every once in awhile an email lands in your inbox that makes you pause. no, i’m not talking about the ones that begin with ‘hey there’ or ‘hi’ then launch directly into their pitch. heck, those emails are deleted in a nanosecond. i mean, how much time does it take to research my name? exactly. but waaayy back in october a delightful email landed in my box from rebecca white, former Dean of University of Georgia Law School. in fact, rebecca was the first and hopefully not the last woman that served as dean. impressive. the purpose of the email was short and to the point, as only a lawyer would pen. but it did its job as it grabbed my attention, so i fired off a quick response and drinks was penciled in the following week.
and i’m ever so happy i did. that is meet for drinks because here’s what i learned. rebecca and her sister jane recently started a handbag company they named Hanner Clarke. guess what ladies? each of these remarkable women is past the age of 40. don’t you love it? new ventures are similar to style – there’s no expiration date.
of course, jane carried one of her exquisite handbags with her that night. so yours truly was able to ooh and aww over the leather (from italy) and the design (made in the U.S.A.), and i immediately knew i had to introduce the fledgling company with all of you. but i have to share with you that the best part of the evening didn’t have so much to do with the handbag but getting to know the woman behind the product. are you ready to read more about rebecca and her sister jane? here are a brief bio and the Over | Under interview.
Jane Hanner Allen and Rebecca Hanner White are sisters, lawyers, and purse lovers. Each comes to their new venture, Hanner Clarke, after distinguished legal careers.
Attention to detail, expectations for quality of the highest order, and responsiveness to client needs have been carried over to Hanner Clarke. Additionally, years of searching for the perfect handbag have given them a clear sense of what the market needs.
Their experience in and out of the workplace, coupled with decades of working with and mentoring young professionals, have given them an insight into what women of all ages are looking for in a handbag, allowing them to create purses that are functional, feminine, luxurious, and elegant. Hanner Clarke bags are classic and timeless.
In 2000, Jane founded Counsel on Call, a legal services company that has been named to Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing, privately held companies in the U.S. three times and that has grown to become the leading new model legal services provider. The company currently has offices across the country, and three Managed Services Centers. As Founder, she currently leads the development of the company and serves on Counsel on Call’s Board of Directors.
Rebecca is Dean and J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Georgia. She is the only woman to have served as the law school’s dean. She joined UGA’s law faculty in 1989, and before her deanship served as associate provost and associate vice president of academic affairs for UGA. She is a specialist in labor and employment law.
Both Jane and Rebecca credit their passion for the law to their father, Ivan Hanner, who strongly encouraged his daughters to become lawyers, at a time when few women were in the profession. Jane and Rebecca’s love of fashion, including their love of purses, comes from their mother, Dolores Clarke Pelc. Hanner Clarke, a brand exemplifying professional yet feminine design, is named in their honor.
Q: Are you over or under the age of 40?
Rebecca and Jane: We’re both over 40.
Q: Where does your inspiration come from?
Rebecca: I draw inspiration from the people around me, most especially my family. They inspire me to be the best I can be and to recognize and remember what is most important in life.
Jane: People around me, especially family members, and those that push me to use gifts that I may not even know exist—to be a better person.
Q: What inspired you to found your own company?
Rebecca and Jane: We had been searching for over ten years for the perfect purse, one that was professional and feminine, that slid easily onto the shoulder, was lightweight and was not covered in logos. When we couldn’t find it, we would laughingly say that we should just make it ourselves! Eventually, we started thinking seriously about it, recognizing that other women were likely looking for it too. Seeing there was a need in the market that wasn’t being met, we decided to go for it. One of our tag lines is, “We found the perfect handbag; we just had to make it.”
Q: Ocean, lake or pool?
Rebecca: While I love night swimming in a pool, I’m an ocean person.
Q: What advice would you give your 20something self if you could?
Rebecca: You shouldn’t pass up a chance to say “I love you.” Also, try to live more in the moment.
Jane: Trust yourself and the journey you are on.
Q: Do you have a motto?
Rebecca: While I share Rebecca Mead’s skepticism that George Eliot really said it, I do agree that “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
Jane: “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”
Q: What do you think of first impressions?
Rebecca: I’ve learned over time that first impressions are not always accurate. Don’t rush to judgment.
Jane: Not that it is a good thing, but I do believe first impressions matter. As I age, I try not to form them as I realize how often they are inaccurate and can be quite hurtful.
Q: What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Rebecca: Go to law school.
Jane: Someone told me that when thinking about a big decision, sit on it, think and pray about it, and then listen to where you are led.
Q: Everyone has to start somewhere. What was your first job?
Rebecca: Television news reporter in Lexington, Ky.
Jane: Lifeguard in high school and elementary school teacher right out of college.
Q: Rebecca, you were formerly the Dean of UGA School of Law. How did that tenure prepare you for a second career?
Rebecca: While fashion design and merchandising is a world away from being a law school dean, both require patience, problem-solving, creativity and working well with others. And did I mention patience?
Q: Jane, you founded and were the CEO of Counsel on Call. How did that experience prepare you for this new venture?
Jane: Having started and grown Counsel on Call enabled me to understand the complexities of starting and growing a business. It provided the experience and confidence to believe that if you want to do something, to create something that you believe other people need/want, then go ahead and do it.
Q: How do you describe your style?
Rebecca: Classically elegant. At least that’s what I strive for. And I think it’s a style that describes Hanner Clarke’s underlying aesthetic as well.
Jane: Professional and feminine and yet often casual chic
Q: Hanner Clarke Handbags was founded by you and your sister Jane was it a difficult decision to go into business with your sibling?
Rebecca: The chance to work with Jane and to create something together was the driving force for me in making this transition from law into handbag design and entrepreneurship. I greatly admire and respect my sister, and I love her deeply. That we are on this path together is what makes it so enriching and rewarding.
Jane: The ability to work with someone I love and admire, respect and have always looked up to and have gone to for advice—that was the best part about starting Hanner Clarke.
what a delightful interview, rebecca, and jane! thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us. and ladies, guess what? Hanner Clarke is extending a discount to all of my lovely readers (just in time for Santa). please use code STYLE to receive a 20% discount at Hanner Clarke. happy shopping!