SMU senior turns a policy change into a business opportunity
SMU senior Chandler Helms was catching up on her e-mails in late August when she stumbled upon an unexpected business opportunity.
“It was a terrible time to start trying to create a business. I was sick, just started classes, and never thought I would actually pull off my idea,” Helms said.
A new Gerald J. Ford Stadium policy bans all purses, bags or containers larger than a small clutch. Instead, fans can only bring in clear plastic bags smaller than 12-by-6-by-12 inches, and one-gallon clear plastic freezer bags. A similar policy has also been put in place at AT&T Stadium.
Reading this new policy in her inbox, Helms began to think of ways to solve this new problem. She instantly started researching whether local retail stores were selling clear plastic bags. To her surprise, she found out that stores were not selling bags that fit the new policy. From there, Helms’ entrepreneurial mind set took off.
Helms instantly had a vision for the bags she wanted to create. She wanted them to be simple and SMU spirited, and she knew she would have to work with SMU to get the proper licensing. Trouble-free, she got both licenses within a few days. With the help of Adobe Photoshop, and a loan from her parents, she designed her bags and was ready to sell them by the second game.
There was no Boulevard for Helms and her friend Maggie Harper for the second football game. Instead, they were busy selling bags to Mustang fans. With a homemade sign and a table rented from the school, they started selling the bags outside the stadium. Originally sold for $25, she sold nearly 40 bags that first day.
Helms quickly realized that she might soon face competition as more fans began to hear about the policy change.
“I was nervous that I wouldn’t sell any come the third home game, so I lowered my price,” Helms said.
She made the decision to lower the price to $20 a bag. During Homecoming weekend on Sept. 26, Helms sold 73 bags, bringing in nearly $1,460.
“I was shocked at how many we sold,” Helms said. “I was really scared we weren’t going to sell any.”
Now, she has made enough to cover her parents’ loan.
“Hopefully today I can email my parents a check back,” Helms said.
With all of her success happening so fast, Helms changed her full time retail job to a part time one in order to devote more time to her bags.
“Last month was so not ideal to start a business,” Helms said. “But I did anyway and now it’s really paying off.”
Friends and family probably weren’t surprised at Helm’s success. In her freshman year of high school, Helms started a non-profit scarf company in which all profits went towards making care packages to send to soldiers overseas.
“That was really my first introduction to business,” Helms said.
In regards to a goal for her bag business, Helms is unsure of her next move.
“I don’t know if I will do a re-order or just sell out, “Helms said. “I will be deciding shortly whether or not to order more bags,”
She started out with 250 bags and now has 140 left.
To purchase one of these bags, search for Helms outside of Ford Stadium on game day. Helms will have a mobile credit card scanner for those who don’t have cash at the next game day. The bags are also being sold at McCartney’s on Hillcrest Avenue.
Keep an eye out for more inventions by Helms; her mind never stops thinking of ideas.
“I actually have an idea for an app right now, but it’s still in the idea stage so I don’t want to give away too much information.”