Forest City Portage
Tell us about your business.Always interested in art and design, I spent my formative years getting sucked into the rat race. My creativity waned as the "career path" took over. Unsettled by this end game, I travelled and decided just to start making things again. As a car-free Clevelander, my most pressing need was a new courier bag and the adventure began. I'm a self taught sewer and my aesthetic and skill have developed in tandem. Whether it be burlap coffee sacks from a local roastery, salvaged sailcloth, an old cocktail dress, or your dad's old suit, I'm looking for a way to breath new life into it and create a bag that will last a lifetime. As I have grown I have added travel and tote bags, hip packs and backpacks to the list. As I mature in my craft and as an artist I hope to expand my product line to include luggage and have recently indulged my love of animals by creating a line of collars and leashes for dogs made from upcycled seat belt webbing. The future is bright with hand made heirloom baggage.
What makes your business stand out?There are plenty of small messenger bag manufacturers out there. I like to consider myself an artist who happens to make bags, not a bag maker who happens to be an artist. The creativity and individuality of working with waste diverted, upcycled, and post consumer waste fabrics/materials allows every piece that leaves the shop to tell a story or paint a picture. I have taken pieces of foam from a motorcycle jacket worn by a man who died too soon, a seed bag from a family farm, and a favorite tee shirt that had been worn thread bare. Memories can become tangible and materials become memories. Because of the scope of my business I am also able to pursue new designs on a whim and am not boxed in by what I "do." While I started with courier bags I'm truly in the "bag" business and the portage in my company's name couldn't speak more to the baseline goal of helping people move things, however that may be.
What's the best business advice you've received?Work as hard as you can and don't wait for someone to hand you success. Resting on you laurels at any level breeds complacency and you should always strive for bigger goals and greater ends. With that, though, comes an equally important lesson that work isn't your life and make time for your loved ones. It doesn't have to be for days on end, but don't forget who supports you along the way.
Mark Your Calendar
NominationsJune 3–Aug. 29, 2014
Nominate yourself or other aspiring makers.
JudgingJune 23–Sept. 8, 2014
Judges will select finalists throughout this period.
Online VotingSept. 15–Oct. 13, 2014
Vote for your favorite American makers.
Winners AnnouncedOct. 17, 2014
2014 Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.
American Made EventNov. 7–8, 2014
Join us for our annual event in New York City.