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Founder Feature: Mary Smallwood

NBA-approved is not your usual handbag tagline. But Mary Smallwood’s Miami Heat Nexus Handbag is just that – NBA-approved…and adored by loyal owners everywhere.

Mary created the handbag, which comes in a Miami Heat-themed version as well as a basketball-agnostic issue, out of necessity.

“I made the Nexus for my personal use to stay connected with my young boys while entertaining clients for our custom home-building business, BCBHomes. I could have my phone on my wrist while still being engaged at an open house or cocktail party. A friend told me I should get a US patent. I had never been in the fashion industry and loved the idea of starting an accessory brand that fulfilled a need,” Mary says. 

Featured in Midtown Miami magazine and on Good Morning, Arizona, the Nexus is a chic leather bag with a wristlet, allowing for easy carrying, and a zippered interior for security.

Mary’s friend, officemate, and F Project member, Victoria Watt of VLB, started her business at around the same time Mary decided to launch Mary Smallwood Design. The mutual support was invaluable. Family also played a key role in Mary’s willingness to enter the new venture.

“I love that my boys are witnessing that it is never too late to follow your dreams, and I am grateful my husband is so supportive,” she says.

Mary was not unfamiliar with entrepreneurship, given that the family already had a home-building business. But striking out on her own felt like a more vulnerable proposition, especially when it came to marketing.

“Learning to navigate social media and ecommerce was a huge learning curve. I am relying on my love of learning and giving myself permission to fail,” she says.

The urge to express herself gives Mary the motivation to pursue her business when the going gets tough.

“My most authentic self-shines through everything that I make with my hands,” she says. “Creativity is the driving force behind all of my actions.”

Slam dunk. NBA official.

Katelyn Murphy-McCarthy

Katelyn is a writer and editor specializing in creative nonfiction. She comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, and loves hearing and sharing the stories of women who are making a difference.
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