HHS grad is CEO of new fanny pack company
While attending the University of Minnesota, Devon Erickson's friends started wearing fanny packs whenever they went out.
"I think it was more of a joke than anything at first," she said.
But then it started catching on. Rather than poking fun at an outdated fashion, more and more students started taking the little hip pouch seriously. And then Erickson got an idea.
A 2008 graduate of Hastings High School and a marketing student at the university, Erickson is taking the Entrepreneurship in Action class that had students generate business ideas they eventually pitched to the whole class as well as a board of entrepreneurs currently running businesses in the Twin Cities.
Erickson's idea was to make and sell a fanny pack to match modern fashion sense. She came up with a new name, too: the Rally Bag.
Just having the idea wasn't enough, though. Erickson had to sell her product before she even had it - to her class, to the board that would fund her start-up and to potential buyers.
"The process is hard, in a nutshell," she said.
The class and board select two or three ideas to fund, then the students group together to make the businesses work.
Erickson's Rally Bag is being made through a class, but it's a legitimate company.
"We are absolutely starting a business," she said. "It's the real deal."
In December, she and her group filed for their LLC status. They found a manufacturer in China to produce the bags. April 19-21 they held a 50-bag pre-release sale at the university's Spring Jam event.
"We sold out of them in that weekend," Erickson said.
That was when she realized that her idea might actually be viable. All they had to do was walk out among the students and show their product, she said.
In the sales process, she's found a mixed bag of reactions to the Rally Bag. Some people loved it, while others thought it was the worst idea they'd ever heard, she said. At the Spring Jam she discovered that it's something of a social product, as people are more likely to buy it in groups than individually.
The bag sells for $24 online at www.rallybag.co, but Erickson and her classmates aren't bringing any of that money home. While the class is still under way, 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to the Minnesota Breast Cancer Coalition. But at the end of the semester, Erickson, the CEO of Rally Bag, LLC, and her group will have a big decision to make. They can close the business and move on into other careers, or they can buy it from the sponsors who have funded it so far and turn it into a long-term company. It's a decision Erickson said she hasn't made just yet.
"Right now we're kind of deciding if we can make this viable and make it grow," she said.
They're working on getting a licensing deal now, and are looking into making a sports-branded fanny pack, since the bag is a natural fit for sporting events.
Whatever she decides, the experience is a valuable one.
"I've never learned more than I've learned in this class," she said.
Erickson graduates this month. This fall she'll take a job working as a business analyst for Target, where she'll get a chance to experience how big business works. It will be valuable experience that will help her in her long-term career goals, she said. Eventually, entrepreneurship could be in her future.
"Someday I would probably like to start my own business," she said.
She enjoys working with soft goods and fashion, she added.