sarah oliver

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.” Senior vice president of retail and online stores at Apple Inc. and former CEO of Burberry Angela Ahrendts knew that employees are the cornerstones of building a business.

So does Sarah Oliver Handbags founder Sarah Oliver.

Oliver started designing handbags as gifts for friends and family and when stores began to inquiring to sell her pocketbooks she realized she could grow her business. She wanted to keep production in the U.S. but did not have the human resources to do the hand knitting required. Reflecting on dear memories of knitting with her mother and grandmother the idea came to her: why not see if the seniors at the nearby Redwoods Senior Retirement Community would want to sign on as knitters for her handbag company? And right away, an enthusiastic team of senior knitters stepped forward.

Calling themselves The Purlettes, they are the foundation of the business and put a little of themselves into every one of the hand-knit bags they produce for the company. Says Sarah, “When I think of the potential we have to scale and create opportunity for seniors across the country, I just get so excited imagining the possibilities… Every one of our bags tells a story worth telling!”

These hand-crafted bags are more than a stylish accessory, they empower and re-engage seniors in the American economy. By valuing and tapping into an under-utilized and under-appreciated population, Sarah Oliver is building an iconic American brand while delivering a new sense of purpose in senior’s lives.

Your employees are your first brand ambassadors – and a valuable asset. Listen to them; they’re on the front lines and their perspectives can provide invaluable feedback on customer’s experience of your brand. Consider how their unique talents can be an inspiration to innovate fresh ideas for your business.

Brand School gives you easy, actionable tools that you can use right away to boost your brand’s impact. Get access to our team of experts and enjoy support and inspiration from an exclusive community of like-minded business owners, non-profits and entrepreneurs.  Learn more about Brand School and see if your business qualifies for a one-on-one Brand Health Check Strategy Session at

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“Working with Brand School is an invaluable experience and a really great use of resources because it opens up so many doors and affects so many areas of  your business.” – Sarah Hinawi, Executive Director, The Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Innovation

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Julie is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands.


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