Sturdy Bag Designs is a Minneapolis-based bike bag maker who started making bags in 2014. Starting with a frame bag for his own bike, he estimates he's now made over 6,000 bags. In this story we talk about his background and what keeps him going.
What's the Sturdy story? What inspired you to start and what keeps you going?
This all started when I was making the transition from being a bike messenger/mechanic back to upholstery work in 2014. I was commuting to my upholstery job, and was looking to get my lunch & clothes off my back by using a frame bag.
The frame bag was the first item I made with the Sturdy name.
My upholstery employer was very supportive of my interest in building a frame bag, and gave me materials to try it out (and the use of industrial sewing machines). My first bike shop account (2018) purchased 6 tool rolls for $120, and their most recent order was over $1,200.
Slow, steady growth over time has been my model. As for what keeps me going, I just keep answering the requests of customers. 20 bike shops are on board, and a website store keep this crazy adventure moving forward.
How many bags do you suppose you've made?
I never kept too close an eye on how many bags I've made. Over the past 4 years doing this full time I would guess it's somewhere near 6,000 bags.
How do you balance the fun part of custom bags with the more efficient side of stock bag making?
Balance is the key to doing this as a career. That and flexibility. I never know what's coming as far as work goes, and I just do my best to handle it as it happens.
I take custom orders only when time permits. The catalog of bags online keeps me pretty busy.
Do you have a favorite bag right now?
I don't have a favorite bag right now. I've designed each bag in a way that keeps me enjoying the process as much as possible over time, and after making thousands of them.
They involve a lot of muscle memory at this point, and my favorite part is assembling one that I haven't made in a while. The memory comes back no matter how long it's been.
Tell me about your own bike adventures. What kind of riding and where?
Running a bike bag business full time is a ton of work as an individual. I commute by bike every chance I get, because it gives me more energy, and slightly offsets some of the sitting at the sewing machine.
I enjoy overnight campouts, and there's plenty of locations for it around the twin cities.