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But back in 2005, Meaghan "Megs" Mahoney Dusil was blogging about her love of bags as a hobby while she was still in college. Along with her husband, business partner and former swim team buddy, Vlad Dusil, she was able to get in on the early wave of blogs, build a huge community, and turn her passion for handbags into a career. Racked caught up with Megs as PurseBlog celebrates its 10 year anniversary to find out how she got her start, her tips for scoring a Birkin, and what’s next for the site.
Did you start the blog when you were in college?
We started 10 years ago. I was in college and it was my husband’s idea. He was my then boyfriend, now husband. He was the one who came to me and said, "Listen. Blogs are going to be really big so I think we should get in on it." He ended up registering the domain name Purseblog.com because he knew how much I loved handbags. He’s not a fashion person. I guess now he is, but he definitely was not into handbags or fashion at all. It was really good timing since I got injured and I had to stop swimming. So I had the time then to devote to the blog and build it out.
Did you study writing or fashion or anything related to that?
No, I was pre-med in college. I just knew that I always wanted to create a business so I could work for myself. I could never figure out what the business was, though. It was really funny, even when we started Purseblog, I never imagined this would become a fulltime job. Even while I was working on Purseblog, I would keep saying, "let’s figure out what we’re going to build so we can work for ourselves."
Why do you love bags?
I started loving bags probably in middle school. I think it’s because I went to private school, so I had a uniform on. I had swim practice before school and after school. I saw [handbags] as the kind of thing that could really change your outfit, even though maybe you’re wearing a uniform and your hair smelled of chlorine.
When did you see your blog getting traction?
We were very fortunate. I think part of it was the timing, what we were able to create, but a few months after we started in 2005, Yahoo picked us up as the feed of the day. I remember that my dad, who works in finance, he called me and said, "I think your blog is on my Yahoo page." That day we got a ton of traffic. We really saw the spike in traffic, but the cool thing was that after that day, a lot of the traffic stayed and it kept building. I think that’s when we first realized that this could really become something. There were so many people out there that loved handbags and would want to be part of this with us.
"I look back to when it started and I was like, wow, I remember thinking that 300 people was a crazy number."
When we started [the forum], it was really cool. I just remember in the very beginning, there were a couple hundred people registered. I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world, that there were 300 people that wanted to talk. Fast forward, we have just shy of 500,000 registered members now and yeah, it’s really grown, which has been really fun. I look back to when it started and I was like, wow, I remember thinking that 300 people was a crazy number.
How did you build such a strong community in the forums?
I think a lot of that goes back to the fact that both Vlad and I were active in the forum. When we started, I was talking on there nonstop. I went into a lot of this not understanding that this could become something bigger. I think some people start businesses or sites and they’re doing that with the goal of it being a job. This was something I was doing on the side in college. That let me go into this so full-force and with a lot of passion and love.
There’s a feeling of realness. I think what kind of sets it apart. There’s other fashion forums where they and the members know everything about certain designers and brands, and that is on our forum too, but I think overall there’s a sense of shopping. If you’re a handbag lover, there are people who may judge you for loving these very expensive items. So when you find that niche of people who are completely on the same page as you, love the same thing, it feels very nice.
What do you say to people who criticize spending a lot of money on a bag?
I do feel like women are made to feel bad about spending money on fashion. I just tell people buy a handbag because you love it. Wear it because you love how it makes you feel and be proud of it. It’s your money and you can invest and spend on whatever you like.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
There’s been a lot of challenges. One is that I’m married to my business partner. There’s that problem of personal life versus business life. We’re always working on how to shut that off, how to stop talking about work and go back to [our] personal life.
I think another challenge is making sure you evolve with the times. When we started 10 years ago, things were very different than they are now. Even though it’s easy for everyone to get set in your ways, you have to think about how you can evolve.
Lastly: public criticism. When you see that criticism and you see someone being really nasty to you or about you or about your work online, it can be upsetting. But it’s about not letting it get to you. That’s an unfortunate part of what comes with the internet and anonymity. Not focusing on it, that’s been my biggest thing, seeing it and not letting it get to you.
