Celeste Austin says the “small town Luling girl” fueled her uptown idea that’s become her dream job as a luxury leather handbag designer in her own company called SavvyRoot.
The hometown connection is so strong with Austin that it was the inspiration for her brand.
In 2013, she started SavvyRoot, which actually taps her Luling roots.
“The reason for starting this brand was to bring about a simple, more clean-style aesthetic approach to fashion and accessories,” Austin said. “After thinking back to my ‘roots’ and attributing my style of design to my parents, who always had me in solids and neutrals because they go with everything, I decided to make that part of the branding.”
As for the “savvy” part of the name, that’s where Austin comes into the picture.
“I’ve always been the type to think a little outside the box, but not overdoing it … just enough, that something stands out in a subtle way,” she said. “Thus, overall, SavvyRoot was born.”
Despite having a longtime interest in fashion and design, and style and aesthetics, she wasn’t always into having the latest, greatest fancy accessories. She initially wanted to design clothing for men and women and then possibly some accessories.
But, when she got into sewing these items, Austin decided she was in over her head. This is where smaller scale items like accessories and handbags came into the plan, although she now has three manufacturers producing her designs.
“It didn’t take long to realize this might just be where I want to keep it, as sales began to flood in for my handmade handbags,” she said. “And as long as I got to still use my love for design and aesthetics, etc., I didn’t mind it at all.”
In her efforts to stitch together a company, Austin’s plan might come as a surprise.
“People will probably cringe when I say this, but no strategy is my strategy for growing this business,” she said. “I personally tend to work better this way.“I can set goals and write all of the yearly business plans I want, but at the end of the day so many changes happen in a year in this business. It’s important for me to just stay ahead as best I can, and be prepared to take action.”Since its founding, Austin has seen her company grow “exponentially” each year through strong use of online marketing and social media, as well as landing exposure in major publications like Southern Living and the Huffington Post – Style.
SavvyRoot is an online-based business, as well as a boutique brand represented in more than 37 boutiques in the U.S. – and growing, she said. While Austin considers online presence important in today’s business world, she really has taken a more organic approach to growing her brand.
“I am so grateful that much of the brand’s growth has come from equal parts of word-of-mouth, publications, boutiques/buyers and online presence,” she said. “Publications being the quickest.”
She moved to New Orleans, which has proven a stronger business base that afforded her many outlets for her small business to start up and mature, as well as numerous networking events where she has met other business people.
But as her company name suggests, her roots are her strength.
Austin’s family lives in Luling and has been supportive of her efforts. She’s the youngest of two older brothers and two older sisters who she said have been curious about what she’d do with her life “because I was more of the risk taking, girl-on-the-go, little sister.”
The little sister, however, has been deeply grateful to her family’s closeness.
“I’ll never forget the texts I got from both of my brothers, both of which live in Luling, when this all started, saying not just how proud they were of me, but that they respect what all I’ve built and knew I was different and would go on to do great things,” she said.
And she has done just that.
“I’m simply just that small town Luling girl, who took her big idea mindset, nurtured her abilities into strengths, and built something that today fulfills and sustains me,” Austin said. “And that, honestly, is attributed to my small-town upbringing.”