Game Changers: Scot and Jacq Tatelman, Co-Founders, STATE Bags
This is an excerpt from an interview conducted with Scot and Jacq Tatelman, co-founders of STATE Bags, a New York-based startup that sells high-end bags and backpacks for men, women and children, while practicing 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. The Tatelman's were recognized by Total Retail as entrepreneurs that are disrupting the traditional retail industry. For the full interview, as well as profiles of other entrepreneurs and startups that are reshaping retail's future, check out Total Retail's 2018 Game Changers issue.
Total Retail: What was the white space in the market that you identified, and how do you believe your company can address it?
Scot Tatelman: To tell the full story, we have to go back before there was a STATE Bags. Ten years ago, Jacqueline and I started a summer camp for kids living in really tough neighborhoods in all five boroughs of New York City, and it became a big part of both of our lives. It’s celebrating its 10th season this year. We started seeing this recurring, unfortunate theme: kids carrying all of their stuff in trash bags or ripped shopping bags, and it really made no sense to us. With all
of the work we’ve been doing, we really wanted to do more to support kids locally.
We wanted to take the one-for-one model, famously created by TOMS, but adapt it to kids locally here in the U.S. And we wanted to do so in a way that was giving more than material goods away. We wanted to bring them incredibly positive roles models, unique experiences, and positive messaging through our bag drop events. So for every bag we sell, we donate a fully stocked backpack to an American child living in situations with need.
TR: What types of retail technology are you watching closely and/or thinking of implementing?
Jacq Tatelman: One of the things that specifically works for us is the “try me on” feature that we have. We want to constantly iterate on that. The customer can go on different pages and type in their specs (e.g., height, size), and it gives them a digital representation of themselves. In addition, video on our product pages is something we’re excited about. We want to get the customer as close to the product as possible via the e-commerce site.
TR: Tell us about your leadership style.
JT: It’s an interesting topic for us. We’re a small and scrappy team of 12 full-time employees right now, and we have a very familiar feeling within our office. I’m not sure that it lives in any bucket that I know of right now in a corporate structure. We will maintain our current team until we’ve outstretched a department and/ or team. We look at it that we’re small and scrappy, and work really hard to get things done.
ST: Just to add to that, Jacq and I are pretty transparent in that we never started a business before. Yes, we’re five years in, so we’re experienced in the world, but we’re not MBAs. This brand happened because we just wanted to help kids in need. We want to empower our team and help them. We’re all in this together, and we want to empower them. We think that helps our team — them knowing that people from the top down want to empower them and see them succeed.
For the rest of this interview, and others like it, download Total Retail's 2018 Game Changers issue.
Related story: Total Retail's 2018 Game Changers List