Scot Tatelman, alongside his wife Jacqueline, are the founders of State Bags, a company that provides backpacks to children in need. The mission was simple – after seeing many kids carrying their personal belongings in trash bags, the couple decided to step in and make a change – creating stylish carryalls that fall into the “one for one” model. But, they’ve managed to take the philanthropic concept two steps further. How? Scot tells us below.
L+T: You’re the founder of STATE Bags – a company with a unique mission. Can you break it down for us? What is your company all about?
ST:: My wife and I founded STATE after seeing countless amounts of kids carrying their possessions in trash bags at the nonprofit summer camp we run, Camp POWER. We strived to find a different way to help – and the result was STATE – iconic, high quality and stylish backpacks that support kids growing up in America’s most underfunded neighborhoods, a first for a brand. For every bag purchased, a new STATE backpack is hand-delivered to an American student in need through our GiveBackPack Program that takes the popular “buy one, give one” model two steps further with high-energy, motivational bag drop events and the unique Badge Program. We provide students with functional, fashionable backpacks while giving them the tools to reach their fullest potential. Each purchase makes a difference. In just two months since launch, STATE has delivered and executed its innovative bag drop events for nearly 200 students living in low-income communities, including schools in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Rockaway Park, hit incredibly hard by Hurricane Sandy. Our engaging Badge Program encourages kids of all backgrounds to earn badges by making a positive impact on the world.
L+T: What exactly are “badges,” and what do they aim to represent?
ST:: The State Badges, representing the core values STATE was founded upon – Acceptance, Courage, Leadership, Knowledge, Conservation and Health – encourages kids of all backgrounds to make a positive impact on themselves and the world. Kids earn Badges by telling us stories of how they are embodying our core values and we then send them a Badge to proudly sport on their bags. It’s another way we are going beyond the ‘buy one give one’ model as it’s not only important for us to provide new backpacks to those in need, but continually challenge kids to better themselves and their communities.
L+T: You’ve mentioned that your company is based upon where “Fashion Meets Philanthropy.”
ST:: When Jacqueline and I started putting the pieces together on this business, it was vital to us that our product not only be fashionable and cool, but also have a heavy focus on our social mission. Jacqueline has a deep background in fashion and mine was in the nonprofit world, and we felt that blending the two was not only unique, but necessary. Giving any kind of product to kids in need is great, but it’s even better when it’s well-made, looks good and comes with a positive and motivational message. We didn’t want the bags we hand-delivered to feel like hand-me-downs or dumbed-down versions of what we sell at retail. The Garfield and Durham bags you buy on our website are the identical bags we deliver at our bag drops.
L+T: You, alongside your wife Jacqueline, launched Country Roads Foundation in 2009 – can you tell us a little bit about why you set this up? How did this transition to State Bag?
ST:: I moved to New York City in 2007, after working with the Mark Wahlberg Foundation and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston to create a 1-week summer camp program for hundreds of kids from Dorchester and Roxbury, MA and upon moving, wanted to create a similar, fully-funded program for kids growing up in underfunded, turbulent neighborhoods in New York. Country Roads Foundation and its signature program, Camp POWER was created in 2009 and has served hundreds of kids growing up in East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Red Hook, Brooklyn. CRF provides a life-changing camp experience fueled by a volunteer staff, but also brings a year-round approach, so the magic of Camp POWER continues throughout the school year. Camp POWER had a big influence on the creation of State Bag as we not only watched countless amounts of kids carrying their things to and from camp in trash bags, but understood that merely providing new product to kids was not enough – which is what triggered us to create the GiveBackPack Program. A new backpack is a wonderful thing, but a powerful, hands-on, long-term message accompanying the bags, delivered by our State Bag PackMen is what we hope makes the difference in these kid’s lives.
L+T: The delivery of State Bags is also something that is unique – utilizing individuals who you’ve deemed PackMen. Who are these people? What do they represent?
ST:: It was very important to us that these bags didn’t feel like just a handout. We created a 60-minute workshop/rally/program that engages kids on a deeper level, and makes them earn their new bags by challenging their minds…while having a lot of fun at the same time. Our STATE PackMen are not only child development specialists, but have walked in the shoes of these kids, having grown up in extremely violent, volatile neighborhoods. The message that they come with is not only powerful because of its content, but because the PackMen delivering them are living proof that if you work hard and follow the right path in life, you can succeed…anything is possible. In essence, we not only provide new bags to these kids, but role models as well.