Josephine Lafe went from a market stall trader to producing premium leather handbags
I never could have dreamed I would one day start a luxury handbag company. I left school at 16 with no qualifications. After a three-month hairdressing course, I worked for many years running a market stall in North Wales. I sold costume jewellery all year round and jumpers in the winter. I married young and had three children: Kelly, now 35, Amber, now 27 and Zac, now 24.
Faith and work
I had grown up with a faith in Jesus, but walked away from God in my teenage years and early 20s. When I was about 26 I realised there was a void in my life. I was trying to fill it with worldly things, which didn’t satisfy. I went back to church; it was a radical change as I surrendered my life to God.
As I prayed I saw in front of my eyes a beautiful baby blue leather handbag
I started going to church twice on a Sunday and I did my best to attend every prayer meeting or Bible study that was on. My non-Christian friends noticed I had changed, as I wasn’t going out as often to pubs or clubs and, when I did go out with friends, I talked about Jesus and his word all the time, explaining how they might be saved!
When my son Zak was about four years old I started a cleaning business, which I’ve run for 20 years. It’s been wonderful because I’ve been able to talk to my customers about the Lord and pray with them. I’ve had the freedom to do that because I’ve been the boss; there are no restraints.
From heartache to new love
In 2007 I sadly got divorced; it was a painful time and the marriage had not been easy. After three years alone, I started praying: “Lord, I’ve got to the point where I want to meet somebody else.” I asked for a man that really loved Jesus with all his heart, and that he would have brown hair and brown eyes.
While I was praying, I went on Facebook and a little window popped up. It was an advert for ‘Christian Cupid’. I clicked on it, and it said you can meet friends in the UK and around the country. So I thought: “Oh, I’ll have a look.” So I did. The profile of my now husband, Kunle, popped up. I sent a message, he replied and we started talking online for about two months.
We talked on the phone and then we met up in Birmingham on my birthday in February 2010. We dated for two years and got married in 2012.
A new dream
In 2011 I was still working with my cleaning business and went to work at a lovely Christian couple’s house. The husband, who was American, started talking about manufacturing. I found the conversation really inspiring and, when I went home, I went to my room and I asked the Lord to show me something I could manufacture.
As I prayed I saw in front of my eyes a beautiful baby blue leather handbag. I saw every detail, and I knew God was showing me what to make. I could see the texture of the leather and the name ‘Notepad’ embossed on the bottom. I immediately sketched the bag, drawing the details, and asked God to show me the next steps. I felt the Lord say to put different linings in each handbag as every woman is unique.
I knew the vision and idea was from God, but I had no idea about making and manufacturing leather handbags! About eight months after I had the vision, Kunle and I went to a meeting in Windsor where Sharon Stone, a well-known prophet, was speaking.
She had never met me or my husband before, but she made us stand up. She said to me: “You’re a woman of pattern and design. God has given you a vision of a design.” She said: “The reason he has given you this design is to plant finances into the kingdom of God. You are to pray and ask the Lord where to plant the finances to expand the kingdom of God.”
I was so encouraged! God had given such clear confirmation, and it was what I needed to keep going.
Making the vision a reality
The next step in the process came when I met a graphic designer through a friend. He was able to draw my bag to scale so I had a printed image of it. From there, I googled handbag manufacturers in the UK. I visited different manufacturers; some couldn’t do what I wanted, and some made prototypes that I was not happy with. I knew my product had to be a very high standard.
One lady said she could manufacture the bag, and I became quite friendly with her. I paid for some bags to be manufactured, but she never made them or gave the money back. She basically ripped me off.
That was quite hard, but I felt that because it was the Lord’s project, I had to let it go. Being a businesswoman, I’ve always made somebody pay me if they owed me. But after praying, I knew I just had to let it go. So I did that in obedience to the Lord.
I just go step by step with what the Lord tells me to do
Eventually I came across a manufacturer in the north of England. He made a prototype and it was brilliant. There were only a couple of little tweaks needed to make it perfect.
Now that I had found my manufacturer, I had to source the best leather. The manufacturer recommended someone in Italy. I got in contact with him, and he sent some samples of beautiful soft leather, so I ended up working with him.
When my first handbags came out of the factory in 2021 I was so excited. I felt relieved the handbags were finally being made. The ten years it took to make the bags felt like a long time but the Lord knew that I would carry the vision through no matter what. My persistence and determination paid off.
I had a small amount manufactured initially, but then I realised I needed more colours so I ordered 100 handbags to be made in nine different colours.
I had a website built in 2022, which is where I sell the bags, as well as advertising on Facebook and Instagram. I just go step by step with what the Lord tells me to do. I wait on him for each next step.
We have one design at the moment. God has given me two more designs, but we are focusing on our first. Every lining is different, and there is a little notepad attached to each bag with a very faint outline of the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
A word for others
I would say to anyone with a business idea: firstly, be sure it’s the Lord guiding you. Secondly, write or draw the vision down and make it plain (as it says in Habakkuk 2:2). Thirdly pray over the business and commit it to the Lord. It may take hard work and perseverance, but he will help you and guide you.
In the world’s eyes I was not qualified to start a luxury handbag company. But God gave me the idea and the desire. The results are up to him, and he gets all the glory.
For more information about Notepad, visit: notepadleathergoods.com