Talk of the Town - Homeowner-turned-bag lady February 17 2005

Running a business is an at-home venture for Jessica Garrett

In June 2004, Jessica Garrett launched Epitome Handbags and Accessories. Referring to the company as "she," Garrett runs the business out of her home in southeast Atlanta. A former personal shopper, Garrett says the idea spawned via several requests from friends who asked her to bring back items from shopping trips. She started Epitome with a show in Miami where all of her purses sold out and people wanted to order more.

When Garrett returned to Atlanta, she brought friend Donna Ford on board. According to Garrett, it is a match made in heaven, as Ford brings another facet to the company with sales and business experience. While the two spend many hours strategizing over the Internet, Ford enjoys the flexibility of working out of Garrett's home. "Coming here is like my other office," she says.

Their vision for the company in the beginning was simply personal shopping and imaging. Then a client requested a purse party. The basic concept was to display handbags at an informal gathering where potential customers could view the merchandise and place orders. Garrett feels without a doubt that the parties have taken the company to another level.

Creative Loafing: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Garrett: A wonderful part of the company is learning how we as individuals love to be treated with love and pampering. Then there is also the beauty in finding things for others that they cannot find for themselves.

So far, what has been the highlight of running Epitome?

Being a stylist for TBS' "Movie and a Makeover," XXL magazine with Bone Crusher, and two music videos.

What do you like most about working out of your home?

That I can just roll out of bed to go to work. Added to that is that there is just something about being in control of your day. I get to decide what to be involved with and what not to be involved with. Being self-employed is an amazing blessing and I could not fathom doing anything else.

Do you do all of the purse parties out of your home?

Not necessarily. Purse parties are typically held at hotels, a doctor's office, bed-and-breakfasts or even at a company "lunch and learn."

You mentioned the purse parties taking the company to another level.

Yes, the company grows off of customers' demands and evolves from customers' requests. For instance, we have men who call us for orders trying to find the "perfect" bag for their significant other.

The area that you live in continues to go through gentrification. Do you find this to be an advantage or disadvantage?

It is neither, really, except my property value has increased $50,000 since I purchased the place.


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