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Camden Native Dave Money Starts His Own Bag Business



Dave Money was always into wearing fashionable, preppy attire. And that fervor grew into his very own bag business.


But it took some experimenting to get where he is today. In 2014, he was building a following on Instagram that showcased his latest traditional styles. The Camden, New Jersey native wanted something more for himself.



“I noticed to get some traction, you kind of had to be waist-deep in it as far as your aesthetic, so that the hashtag would work, so that you could be at the top of the hashtags and get followers and enjoy the community,” Money said.


As a young kid growing up, Money, 39, dreamed about decorating and building sets – including plays, television, and elaborate photoshoots – so he always had an impassioned appeal for a contemporary look with all sorts of interchangeable clothing sets. He distinctly remembers a clean-cut elementary school teacher dressed in preppy attire.




To grow his brand even more, he researched a business tutorial on YouTube, which emphasized podcasting. He would later start his first podcast and name it American Layers – the name of his brand now.


“The concept of American can be layered, and on podcasts, you talk about all sorts of topics,” Money said. “I wanted to play on the idea of starting with a general topic and then kind of peeling back the layers. The double entendre made sense because in the traditional, preppy type of world, [it’s] layers. You put on the plaid shirt. You put the fishing vest on it. People talk about the fall and they can’t wait to layer up, so it was kind of like American style, and we celebrate layers.”


Money said he found out through Instagram that people from all around the world shared the same fashionable layer interests. Meanwhile, he’s sharing this knowledge and speaking about fashion on his new podcast, which is now building traction.



Eventually, a friend, Sheron Barber, who Money has known since just before high school and before selling clothes for a brief period together, brought up the idea of selling bags, as he was already selling bags in Los Angeles. And Barber too, was in the process of building up a brand. The two coordinated with each other before meeting in New York City in a Manhattan hotel in the summer of 2019.


Barber suggested Money sell bags. But the Camden High graduate was a little hesitant at accepting that idea as he said he’s not the type of person to “step on anyone’s toes.” Still, Barber said to sell bags, but to design them using his own aesthetics.



Seeing that Barber was highly successful at selling bags -- upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars were made -- Money accepted the idea. But it wasn’t all about the money for Money.


“I was inspired creatively. So, it wasn’t just the money, I was ready for bags,” he said.


Money doled out some samples on his Instagram to see if the business could work. It did, and the process started from there. Money designed the bags, while Barber’s team from California produced the bags and executed handling and shipping for the time being.


Still, Barber suggested another strategy: Barber proposed for Money himself to come out to LA to help with Barber’s bag business while simultaneously starting a similar business.


“It just felt like a good situation. It felt like a way to start the business with a bit of a safety net because I would be getting paid salary and I would be in an environment where we are already working…,” Money said.


Money, who was working in the subsidized housing industry as a housing specialist in Silver Spring, Maryland, quit his job and moved to LA. But when he touched down in the City of Angels in March of 2020, COVID-19 had just started ravaging the nation.


Money’s job would have been to travel the world, designing and selling bags while promoting on Instagram.



But COVID-19 shut that idea down quickly.


Instead, in a torrent of memorable moments, Money flew back 3,000 miles and moved in with his mother in Camden and used the stimulus money to buy a sewing machine. Money, who once fabricated metal, created art and built furniture, taught himself how to use the sewing machine and promoted a few samples on his social media, drawing interest.


Money thought the process would be at least a couple of months, but it turned out people were so interested that he sold bags in just a few weeks. Since the summer of 2020, Money has been relentless in constructing these bags.


“…Sometimes it is tight, but all of the obstacles I’m dealing with, I have solutions for. But it works,” Money said. “Some weeks, some months are really good. And I’ve been blessed. I’m still around. Things are looking up.”


Through COVID-19, the one-man business thrives thanks to Money handling the entire business, including the designing, marketing, customer service and the actual orders. His inventory includes wool geometric pattern tote bags, black-watch totes, key chains, shirts, toiletry bags, black-watch masks, among other items.


The business is online now, but in three to five years Money will strive to expand his acclaim and will investigate putting his products in a brick-and-mortar business depending on the direction of the company.


His business made it this far thanks to a little determination, passion and mentorship. And Money said it can also be done for those looking to start something big, even for those who only went to college for a few years.



“It’s all about questions. Continuously ask yourself questions because remember, you are competing with established companies, so you don’t necessarily get a break because you are just starting or you are a minority,” Money said. “Pay attention to how established companies get the attention of consumers. Look at what they do to better understand consumer behavior. And you have to try to employ those same methods and tactics in your business. So, scale it down to where it’s manageable for you but seek the same sort of understanding they have. And that’ll get you a long way…


“Make sure that your marketing and imagery is just as good as theirs is. … Once you learn something, you have to exploit it. You have to be stingy with all the knowledge you get and realize how it applies to you. If you learn something, don’t just be superficial. Understand the real principles…”


Those interested in Money’s bags and items can go to americanlayers.com or to his Instagram.

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