Inspiration comes in many forms—for IVY member Cooper Golding, it comes in the form of a 40-pound bag of laundry. Cooper lives in San Francisco, which means two things: lots of hills and very few apartments with their own washing machines. So, on one 40-pound trip to the laundromat down the street, he had a realization—I could make a better bag for this. And ChipmunkBags was born.
“Laundry backpacks exist, but in my experience they don’t look great and are poorly constructed,” says Cooper. He created ChipmunkBags as a way to make everyone’s laundry experience a little easier. It’s essentially a massive almost military-style bag with a drawstring and fasten top that makes your laundry haul easy, while being as stylish as your clothes inside.
Cooper sat down with IVY Magazine to talk about the process behind creating these unique laundry bags and offer tips for all entrepreneurs. To check out his bags or to contribute to his Kickstarter, which he’ll use to launch his Gen 2 bags, visit the website.
Cooper is an IVY Member (SF). Connect and collaborate with him here.
What’s the most unusual laundry bag you’ve ever seen?
I was at the laundromat a few weeks ago and someone came in with four Instacart bags and started dumping their laundry in the machine. I wanted to go over and tell him to stop putting his groceries in the washing machine. I just hope he doesn’t use those same bags for his actual groceries. Something about dirty laundry and fresh produce doesn’t work well together.
Why do you think backpacks are trending so much right now?
I think people like being part of something new and exciting—they like to be the trendsetters in their group. Backpacks are a great product for this because you use them all the time and they’re branded, through their colors and designs as well as their actual labels.
Herschel has blown up, and other brands such as Topo Designs from CO and Rickshaw Bagworks out of SF are starting to explode, too. These brands make quality products and have a consistent look and feel across their product line and brand. They’re showing that backpacks are something more than a product of practical use. They’re style pieces that customers are excited to purchase, use, and be a part of the brand. These brands are huge inspiration for ChipmunkBags.
So much of branding is coming up with a name. How did you choose the name “ChipmunkBags”?
I had a brainstorm session with some friends and wrote down any name that came to mind. I spent a few days mulling over the list and landed on ChipmunkBags. I think the name is solid but definitely didn’t do proper diligence. People always say “Oh, ChipmunkBags because they carry stuff in their cheeks!” This makes for a way better explanation, so I’m starting to go along with it.
A lot of fellow IVY members are also entrepreneurs. What advice can you give on starting a company from the ground up?
Identify the true purpose of your business, and use it to guide your decision-making and leadership. Yes, we make laundry bags, but a laundry bag is just the form in which we are delivering our purpose. Our purpose is to make people’s lives easier.
The whole reason ChipmunkBags started was to make my life easier – it’s really quite simple. This purpose can be applied to every aspect of our business. Make a quality product. Why? Because if the product falls apart you’re not making customers’ lives easier. Deliver exceptional customer service. Why? Because if you don’t, you’re not making customers’ lives easier. Every important decision you make, run it by your purpose. I’ve found by doing this that tough decisions become much easier to make.
What about fundraising?
I’ve been bootstrapping the business so far, which has been working. There hasn’t been too much upfront expense besides inventory. There are also so many tools that make starting and running a business much faster, easier, and cheaper. For example, using Shopify for the website instead of hiring a developer. The business is simple: make a product, sell it, and make money.
Compared to a technology company requiring significant upfront investment, we’re pretty simple. That being said, inventory gets expensive in a hurry, especially when you start working at higher volumes. To help with inventory costs, we’re running a Kickstarter campaign to fund our second generation product. I hope to continue bootstrapping and growing at a sustainable rate – at least for the near future.
What’s your craziest laundry experience?
I unfortunately (or fortunately) don’t have too crazy of a laundry story. However, when I started this business, a friend filled me in on one of his…
When I was in college, I would wait until I was completely out of clothes before doing laundry. I had to walk a couple blocks to where I did laundry, and my hamper wasn’t big enough to hold everything, so I’d put it in trash bags and sling them over my shoulder. One day, my roommate accidentally mistook those bags for trash and threw them in the dumpster, literally right before the dumpster was picked up. So I lost almost all of my clothes. Then, about a year later, someone sent me a picture of a woman going through a dumpster, wearing a shirt with my name on the back.
I think the lesson of this story is that trash bags are for trash. Grab a ChipmunkBag for your laundry!
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