Less than one month after launching in January 2013, we were hit with the worst reality a new business can face - faulty product.
Following launch, STATE was all over the press with features on Vogue.com and Daily Candy, but soon after our site went live with sales to friends, family and early ambassadors around the world, we learned that our Durham bag had issues…quality issues.
This was a huge dilemma for us as we refused to sell or donate product that didn’t meet our high standards. Even if the complaints could be considered minor in that the zippers were sticky and the fabric was slightly tearing, this was a non-starter for us. So after reaching out to every customer that purchased our original Durham bag and offering full refunds for their purchases, we then shelved close to 5,000 brand new bags and started all over again with a new manufacturer.
For more than two years, these bags were boxed up in a New Jersey warehouse, while we carried on, not sure as to what we would ever do with them.
Last Spring we met with the team at More Than Me. It was one of those meetings you go into, not sure what could come of it, but you have a feeling something positive will. They started telling us about the Liberian students they serve and their need for school supplies, including backpacks. As the central part of our STATE mission is to serve American children in need, we were in a bit of a moral crossroads as the girls in Africa clearly needed help, but we wanted to stay true to what we build STATE upon - supporting local kids.
Jacq and I then looked at each other with the same thought. We told them about the thousands of bags sitting in the Jersey warehouse. We told them that we took them off the market to both sell and donate. We told them that the zippers would most definitely stick and the fabric would most likely tear. We told them everything about their faults and held nothing back…and they still wanted as many as they could take because “it was better than plastic bags they currently used."
Although this was a shift from our focus of supporting local children in challenging situations, lending a hand to children who need help - wherever they may live - is in our DNA. Plus, putting the bags to good use as opposed to collecting dust in a warehouse just made more sense.
Our work with More Than Me then led us to the Jacaranda Foundation, and we are so proud to say that thousands of students in Liberia and Malawi are now outfitted with STATE Bags.
There are many moments as a young business where you need to be open-minded and bend on positions you previously never would have…and this was one of them. This whole experience not only reaffirmed our commitment to quality, but also our love of giving back.
We are continually inspired by the work of More Than Me’s team led by Katie Meyler and Jacaranda Foundation’s headed up by Marie Da Silva, and are so proud to now have their back!