Ever wonder about the creator of Laura Lee Designs handbags? Meet, Laura Lee, the visionary behind the one-of-a-kind handbags! Read on about her amazing journey from the corporate world to owning her own business! 


Laura Lee did not set out to design purses. She never went to school for that.

Following graduation and degrees in hand, she headed for the corporate life where she held marketing positions with companies including Nike, Apple, American Express, and Ralph Lauren. The corporate world was her comfort zone and all she really knew.

It was at Apple that the marketing bug kicked in. She worked to develop, improve, and distribute Apple’s “Power Book” product. There she honed the skill of brand integrity. She developed an appreciation for strong branding and began to notice it everywhere.

In her spare time Laura Lee spent time running and felt particularly inspired by the Nike Just Do It philosophy… so much so that she wrote a letter to Phil Knight and Runner’s World telling them how the Nike philosophy motivated her to become a better athlete. Laura Lee’s moving letter was published by Runner’s World and Nike employed her as a wear tester. Nike sent her pre-release products, and she would wear the merchandise and report on its quality. Eventually she began working at Nike in global forecasting, a position that meant overseas travel. It was during this time that she caught the international bug.

“Don’t live the ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ life wondering what you could have done.”

Eventually she settled in Hong Kong employed by PCCW, Asia’s leading Communications Corporation. At PCCW she was responsible for developing and implementing international marketing initiatives with companies such as Microsoft, Disney, AOL Time Warner, Hewlett Packard, and Oracle.

Laura Lee grew up in Southern California which influenced her love for athletics. An avid runner and triathlete, Laura Lee remains active and loves to get outdoors for some training. But for all she has done, her biggest influences came from her Mother and Grandmother. Her Mother always encouraged her to make the impossible possible, and her Grandmother’s quote has always stayed with her: “Don’t live the ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ life.” It means don’t be afraid to do something out of the ordinary.

Really, it’s quite simple: Do what you love and the rest will follow. Grandma said it best.



I am a firm BELIEVER that people come into your life for a reason. And now I am so grateful to know Aida Murad! After just minutes of meeting her, I was captured by her positive energy and amazing story. Her unique outlook on life is something to be admired. Read on as she shares her drive and inspiration! 

“1+1=3 ….There is always something more you can squeeze in your day.” ~Aida


(Photo credit: Megan Won)

LL: Can you explain what social entrepreneurship is and what your goals are for 2017?

AM: Social entrepreneurship is simply the marriage of business and positive social impact.

My mission in life is to keep finding ways to improve and expand myself where I remove any internal thoughts on “Who do you think you are to do this?” and replace it with “Who are you not to do this?”

With this perspective my goals for 2017 are:

  • Get back to full health recovery hopefully through honoring my body. I haven’t been able to run for 2 years and I hope to do so by the end of the year (wish me luck 🙂 )
  • Explore more ways to creatively use my art such as turning my art into wearable fashion; covers of notebooks; prints; pillowcases. Who knows what else I’ll discover along the journey!
  • Have greater social impact through the organization I work at, FHI 360, a social enterprise that takes a “360” holistic approach to solving the world’s complex development challenges. My role is in developing external partnerships and I aim to develop more impactful and meaningful partnerships.


LL: What made you decide to tell your story?

AM: Being diagnosed with Arthritis in 2011 and going from having full health to an inability to do ordinary things such as walk, I faced intense physical, mental and emotional pain. But funny enough, this pain has freed me of a deeper pain – the pain of failing. In the beginning, I felt like I had lost everything because I couldn’t move but it gave me the chance to reinvent myself for the better and to let go of that fear. Ultimately, this whole experience made me thankful for the health I had taken for granted and made me realize that God has given me this limited time on Earth and I plan to make it amazing, memorable and oh so worth it!


LL:What is the inspiration behind your paintings?

AM: I lost the ability to use my hands with ease due to arthritis. At first I felt hopeless. But then I decided to make the best of a bad situation by turning to painting as a way of celebrating my fingers. Art has always been a passion of mine but I had a tendency to silence it due to my fear of failing and fear of being judged as “untalented.”

These paintings are the proof that I am not limited by my arthritis. It empowers me to inspire others who experience all kinds of limitations – physical or mental. Through this creative space, I want to help people express themselves and inspire the “can do” rather than “can’t do” attitude because beauty can come out of pain when you are able to change your perspective. I hope you enjoy my art and feel inspired to do something you’ve always wanted to do but never quite got to yet. Today is your day.


LL:Which is your favorite painting and why?

