary.
SB: Describe your individual personalities and explain how they come together to make the business work?
Greg: When it comes to business we are complete opposites. Terri is a left brain thinker so she is very logical. She is very detailed oriented and loves numbers.
I’m right brain oriented. He is very creative, passionate, and a big-picture thinker. Together we are able to marry our thinking and abilities in a way that we can leverage each other’s strengths while covering for each other’s weaknesses.
SB: Where do you see the business five years from now?
Greg: Five years from now we see ourselves selling more than just handbags. Our goal is to expand our product offerings to men’s accessories and other types of non-leather accessories.
Our products and brand will also have much greater exposure with expansion into more specialty boutiques and large department stores.
SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Terri: Make sure your business is structured properly and that you have a solid business plan. Understanding your finances or having a CPA to help you manage your finances is also key.
Know that not everyone is going to support your business and that’s okay. Your best customers will most likely be people you don’t know.
Another piece of advice is to invest in people. Network, build relationships, find a mentor and build a team that can assist you along your business journey. And finally, remember if it was easy everyone would be doing it. Don’t give up.