Kate Dillon from She Lion: Crash Test Handbags | #244

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Kate talks Mary Poppins moments, pivoting local and how to walk fearlessly.

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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.


Kate is an out of the box thinker with a passion for people and strong ability to galvanize and implement creative and commercial concepts. A direct and open communicator with strong skills in strategy execution and project management developed through an ability to build rapport quickly by aligning culture, capability, business objectives and colleagues with commercial outcomes.

You can contact Kate at LinkedIn

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Kate Dillon, Founder and Creative Director of She Lion, a brand that creates statement-making, functional handbags for working women.  In this chat Kate shares how she stays creative and productive, her journey to support local with an epic product pivot and how the bag market has bounced back in a new direction since COVID.

“Have I got all the information?  Am I being a bit closed minded about this?  How can I optimise this?

Kate Dillon

Part lawyer – part retailer

“The retailer part grew out of being a frustrated lawyer. I couldn’t find a handbag that suited my needs really sick of having the Mary Poppins moment where you go into a meeting and pull everything outta your bag to find the one thing that you needed. Also being the bag lady where you go to work and you have your gross laptop bag, your beautiful handbag, your gym bag, your lunch bag, any other bag that you wanna add into the mix.  So that’s where She Lion was born. 

I thought it would be relatively straightforward to start a business and start making handbags. Turns out it’s way harder than being a lawyer and. I tell you what, I’ve learned more in the almost seven years of running my business than I have in any of the degrees that I’ve studied.”

A pivot to local

“Now we make end to end Australian made apparel because obviously when COVID happened the problem we were solving largely was commuting and that just stopped overnight, particularly in Melbourne. So people didn’t need a work bag to take their gear from the kitchen to the home office anymore. 

So we wanted to do something that would bring as many small businesses together as we could, because we were really worried that we were gonna die and we wanted to do something that would showcase a product that could be made end to end, zero to wear in Australia. 

And that was sensational to bring more than 20 businesses together to produce one top. So 300 hands touched one top. So something small like this can make a really big difference to a whole lot of people’s livelihoods and a whole lot of jobs.  It’s actually an industry that contributes more than 27 billion to the economy annually.”

Cultivating objectivity

“(It can be challenging when you’re) feeling like you are wedded to a certain aesthetic and being able to step away from that and say, is it the best thing for the user experience though?  Are you creating obstacles to purchase even though you’re wanting it to look a certain way? You know you need to hand over to the specialist that’s actually giving you the advice to say, actually it should be like this, because this is gonna make it more seamless for the user. 

And constantly being able to be humble enough to let go of something that you’re really connected to, to say this person knows better. I think that’s always something that I have to work on.  But it’s just the same as any of the pieces in my journey. I really have jumped in not knowing anything and just keen to learn. And I think as long as you are open to changing your mind and to learning, and to recalibrating, and to saying, have I got all the information?

Am I being a bit close minded about this? How can I optimize this? You’re on the right track to being able to make sure that you pick up the lessons that you should and you optimize and move forward with success.”

Questions answered in this episode include
  • What’s different about She Lion bags?
  • How do retailers go about starting to explore local manufacturing options? 
  • What’s been the hardest part of eCommerce for you to learn?

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