Patricia Miller, co-founder of the international company Vera Bradley, shared the secrets behind how her Indiana business dream evolved into the successful international company it is today, as she spoke to a group of students at the Vander Vennet Theater at Saint Mary’s Tuesday.
Miller said the story of the Vera Bradley Company began in February 1982 when she and her business partner, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, while sitting in an Atlanta airport, noticed that women’s luggage was tragically lacking in style.
Taking a step back, as a college student, Miller said she lived in a world where women went to school to be either teachers or nurses.
“I just didn’t think outside the box,” she said, thinking back to her first aspiration to be a business teacher.
As a successful businesswoman today, the sky is the limit for Miller and her industry.
“I don’t put a ceiling on anything,” she said.
Miller also further discussed key entrepreneurial words to live by that she said drove the Vera Bradley business to its success.
Primarily, Miller said to “listen to your instincts” the way she and Baekgaard had that cold February day at the airport, and to “be engaging, interested and passionate” in business, and with any dream or ambition in life for that matter.
“Change is constant, and you should embrace it,” Miller said. “If you don’t keep pace with change, you will be left in the dust.”
Vera Bradley started with a focus on luggage, sports bags and the smaller handbag, Miller said. However, women today also find frequent use from Vera Bradley laptop bags, cases and slips.
According to Miller, new this season there will be trendy laptop backpacks available
The Vera Bradley line has also expanded to include lunch boxes, totes, cosmetics bags, jewelry boxes and stationary.
In 1998, Vera Bradley joined the fight for a cure for breast cancer by establishing the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer (VBFBC).
The foundation currently funds a research facility at the Indiana University Bren Simon Cancer Center — nationally recognized as a leader in research to find a cure, and has notably risen over $10 million for the cause, Miller said.
According to Miller, the VBFBC hopes to bring the results of groundbreaking scientific research directly to the bedside, helping develop new treatments for cancer patients, and to discover quicker, more effective ways of spotting breast cancer on a molecular level.
“I have all the faith in the world,” Miller said.