From Inside Business
Creator of eco-friendly travel bags set to open pop-up store in MacArthur Center
Hamilton Perkins has come a long way since he started his socially-conscious business in 2014, but the location for his first brick-and-mortar location is right back in the area where it all began.
Perkins, 33, a graduate of Bishop Sullivan Catholic High, Old Dominion University and the College of William & Mary, is the creator of eco-friendly travel bags made from recycled materials.
He will open his first namesake store, Hamilton Perkins Collection, in Norfolk’s MacArthur Center on May 1. The pop-up location will remain open through July 31.
“We’re going to showcase the product in the store and hopefully be able to translate our story into a physical representation of the brand,” Perkins said.
The approximately 4,000-square-foot store on the mall’s second floor will stock Perkins’ merchandise made from recycled plastic bottles, repurposed billboard vinyl and banners, and pineapple leaf fiber.
Each of the company’s earth bags, for instance, is made up of about 17.5 plastic water bottles, one square yard of vinyl and 10 pineapple leaves, according to HamiltonPerkins.com.
The collection includes 20 variations of bags plus totes, duffle bags, backpacks and wallets. T-shirts made from a 50/50 split of cotton and plastic are also part of the product line.
The bags start at $50 and go up to $350.
“We’re interested in the opportunity to expand the online experience to offline,” he said. “We realize customers can’t try bags on before they buy them, so it’ll be a great experience for them to fully experience our brand and the product that they cannot do online.”
The products are available through the website and in almost 100 retail and specialty stores throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Back when Perkins was in an MBA program, he was preparing to travel abroad and couldn’t find the right carry-on bag. So, he decided to create his own fashionable bag, but made of recycled material.
From there, a Kickstarter campaign – with an original goal of $10,000 – raised $23,000. Then he won the Virginia Velocity Tour pitch competition. Two years after that, he got close to $100,000 in funding from Virginia Community Capital.
The business is a certified “B Corp.,” which is a for-profit entity that meets certain standards associated with social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Perkins took a trip to Haiti in 2017 to explore its landfills and artisan sector.
“We were part of a delegation that our factory was a part of coordinating at the time and it’s one of these trips where you get to see the artisan, fashion and agriculture sectors of the country.
“We were accompanied by other brands and designers … some had already done work in Haiti and some were interested in doing work in Haiti and we were able to kind of be a part of that story because we were already doing work in Haiti, sourcing material in Haiti and doing some manufacturing in Haiti at the time as well.”
“I really learned a lot about the culture and understanding where the raw materials were coming from and I came back to the states really inspired to get the product into the hands of the consumer,” he said.
Now employing a team of three in-house, with the manufacturing outsourced to factories in Los Angeles, New York and China, Perkins’ vision has quickly grown globally. Stressing there is a balancing act to building a business, Perkins said he feels he’s now in a phase where he is in control of his – and the company’s – destiny.
“We take something that is generally thrown into a landfill, we repurpose it and then we present it in a certain way that a consumer can really enjoy” and use, he said.
From Inside Business
By Sandra Pennecke
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