Meet Danni Dance, founder of the amazing ‘The Hosta’. I have admired Danni for quite a while now, lusting after the bags she sells and admiring her perfect curation of beautiful timeless pieces. I was over the moon when Danni agreed to speak with me as I wanted to learn more about her business that she has built up and continues to grow each day.
The Hosta’s aim is to “consistently offer customers a distinctive selection, honouring the craftsmanship and the creators from some of the world’s most iconic designer brands”
Let’s get started ~
For those that don’t know you please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and The Hosta?
I am Danni and I own and run The Hosta, a site offering a curated collection of vintage and pre-owned bags.
When and why did you set your business up? What inspired you?
I worked as a bag Product Developer for over 15 years for brands such as COS, Hunter and Nanushka. My role was to set up accessory departments - sourcing factories, materials and partnering with the in-house designers to bring the bag collections to life. I loved my job, starting when I was 21 (as I didn't go to university) and I learnt so much during this time.
The opportunity to travel was remarkable. I regularly travelled to suppliers and factories (Italy, Turkey, Vietnam) as well as Tokyo, Paris, Stockholm for inspiration. I worked with some incredible factories and craftspeople across the world, learning and seeing first-hand how to construct bags. Some of the factories that I have worked with make for Céline, Balenciaga, Prada etc which means when authenticating bags for The Hosta, I have years of in-depth knowledge. I was finding the constant need for newness concerning within the fashion industry; we had gone from creating two collections a year to continually new drops. Also, on a personal level I was finding it hard to travel so much (I was on a plane every other week) and wanted to be more present for my son. The pandemic hit and I was forced to pause and I realised I had to make a change. I had always wanted to start my own business and throughout my career I had collected vintage bags, building up a network of specialist vintage dealers worldwide, so I took the plunge, quit my job and launched The Hosta. There are some great sites offering preowned and vintage but there is so much choice on these platforms that it can take too much time to find what you are looking for, plus the stock is all over the world and can take weeks to ship and receive. The Hosta offers a curated collection and each piece has been carefully selected, cleaned and authenticated. We hold all of our stock so ship the next day, if you are in the UK, we use DHL next day delivery. We also offer a two week returns period, giving peace of mind to our customers.
What do you love most about selling pre-owned pieces rather than new?
With the ever-increasing importance of sustainability, I am proud to contribute to a positive change rather than take from limited resources creating new bags. The preowned pieces that I sell are made to last - the materials and leather chosen can last up to 30, 40 years even more. These bags are easily repaired also to ensure an even longer life span. Its great receiving a Chanel bag from the 80's and imagining what parties this bag has been to. Selling it onto a new home only continues it story - I love that.
What criteria do you have in mind when choosing preloved handbags for The Hosta?
I suppose the bags that I choose are my personal style - I like timeless design classics in materials that will last and go with multiple outfits. I have a list of brands that I love and know that my customers love - Chanel, Prada, Céline, The Row, Dior, LV etc.
Have you kept any of the bags that were meant to be sold - I bet you see some beautiful pieces?
Not yet! I have been very restrained. I saved up and started with 10 bags. Every bag I sell I then use the profit to buy more bags to extend the range. Although there is a rare all-black nylon Chanel bag coming up that I will find very hard to let go!
How do you maintain a work a work life balance? (This is something I am working on myself)
This is most definitely a work in progress. When I was working for brands, I was travelling regularly and felt a lot of guilt about leaving my son. I felt that I was missing out, he was about to start school and I wanted to be around for drop offs and pick-ups. In all honesty, The Hosta has been a lot more work than I had imagined, but I am loving it. To keep costs low, I have tried to do everything myself so I built the site, manage all social media, source all stock, deal with deliveries, shoot all still life and model shots etc. Plus, I then had to home school during lock down whilst trying to run a business, which meant I had 0 work life balance. Now schools have reopened I am able to work less in the evenings and try and fit as much as I can into school hours. My customers come via my website, recommendation and through Instagram, so it can be hard to switch off, but I love answering their questions and when a customer tags me in their post or sends me a message to say how much they love their bag, that's the ultimate satisfaction. In the future I may need to set some more boundaries for my working hours but I am loving working for myself, building a business whilst being at home more.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
My first goal is to have a dedicated space for me to work from, I have an unused loft space that I would love to convert and transform into The Hosta studio. My dad's a builder so will call in a few favours. In this space I will store all bags, set up a small photography studio to shoot and have desk space to work from. I am continuing to expand the selection of bags on offer. I feel like I have only just got started, launching the business in a pandemic is all that I have known, so as life begins to get back to normal, I am excited to see where The Hosta goes from here.
What is your biggest piece of advice for female business owners and those wanting to start their own business?
The women that I worked with during my career are some of the most incredible, multi-talented people that I have met. Yet there was a huge lack of women in senior positions in these companies and often ran by men ineffectively. I felt this was a combination of unsupportive environments when having children and just general bias. I read recently that 'men are often hired for their future potential but women hired based on their historical achievements' and I saw that first hand. Women and men tend to overestimate men and underestimate women. History tells us men are leaders, so people have that expectation. I have seen during the pandemic undervalued women leaving corporations and setting up their own businesses and its incredible. I am only 10 months into setting up my business and what I have learnt is to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone. I am a perfectionist and held back for too long as didn't feel I could compete with other big established businesses and then realised that was actually my strength. That I had control over all aspects of the business, that I could guarantee authenticity as I know where the bags are from (highly regarded dealers) and I am able to meticulously inspect all of the details personally. Also, to just go for it and learn as you go, I held back from posting on Instagram as felt I wasn't a trained photographer, my images are still not perfect but I will get there.
So I suppose my biggest pieces of advice are:
(I) Be clear about why the world needs your business. As a small company it's critical that you focus (otherwise you will spread your time, energy and even your proposition too thinly, and you'll never cut through the noise).
(II) Build a rudimentary financial model which plots the overall operational costs of your business (marketing costs, accountants, tax), and help you understand what 'success' will need to look like in order for the business to function effectively (this underlying model will give you clarity on pricing, margin and required sales volume). Don't just jump in without a solid understanding of the basics first.
(III) Expect highs and lows (and build the stomach for them). Your competing in a wildly competitive attension economy, and overnight successes are extremely rare. Gaining traction is about weathering the highs and the lows, staying focused, and continuing to 'show up', delivering value to your customers, and marketing yourself and your business. The snowball will continue to gather momentum if you stay focused.