How does Purseblog work with brands, on the editorial and the ad side?
From the beginning, [we’ve been] working with PR teams to find out certain information about bags being released or collections. It’s been really interesting because obviously over the years there’s been that shift, where brands started reaching out to us. Brands began to see the influence that our site has. Our forum and our blog have really always been about shopping. I think that makes it even better, because we have so many people who are true shoppers of bags. People are always asking how did that happen and I think that’s because I just talked to them about shopping. I started as a shopper. I ended up finding a lot of other people who loved shopping with me.
"When you find that niche of people who are completely on the same page as you, love the same thing, it feels very nice."
Do you think the price of bags is going to keep climbing, like the sky's the limit?
Unfortunately, yes, it’s getting to the place where even for me–and this is what I love and what I’ve done for 10 years–it’s really crazy. Some of the prices are really hard to stomach. I totally agree with people who say they are really expensive. They are.
Some brands raise their prices twice a year. It can be 6% each time. It’s a lot of money when you’re looking at spending a lot. I’m always looking for brands that aren’t raising their prices as much.
I think some people get really sad when they look back and think hey, I could’ve gotten a Birkin how many years ago for $8,000 and now it’s $11,000. That’s a lot of money.
What is your advice for them? Is it buy now?
Buy sooner, because the prices are pretty much guaranteed to go up. If it’s a bag that you really love--say it’s a Birkin and you’ve always wanted one--I think save for it and get it when you can. If that’s a bag that you’ve always wanted and you can afford it and that’s what you want for yourself, you should do it.
If you’re open to other brands, I’d say look at other premier designer brands. There are other brands that are doing beautiful things with their bags. You can get two of their bags for the price of one Chanel. I’m really in love with everything that Gucci is doing, they have some really nice archive pieces that they’ve redone that have just been stunning. The craftsmanship is beautiful. They’re well-priced for a premiere designer brand. Also Fendi is really fun right now, with their monster charms. I would say look at them. Goyard is stunning. They have really beautiful pieces, something a little different if you are normally into Louis Vuitton. You have to find the bag that speaks to you. If the bag that speaks to you is the Chanel classic flap and you want that so bad, then save for it and get it before the price increases.
For impossible-to-get bags, do you think you need to be friendly with the sales associates? What are your tips for that?
If there are certain bags, yes, the sales associates are the ones who can help you get it. It’s funny, sometimes you hear that you can’t get that certain Chanel bag. You could walk into a store and end up leaving with it. It’s really in your favor to befriend a sales associate and do so completely openly. "Here’s what I’m looking for, let me know." You read stories about people doing things that are very over the top to get certain bags.
A lot of people say that if you want to get a Birkin, first you have to spend money on other items within the store. You need to be buying like plates, and buy a ton of scarves, and then maybe you can get a Birkin. For me, I would rather just go to the store and say here’s what I’m looking for and just be really nice to them and hope that someday that can help get you there. Maybe some stores don’t work that way. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten a couple of Birkins and didn’t need to go buy a bunch of dinnerware.
How many purses do you have now?
I have lots. I probably have over 200, including a bunch of different clutches. I haven’t counted. It’s not 200 Birkins--I would love that--but it’s 200 of a wide variety of bags. I haven’t sold any of them. I’m a bit of a bag hoarder. For me, each of my bags tells a different story and I have a hard time thinking of parting with them.
What’s next for PurseBlog?
This year’s our 10-year anniversary, we have fun initiatives surrounding that. We’re doing a redesign to our site and we’ve adding some new features to the forum that will make the site a fashion lover's’ destination. On top of that, we’re starting video.
It’s so cool you were able to turn your passion into your career.
I feel so lucky that this happened. It’s been a lot of work. I’ll never deny the fact that we started at a good time. I’m very thankful that we’ve gotten to this place. We’ve worked hard to get there, but it’s so fun.