As a traveler, for leisure and business, I usually struggle in the bag I will use, especially on air travel. Depending on the airlines policy – and fare your pay of course – you may be allowed to carry multiple pieces of bags. For example handbag + cabin luggage + shopping bags from the duty free area or a unique piece of bag. Yes, this is very challenging. For the latter, the main challenge is to manage combining the content of your business bag (PC and co) and personal stuff (tablet, books and/or magazines, passport etc.). Which model would be more convenient: a bag pack or a carrying bag? But beyond this Tetris® challenge, what about sustainability matters? Cumulating bags and things in general, is the trick of our modern consuming society. We are buying things and cumulating them in wardrobes, then we are buying wardrobes to stuff all these things and the cycle goes on. But back to cabin-traveler problem, Hamilton Perkins Collection bags may be a solution. The brand offers eco-fashion accessories for socially conscious travelers on the go that enable you to care while carrying your stuff.
I have not tried their bag yet, but I had the chance to interview its founder: Hamilton Perkins! After that, you may be just like me: looking forward to carrying their bag! Hopefully this summer!
1. Tina Ly: How did you come up with this idea?
Hamilton Perkins: Before we turned plastic bottles into bags at Hamilton Perkins Collection and earned our status as a Certified B Corporation® , it started with a personal problem of mine. I was a graduate student at William and Mary and I had the opportunity to travel on a few global immersions in China, Greece, and Spain.
I had done all the pre-work required for my classes and I did the planning for our small business appointments but I went shopping for a backpack and noticed I couldn’t find a bag that could meet my basic needs in a socially responsible way. It was there that I realized the market actually did not have what I was looking for.
I used the resources I had to evaluate the market and get a sense for where consumer behavior might be going. I developed a thesis that there was very little attention being paid to social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency displayed by luggage and accessory companies.
Seeing that most companies were not serving this group of consumers who took these issues seriously, I worked on developing a proposition around the solution. My vision was to launch a vertically integrated fashion and lifestyle brand that stood for more than just the products it sold. I wanted the company to embody the meaning of purpose.
2. Tina Ly: Why sustainability issues matter to you?
Hamilton Perkins: Our social mission is our north star. Social innovation is at the heart of what we do and gets us up to continue to do the work that we do. Americans still throw away 35 billion plastic bottles annually. On average an American will throw away over 185 pounds of plastic per year.
Corporate social responsibility has evolved in the past few decades leading up to a great opportunity for entrepreneurs as we see it. We feel that we have a strong mission that addresses social good. It resonates with me that we can add value to customers as a company and do good, influencing the trajectory of some of the world’s most vulnerable problems.
3. Tina Ly: What were the challenges you encounter at the launch of your concept?
Hamilton Perkins: At the end of the day, we are a for-profit business that continues to make strides in design and giving. This achievement comes at the expense of devoting massive amounts of time to learn new things daily. It requires you to hone in on making decisions that are good for the company, society and stakeholders. The challenge is making these decisions relevant for the modern customer but with consideration for how the fashion house will operate over the next 100 years.
I use my background to solve problems that come up in operations, finance, etc. However, even though I have experience and a degree in marketing there are still opportunities for us to learn how to grow faster and touch more people with the product and message.
4. Tina Ly: Do you plan to extend access to your products outside the U.S.?
Hamilton Perkins: Yes. We do plan to ship worldwide, starting with our Kickstarter campaign launch. We grew our waiting list to approximately 700 people representing 20 countries. It will be rewarding when we begin to see our work in the world making a difference.
5. Tina Ly: Who and/or what inspires you?
Hamilton Perkins: Inspiration can come from just about anywhere but our execution resembles a design thinking exercise. Design and function are two driving forces behind our product line. Our approach to design has been customer-centric from day one. We take pride in coming to the industry from the customer’s point of view first and taking it upon ourselves to be the change we were seeking.
We prototype and ideate to find what works for the traveler and what doesn’t. We feel like the experience is immensely important and can be transformative in terms of adding value for the customer.
We get excited about the making something that doesn’t exist and seeing it bring change. It’s about people for us and when they trust us to design the bag that they carry we don’t take the opportunity lightly. I believe the empathy factor sets us apart in a market where there are so many options to choose from.
We made an observation when designing our Earth bag. We saw that most bags are one-dimensional and don’t give the traveler the option to choose the version most appropriate for their current travel experience.
Our Earth bag is an all-in-one bag that converts into a backpack or duffle bag. We actually help save closet space and allow the customer to buy fewer bags in the long run by combining 2 designs into one.
The Earth bag also features a 3-way zippered compartment that allows easy access to laptops, books, and travel documents. The idea is that our product allows customer to focus more time on connecting with others, making more friends when traveling, and look good while doing good.
6. Tina Ly: What would you advise to an entrepreneur willing to start a sustainability-matters-oriented business?
Hamilton Perkins: See your company as being in the media business first, and then see it as being in the social responsibility business. Entrepreneurs still have to navigate through the traditional nuances that come with starting a business in addition to building their social enterprises. Start with the customer and work backwards from there. Look to use fresh platforms to storytell in a way that elevates your mission and core values.