AM: The painting titled Hope (below) is my favorite. It was the first large piece I painted and is about rebuilding yourself one dot at a time. The colors blue and white symbolize purity, dedication and infinity.

(Photo credit: Hayde FitzPatrick)

LL: As a motivational speaker, what is the one ‘take away’ you want people to hear?

AM: Every thought, word and action takes you either one step closer or farther from your dream. Pay attention to them because they are what open or close your opportunities.

Life will challenge you in many different ways but with constant focus, persistence, passion and most importantly love you can and will make what seems “impossible” possible. Let the world watch you do amazing things!


LL: As a new Contributor to the Hungry Lobbyist, premier food website, what are you most excited about to discover in the DC food scene? And what is one food you can’t live without?

AM:I live for food. Eating and the experience of dining out are my favorite activities to do. I’m mostly excited to discover unique and bold flavors and learn about the inspiration behind the delicious dishes from the Chefs. I’ll be on the hunt for great restaurants with a glutenfree perspective so make sure to follow my column in The Hungry Lobbyist for recommendations!
As for a food I can’t live without… its definitely chocolate. I wake up and sleep to chocolate! If you have any favorite made in DC chocolates, please do share them with me!

For more on Aida’s story check out her website here!

Need more motivation? Connect with Aida! Facebook / InstagramTwitter / LinkedIn

Aida’s Bio

Aida Murad is a Palestinian-Jordanian/American currently living in Washington DC. She’s a social entrepreneur, artist, motivational speaker and food critic. Most importantly she’s a life-long learner, thinker and aims to live a meaningful and impactful life.

She was diagnosed with Arthritis in 2011 and since then she has been fueled to turn “bad” situations into beautiful ones that help expand herself and give back to the community.

(Photo credit: Megan Won)

(Photo credit: Hayde FitzPatrick)

(Photo credit: Megan Won)

(Photo credit: Hayde FitzPatrick)


Last fall during our trip to Paris, we met the fabulous British Designer, Isabella Ugochukwu! Isabella recently won Great British Entrepreneur of the Year ‘Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year’ NatWest Boost Award. She is a female leader to follow! Read on as she shares her journey and wisdom! 

LL:The Brand: What is behind the name, Isabella Queen and what was the incentive for it?

IQ:The name ISABELLA QUEEN is a mixture of three names I have had. ‘ISA’ is what my family call me, ‘BELLA’ is what my friends call me and the ‘QUEEN’ is from when I had a life as a socialite and used to go by the nickname ‘QUEEN B’. The brand name is a representation of my past, my present and my future. It’s also a great fit for the brand positioning in the luxury market


LL: Vision: Where do you see the collection in the next 5 years?

IQ: For a brand that is looking to challenge the global status quo in leather accessories design and manufacture, innovation is everything. If people cannot be wowed by distinction robed in beauty every season without the brand losing its identity, then the brand has failed in its mandate to innovate. This is a particularly interesting conundrum for a brand like ISABELLA QUEEN that prides itself on a ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’ identity because it is easy to impress people when you play with contemporary ideas and all sorts of exotic skins, textures of leather, materials and jewels put together on the one bag; but to continually excite seasoned industry professionals season after season when you manufacture classic bags is no mean feat. We are always on the lookout, and finding in the most unusual places right across the globe, inspiration that keeps us innovating within the boundaries of what we represent; and for that reason we are always several seasons ahead (having already drafted 2018 and 2019).

Right now we’ve just finished our FW17 photo-shoot so we need to finalize all the campaign material in time for distribution to our buyers in the New Year in addition to it being all hands on deck getting our SS17 orders ready to go. And then after that, the calendar continues. Prep for SS18, fulfillment of FW17orders, SS18 shows etc. Next year our key focus will be on growing the brand’s international stockist base in the Far East, Middle East and the US through our presence at key international events and fashion weeks, in addition to our continued commitment to invest in our industry relationships right here at home.

Additionally, we are always on the quest to grow the brand profile through as many avenues that award recognition as possible. Last year we were thrilled to be accepted for membership of the Accessories Council which opened up a network for us in the US. We were also very pleased, despite not winning, to make it to the final of the British Fashion Council NEWGEN program and our Founder Isabelle is won the Great British Entrepreneur of the Year NatWest Boost Award. These competitions are always great for emerging brands and so we’ll be looking to explore similar avenues to highlight the brand and grow our network. Between the events at which I am asked to speak at or get involved in, and the industry events I attend, life is productively busy and we are always making new friends.

