This interview is featured in Total Retail’s fourth annual Game Changers report. Total Retail is a sister brand of Women in Retail Leadership Circle. The Game Changers report seeks to highlight the entrepreneurs and startup businesses that are disrupting the traditional retail industry, whether it be through digital innovation, unique product, enhancements to the supply chain, or a multitude of other ways. STATE Bags, founded by Jacq Tatelman and her husband, Scot, is an online and wholesale seller of backpacks, totes and bags for women, men and kids. The company has been built on a get one, give one model — for every STATE bag purchased, the company hand-delivers a backpack filled with school supplies and tools for success to a local child in need. For the full interview with Jacq, as well as the profiles of the other Game Changers, download the report today!
Total Retail: What was the “aha moment” when you realized you might have a successful business?
Jacq Tatelman: Adding on to what Scot said with our aha moment, we wanted to create a product or business with a give-back component to it, but we really felt there was a white space in the market for off-duty lifestyle products that could encompass the needs of the entire family. We make bags for men, women and kids. We felt like there were a lot of backpack brands doing a lot of really good things in their own right — the outdoors space was covered and the hipster space was covered. However, we didn’t see a brand that could really take care of the entire off-duty lifestyle needs in terms of bag products, spark the conversation of social injustice and giving back, and infuse really great fashion into the product, specifically in kid’s bags.
When it started to resonate in the kid’s space, where moms like me didn’t want to carry a character backpack for their kids everywhere, we knew we had a great business. I think that people were most excited about the kid’s products at first. When back-to-school came around, sales were off the charts and it really was a crazy surprise that the kid’s backpack sales took off. As consumers started to understand what it meant to give a STATE backpack (i.e., that we give one for each one bought), people then started to come back and buy a bag for themselves, their husbands, to take to the gym … that’s when consumers really started to fall in love with our brand.
TR: How are you planning to scale your business?
JT: We’re looking for realistic growth. We’re not going to be one of those businesses that talks about doubling and tripling. We’re honest about who we are and we’re excited about what we see. We’re heavily investing in our digital and wholesale businesses. We have a nice digital presence, but we’re really going to be investing in digital marketing and growing our e-commerce platform. We’re growing year-over-year, which is very exciting, but I think we can really grow and improve digitally, too.
TR: What’s your hiring strategy?
JT: It’s kind of hard to answer that question at the moment. So many people who are on this team are founding members of the business, so they have such a vested interest in who we bring on board, what the next hire is and what the next needs are. We really try to hear everyone out, but at the same time we’re running the business and sometimes we have to make moves and do our due diligence when the timing isn’t quite right. We try to be as transparent as we humanly can and then some, but also keep in mind that tough decisions have to be made as well.