Holly Jordan [essereusablebags]
What is the business idea that you are working on right now? How did you come up with it?
Our product, Esse Reusable Bags, is a complete collection of high quality machine washable bags designed to replace paper, plastic AND flimsy produce bags. They all fold small and fit inside our unique CarryAll Tote making them easier to find, remember and use. The CarryAll Tote offers enough bags for a family of four to grocery shop once a week with room for more bags if needed. The cool thing about our system is that it can be totally customized to fit anyones lifestyle.
My partner and I came up with different ideas of how to tackle the reusable bag issue at the same time. I wanted the perfect plastic bag replacement and she wanted a more stylish paper bag replacement. We both needed more of them to shop for our families and designed the Tote system together. We added the produce bag at the last minute and so far, that is our best seller.
Is there a website, blog or social media link where we can see more about your project and/or yourself?
www.esseReusableBags.com is our website. We have lots of information on our "about us" and FAQ page as well.
What is your professional background? What were you doing before?
I am a designer/mosaic artist and my partner is a buisness manager/accountant. Both of us are moms that care about the environment and the damage we are creating for the next generation. It's time we change our bad habits and make simple changes to make a big impact on the health of the planet.
How did the entrepreneurial spirit rise up in you? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship in your family or your social environment when you were a child?
As long as I can remember, I've had the entreprenerial bug. My father had carpet store when I was a little girl and I loved going to the shop and hanging out with him. I thought it was cool.
Describe your business plan as briefly and simply as possible.
Our plan is to sell our high quality bags at high quality retailers across the country. We love the smaller independent kitchen and design shops as well as the small chain grocery stores. Our ideal customer is one that demands quality and style and has an environmental focus.
Do you have employees or people that you outsource tasks to? What do they do?
Once we recieve our Tote bag, we work with a wonderful non-profit called Rebuild Resources. Rebuild is a rehab-to-work program that helps individuals get back on their feet after years of drug and alcohol addiction. They do all of our custom sewing and printing and it is a partnership that we are continually trying to find ways to develope further.
Entrepreneurs have a reputation as "control freaks." How do you avoid that?
We are finding that can be true of us too but when you have a partner you have to let go some of the time. It's not a bad thing for us. Helps us figure out the things that are the most important and try to hang on to those.
What is your main motivation: being your own boss, adventure and discovery, getting rich, doing good for others, or is there something else?
My main motivation is to be able to do my own thing. I like working hard and don't mind long strange hours when the work is something that I love to do. And I truely love our product and I love waking up not having to go in and punch a clock. To get a paycheck would be nice (someday) but it's more about the journey and the good that we aim to be a part of~ not only for the environment but for the companies like Rebuild Resources that we work with.
What do you think of big corporations? Would you work for one?
I have no problem with big corporations. They have their purpose, employee many people and bring money into their communities. I have never worked for one and don't think I ever would or even could. I've just always figured out a way to avoid having to do that through art, freelance interior design and now Esse. And I am extremely grateful and fortunate that my husband does goes to work each day at a large corporation which offers us a health care plan and a decent paycheck. It would be very difficult to do what I do without that. (So thank you honey!)
Describe two moments of maximum fear and maximum satisfaction that you have lived through in your business adventure.
Maximum fear: spending the money that it took to build our inventory.
Maximum satisfaction: doing our first "green" show and hearing so many people express their genuine appreciation of our products quality and usefulness. We knedw we loved it and our friends and family loved it but would others? And they did! Yeah.
When you need guidance or advice, where do you find it?
I am addicted to Entreprenuer and Inc magazines and business books that I get at the library. I have also worked with SCORE and a local business resource center. I also ask a lot of questions and pick and chose the info that fits our busniess model.
Up to what point is luck is important? How do you attract it?
I'm not sure I really believe in luck. Everything you need is all around you. I believe you need to work hard and be open to all the possibilites. Preparation is the key to "luck" finding you.
What do you do to maintain morale and continue persevering in low times?
One of the bloggers that I follow (Sarah Shaw) uses the line "When in doubt, take the next step". And that is what I do. One foot in front of the other. I have faith in our product and in our mission.
What other types of businesses are you frequently tempted by?
Architecture. Interior design. I love moving and opening up walls! Mosaic art. I'm also really interested in the "up-cycle" retail thing- turning old into something new for someone else.
Are these times of crisis good for beginning a business?
It's not the best time but it does force us to be more conservative with our resources... and that's not a terrible thing. Sometimes I feel that what we offer is not a "necessity" for a lot of poeple due to the fact that every business out there is selling and/or giving away their own branded polypropylene reusable bags and why would they spend more money on ours. But then people tell us that they are so excited to not have to carry around their mishmash of "ugly" bags to the store and that the CarryAll Tote really does inspire them to remember their bags because of the quality and style. We get raves all the time about the produce bags and convenience of the Everyday Bag and what a difference it has made to be able to have at least one bag with them at all times. The Everyday Bag rocks!
How important have PR and social media been for you?
We have a Twitter and Facebook account and since I wear so many hats there is not a ton of time to devote to maintaining them. But they are both extrememly important to keep up... I'm just not sure I'm always doing it right. We offer sales and retweet posts relating to the reusable bag movement and once in a while a retailer will find us out there and contact us.
We haven't been great so far at the PR thing but it will be a strong focus for us this year. We've only had an actual product for a little over a year so we wanted to make sure it was just right before we hit it hard.
What would you call success? Where would you like your business to be five years from now?
Success for me will come when I see someone I don't know with our bags on people's arms and in their grocery carts at the store. I can't wait for that day!
In five years from now, I hope to have our complete line of bags in 1000's of small retail stores across the country and Canada and to have our produce bags in many of the larger grocery chains. I think that we will see many more bans and taxes on plastic bags which brings focused attention to the growing problem of garbage in the world. It would be great if everyone just picked up the habit on their own but unfortunately that doesn't really happen until government forces the issue. In most places where these types of policies were put in place, there was a huge uproar to begin with but very quickly people were adopting a new way to shop. Sometimes a nudge in the right direction is all we need.
What skills would you advise a want-to-be-entrepreneur to acquire?
Be passionate and persistent. Don't let someone tell you can't do something if you really and truely believe in your idea. It's a big world and a lot of people just might want what you have to offer. Know your weaknesses and seek help when and where needed. It's your life, live it on your terms.
St Paul MN USA