Emily Stroud, 35

0 Posted by - September 26, 2014 - 2014, Sarasota-Manatee 2014

Owner/Designer, Hayden Reis

A panel discussion in 2011 on women entrepreneurs in the design and fashion industries was a life changer for Emily Stroud.

The presentation inspired Stroud, then a 10-year pharmaceutical sales rep for Merck, to start her own business. “I could relate to what they were saying,” says Stroud. “It gave me the courage to quit my job.”

Now that company, Sarasota-based Hayden Reis, is a budding star in the women’s fashion and accessories market. The company, named after Stroud’s son, Hayden, and her daughter, Reese, manufactures and sells a line of beach-appropriate totes made out of sailcloth. The niche is in combining fashion with function, in that the bags are colorful and fun, but also lightweight and water and sand resistant.

The totes have been a hit. Stroud founded the business in 2012 out of her home, and she now has an office in Sarasota and five employees. Stroud declines to release specific sales figures. Hayden Reis totes have been featured in numerous national media publications and channels, including the “Today” show, InStyle magazine and USA Today.

Hayden Reis products are sold in about 250 stores and boutiques nationwide. Stroud says new designs and totes are in the works, based partially on ideas and feedback she hears from customers.

The success of the businesses has somewhat surprised Stroud, not that she wasn’t confident in her idea. She admits she still “pinches herself” when a new boutique or retailer calls her to stock Hayden Reis totes.

“I really didn’t realize what I was getting myself into,” says Stroud. “I didn’t realize how much it would take off.”

— Mark Gordon


City of residence: Sarasota

Twitter handle: @haydenreis

Birthplace: Gainesville

Years on the Gulf Coast: 35

Marital status/children: Married with two children. Hayden, my son, is 7 and Reese, my daughter, is 5. Both attend Southside Elementary, the same school I went to as a child.

Alma mater: University of Florida

Best place to network: For me networking is something that happens when I least expect it. I have always loved to connect people.

Coolest business experience: Getting a text from a girlfriend in NYC telling me Martha Stewart stopped her on the street to ask her who made her (Hayden Reis) bag!

The most important business lesson I’ve learned: In business and in life there are no guarantees. Some days are full of wonderful exciting things and other days it could be the opposite. The one thing I have learned is that as long as I am trying my best and treating others with respect and being humble every day, good things will come my way and I will never have regrets.

One website that makes your job easier: Uline.com

One community group you’re most involved with: Forty Carrots Family Center. I have been the Co-Chair for Wine Women & Shoes Sarasota for the past four years.

Favorite off-hours activity: Water-skiing with my family

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Sarah Blakely the creator of Spanx for her business expertise and Ellen DeGeneres for her humor.

Best award you ever received: This one of course!

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Most adventurous thing I have ever done is quit my job at Merck pharmaceuticals after 10 years to start Hayden Reis.

What’s at the top of your bucket list: A South African safari with my family.

What new skill would you like to learn: A skill I would like to learn is photography. With all the photo-shoots we do that would certainly make life easier!

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Jennifer Aniston. I think she knows when to be funny, when to be serious and seems like she is down to earth.

If I had a magic wand I’d: Freeze time! I am so content with my life where it is right now. My 5-year-old daughter asks me all the time if we can go live in Never Never Land. Wouldn’t that be nice!

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