Roberto Szerer started out in the fashion business at an early age. The Colombian-born entrepreneur, who earned a business degree from Universidad de Los Andes Colombia, entered the family business at age 18. Working inside their company, which manufactured packages for international brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, laid the foundation for what would eventually become a more style-oriented business empire for Szerer, who calls himself “a normal Jewish person from Latin America.”
“My family has always had many different businesses in Colombia, in addition to the one that produces packages,” says Szerer. “I was running that business when I was 21 years old. Then we moved into the plastics business—the family has a company like Tupperware, which has about 40 percent of the plastic housewares business in Colombia. Then, about 18 years ago, I began another business, producing shoes for children. We needed to grow more, needed more opportunities. It was difficult to go from packaging to fashion. It took a couple of years to master it, but eventually we became number-one in Colombia for children’s shoes.”
In 1998, with the security situation unsettled in Colombia, the family decided to relocate. Szerer’s parents had had an apartment in Bal Harbour for 30 years, and the family loved Miami in general, so they picked up and moved to South Florida. “It was better for the kids to live here, and this is still the land of opportunity,” says Szerer, who, along with his wife and children, is now an American citizen.Now in Florida acquired the licenses of Disney, Mattel and Warner Bros. for children footwear and became the number one company in South America.
One day while brainstorming about new business possibilities with colleagues Michael Jacobs and Kim Blue, Szerer says, “Michael asked what I thought about handbags as a business. I said, ‘It’s an amazing business.’ I knew many wealthy people who bought them all the time, kept them in their closets and never used them. A handbag is like a shoe or a belt; it shows who you are. When you are wearing a $200 shirt, no one knows. But when you are wearing a $2,000 handbag, everyone knows. It gives you a certain status, transmits what you like and who you are, your way of life—even more than shoes.”
In discussing the idea, Szerer says they realized not all women can afford to purchase a new bag for $2,000. But the opportunity to pay $500 for a bag that costs $2,000 would be enticing for most any woman. He and his team began contacting friends and acquaintances to see if any of them had like-new designer bags they didn’t use that could go up for sale. “One woman brought us 54 handbags that she doesn’t use,” he recalls. “She had in her closet maybe 100 more that she does like.” The bags were in immaculate condition, which was just what Szerer was looking for.
And so the website luxedesignerhandbags.com was born.
To promote the site, Szerer went into his Rolodex of more than 4,000 well-to-do contacts, culled over the years through his business and social interactions. “My wife is involved in many charities, so between all of us, with Michael and Kim, we had about 10,000 email address of friends, family and business associates that we contacted. We also did Google advertising. The traffic started coming, and today we have between 1,000 and 1,500 people coming to the site per day. We love it that we are a Florida company, because Florida is well known for its high-end fashion and beautiful taste.” All the bags must be in perfect condition and are 100 percent authentic; there are no replicas accepted for sale on the site. “We have two people with more than 25 years of experience authenticating handbags who check them,” Szerer assures. “The guys that sell fakes are targeting customers who know they are buying fakes and don’t care. We are selling to those who want originals, and we want the woman who comes to our site to feel like she’s shopping at Nordstrom or Bloomingdale’s. We take beautiful pictures because our customer is very sophisticated and we want to give her confidence in the products we’re selling.”
As a testament to the allure of the bags offered on the site, Szerer’s wife, who he says “never bought a used handbag in her life,” placed the first order on the site. “We were almost going live, and we saw an order come in. It was my wife! She said, ‘I went to the site and wanted to give you good luck, so I bought a Balenciaga.’” And she sent her husband on the way to his goal—“To become the biggest Internet retailer of luxury used handbags,” he states. “And we will achieve that goal.” Visit luxedh.com