Anyone that flies regularly knows the blank feeling that sweeps over us as we hear that our flight has been delayed, or worse, canceled. Minds race while reviewing how to kill time, are there alternative travel options, can I reset the meeting I had scheduled on the other end of the flight? As modern air travel has disintegrated into a cluster debacle of ever growing proportions, the many hours we waste on travel hassles leads to vexing choices and forced idleness. Airports are not fun places.

While most travelers are forced to grin and bear the inconvenience caused by flight delays, occasionally the forced pause in travel leads to the germination of a most productive idea. This happened, very fortuitously to two ladies, while enduring a weather delay in Atlanta in 1982. These temporarily stranded road warriors sat in their terminal and did some serious people watching to kill their wait time.

Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard were from Ft. Wayne, Indiana. While awaiting their continuing flight to be rescheduled they began to note certain trends in the travelling public as it flowed past their perch. The more they observed and compared verbal notes about travelers and the accessories they carried the more they noticed, and commented on the fact that there was “a definite lack of feminine styled luggage”. This would prove the inspiration for a business that would enjoy huge success and change the way women bought travel accessories, bags and luggage.

The business that the ladies started was Vera Bradley Designs. The Company was named for Ms. Baekgaard’s mother. From their first collection until this very day the Vera Bradley collection has become famous for bright colors, quilted cotton bags and trim, and patterned styling. The product line has grown from travel bags into a full range of gift, stationary, handbags and accessory products.

Vera Bradley Designs enjoys annual sales turnover of over $100 million. The Ft. Wayne based company employs hundreds of people and thousands of contract employees. The firm’s colorful goods are sold in thousands of better gift shops, department stores and in Company owned stores. Women everywhere know, and appreciate, the distinctive feminine cues incorporated in all Vera Bradley products.

The Vera Bradley story is distinctly American. Two ladies, stranded in an airport, utilized their powers of observation to identify an opportunity. Unlike most people, they not only identified an unfilled niche in the marketplace, but they had the drive and talent to fill that niche with product that the consumer market craves to this day.

Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard have realized huge financial success and personal fulfillment because of the business they built. However, they are most proud of the opportunities their Company’s achievements have been able to convey to their hometown of Ft. Wayne, Indiana. In addition, Vera Bradley special designs have benefitted Breast Cancer Research for many years.

These great entrepreneurial ladies are a classic example of the crucial role that entrepreneur’s play in our society. Selling and marketing gift products and hand bags might seem mundane. But this simple assortment of products has employed thousands of people over the years, paid untold taxes, supported vendors and suppliers and made an army of consumers happy. Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand of Capitalism” is clearly on display at Vera Bradley Designs because of the keen power of observation that Ms. Miller and Ms. Baekgaard leveraged into their own American success story.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.