When the Secret Service Visits You Because of Your Community

Once worried that big social media companies would displace online forums, Vlad Dusil is now “pretty damn confident” that niche forums are not only alive and well, but here to stay. He’s the COO and co-founder of PurseBlog, including PurseForum, a flourishing community of over 550,000 fans of luxury handbags.

Together, Vlad and his co-founder and wife Meaghan are building a trusted community of luxury handbag enthusiasts and authenticators. We discuss:

  • The resurgence of niche forums and communities
  • How authenticators volunteer their services to help other community members make safe handbag purchases
  • A surprise (and somewhat nerve-racking) visit from the Secret Service

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Big Quotes

When you talk about this emerging trend of stepping back from all of the noise [of social media] and embracing a bit more of a minimalistic and calm lifestyle… the first step is to just disconnect yourself from all this rubbish noise in the first place. That’s basically why I feel like forums will remain very much relevant in the years going forward. As long as we keep providing our users with a pleasant experience, I don’t really see why forums need to die out. I think they’re very relevant. They shouldn’t go away. Social media, all these apps, they’re not a replacement for it at all.” -Vlad Dusil

Of course, sometimes there are people who pop in and give unsolicited advice on these [handbag authentication] requests. We don’t mean to sound ungrateful by any means. We love anybody contributing to the community and giving their time and their effort and their energy, but you’ve got to get it right. The group of authenticators, they’re a very proud and very particular bunch. If there are newbies coming in and starting to authenticate, they will flag it to us as admins and say, ‘Hey, this person doesn’t really qualify to be an authenticator. Would you mind sending them a message and let them know that we’ve got this covered?'” -Vlad Dusil

Fake [handbags] were being listed by people who had absolutely no place listing things on our community. Basically, they were looking to exploit the goodwill of the community by selling them a bunch of crap. So, we created an invite-only marketplace that has maybe 2,000 or so members in it.” -Vlad Dusil

About Vlad Dusil

Vlad Dusil was born in Prague in 1980, and spent his childhood and adolescence growing up in Germany after his parents fled the communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1982. In late 1999, Vlad emigrated again, this time to Columbus, OH, where a swimming scholarship allowed him to pursue studies and his continuing swimming career. As he didn’t care much for the studies, and swimming ceased to be a priority in his life, he taught himself to code and build websites.

This would come in handy when, a few years later, Vlad’s then swim team girlfriend Meaghan literally had her shoulder explode during a swim meet warm-up, effectively ending her career as a swimmer. Meaghan’s parents expected her to get a job with her newly found free time, but she, like Vlad, never really had the mindset of going the traditional route. In late 2004, they devised the plan to launch a blog where she could explore her love for handbags.

Later in 2005, Vlad decided to add the community arm of PurseBlog in form of PurseForum. The early members really liked the idea of a place where their obsession with expensive designer bags could be celebrated and shared without the fear of being judged by others. That community has now grown to over 35 million posts with more than 550,000 members all around the world.

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