In five years I’d like for the brand to have a significant base in the Far east, Middle East and US. And I’d like to be much more involved in philanthropic efforts than I am now.


LL:Diversity: Do you anticipate any roll-outs of other diverse accessories or additional product focus (for women)?

IQ:I have in mind to start another brand in a few years for men but for now as IQ grows, I will branch out in diverse accessories for women in addition to fragrances too. I’d like to design sunglasses too one day. In the meantime I’d like to master the art of luxury leather innovative classic bag design.


LL: Challenges: Share the best and most learned experience during your building of the business. It can be small and insignificant to others, but critical for the ‘next steps’ in the company; What, if any, were results of that challenge?

IQ:Challenges – getting a good reputation when you are just starting out with no network or contacts, getting free PR, funding.

Experiences that overcome challenges – get mentors and keep steady communication and good relationship with them – listen to what they say, do your own PR as far as you can, attend as many industry events as you can and network like crazy, apply for every competition, get out there, have a very clear idea where you will get funding from if you are starting out, be really nice to everyone and make as many new friends as you can. All these things help you get really far in a short space of time.

See Isabella Queens unique designs here!

Follow Isabella Queen! Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest / LinkedIn




It’s the first Female Founder Friday of 2017, and I am incredibly excited to profile a phenomenal woman entrepreneur in the fashion industry, Laura Lee Williams. I first met Laura at a book launch event for Elegant Entrepreneur, and we immediately hit it off. She has an infectious energy and joie de vivre!

Laura Lee  is the founder of Laura Lee Designs. Her handmade handbags are a fusion of cultures, fabrics and trimmings discovered during Laura Lee’s travels abroad. Stylishly appealing and refreshingly chic, each handbag is adorned with Nepalese fabrics, high quality satins and swirling patterns of Japanese beads. Colorful snakeskin compliments the intricate beading, adding a functional elegance to every handbag.

LL’s candid and thoughtful answers to my questions are below. If you’re an aspiring or fledgling female founder with a fashion business concept, this interview is particularly important for you to draw inspiration and courage.

What inspired you to create your company?

I was living between Asia and the U.S. and saw all the name brands with labels/initials on the outside of luxury bags and it made me realize something: Women were being identified not by their own creativity but by someone else’s brand and that resulted in a status symbol for themselves (I was guilty of this too-no brands will be mentioned!). I had been traveling all over the world collecting interesting things such as embellishments, leathers as well as fun, odd handbags that were unique. I pieced together a pencil drawing and came up with, what I thought, a unique handbag that would be utilized from morning to night: A classy makeup bag inside of a briefcase can then be pulled out for a dinner meeting or event. Once the inception and creation came to fruition, samples were made and focus groups ensued. Needless to say, I never, ever thought I was going to embark as a business. I was working full time and the thought of leaving to do something entrepreneurial was not even a thought. Most importantly,  I promised myself I would never put my name on the outside of my product. The line is to showcase you as an individual and how you create and design your look and feel is all up to you. The line just helps you get the motivation and sass to think and dress outside the box!

What was your biggest obstacle and failure in going from idea to business?

Obstacle: Getting it planted in my head that this truly could be a business.
Spectacular Failure/Lessons Learned: Hiring a PR Agency in NYC and realizing that (after a lot of hand-wringing) my team and I could do more and better internally than the Agency. I just needed to have the confidence to get ‘out of my own way’ and let the team take control. The month after I closed the contract with the PR Agency, we got into the NY Times.

What’s next?

First up: We have been asked to do the Inaugural Ball Pre-Dinner and the actual Ball itself. Since we (proudly!) make 100% of the product in the USA, we are thrilled that the Inaugural Ball Committee has recognized this and want us showcased there in January.  We have been asked to come back to Paris and be in the Premiere Classe Show again in 2017. We’ve  recently been asked to do Private Label bags in Japan, New Orleans and Texas. International is our focus for 2017, and we are pushing to be in all the Ritz Carlton’s by end of Q2/2017.

Please share your best piece of advice for aspiring female founders.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and “Success starts at the end of your comfort zone-Just because you made that first step.”

If you had a theme song what would it be?

“Almost Like Being In Love” by Nat King Cole. This always is a pick-up/happy-go-lucky song whether the day has been challenging or exceptional! I love it because it truly speaks to the fact that I have the choice to make the day a ‘Lessons Learned” day or a ‘Celebration’ day. I choose to be happy and learn from every aspect of this business, challenges, stubbed toes, sucker punches—Bring them on – I can only learn and be better at what I do because of them. Celebrations and success is the icing on the cake!!