Cathie Anderson

Kickstarter crowd is sold on JFK High grad’s duffel bag design

Sacramento native Stephanie Su, a John F. Kennedy High School grad, was going from work to workout classes, but she couldn’t find a stylish gym bag that would make the transition, so she designed one and has gotten enough Kickstarter backers to go into production.
Sacramento native Stephanie Su, a John F. Kennedy High School grad, was going from work to workout classes, but she couldn’t find a stylish gym bag that would make the transition, so she designed one and has gotten enough Kickstarter backers to go into production.

Sacramento native Stephanie Su couldn’t find a fashionable and functional duffel bag to carry her workout gear, keys and wallet, so she designed her own and pitched the idea Jan. 7 on Kickstarter.

In less than two weeks, well before her campaign was set to end, backers had ponied up the $30,000 she needed to begin production. Su said she never expected consumers to so swiftly affirm her idea, and the rapid response has prompted a number of online retailers to start talks with her about carrying Su’s Tom and Jessica bags.

“I wasn’t sure I would even get funded,” Su said. “I’ve heard how difficult it is to get funded on Kickstarter, that you need a good video and you have to get the word out. I knew with my $30,000 goal that it wouldn’t be funded by my social circle. I needed the public to like it to fully reach that goal.”

Each of the initial backers paid $99 – $40 off the anticipated retail price – to acquire one of Su’s two bags. That price was available to just 150 people and sold out, so Su added a new pledge level for 350 latecomers: $109 will get them one of the bags. As of Monday afternoon, roughly 250 people had snapped up that deal.

“My manufacturer is getting a head start on pulling together all the materials that we need,” Su said. “They can go into production as soon as the campaign is funded on Feb. 19. And then, hopefully, we will get everything out to everyone in mid- to late April.”

Su said she’s having the bags made in China. Her parents, Tom and Jessica Su, are Taiwanese emigrants, she said, and they had connections overseas who recommended a manufacturer that would do quality work. The 26-year-old Su, a self-described “shopaholic,” said she’s loved stylish clothes ever since she can remember, and she wanted a duffel bag that wouldn’t clash with her office attire.

“I was going from work to a workout class, and all the duffel bags that I had didn’t have enough compartments,” Su said. “I always had my stuff in different plastic bags to keep things organized. A few brands started making cuter bags, and they would hold yoga mats. But I started taking boxing classes, so I needed a bag that would hold boxing gloves.”

Su believes that she has struck upon the right design with her durable nylon bags. They are about 20 inches wide, 9 inches high and 10.5 inches deep. They’re water-resistant and lightweight, she said, and they use heavy-duty hardware that swivels. Su has put bungee straps on the exterior of the bags to hold yoga mats, boxing gloves or other items. Inside, she put a drawstring shoe bag and a pouch for sweaty clothes, both machine-washable. She added several other elements, showing her initial samples to family and friends.

“The biggest change was that I put in a removable, washable liner,” she said. “I was told by a lot of people that the gym bags would smell ... I could have maybe put a hole on the side to ventilate it, but if you put mesh on the side, that makes the gym bag look sporty, not sleek or nice.”

Su also added a keyholder because people didn’t want to hunt for their keys in such a large bag. In March, she’ll be introducing her product to retailers at Shape, the first “athleisure” lifestyle trade show in Los Angeles. Su has lived there for about six years, at first earning a political science degree from UCLA, and now working as a marketing coordinator for a television network. There was also a brief stint as an associate at Louis Vuitton stores in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.

Back then, Su was doing a lot more shopping. For two years now, she’s had to curb her appetite for new clothes. The John F. Kennedy High School grad has been putting thousands of dollars into getting her business up and running. She hopes to expand the number of designs and become a full-time CEO some day. She calls her line of gym bags the PerSu Collection.

“My best friend and I were talking, and I needed a name,” Su said. “She was like, ‘Well, you’re pursuing your dream. Why don’t you use “pursue,” but spell it PerSu?’ I thought it was perfect.”

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

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