Saving the Environment One Reusable Bag at a Time, One Reusable Bag at a Time
Most every American kitchen cabinet or pantry contains this multi-purpose fixture: a bundle of plastic shopping bags. We may use them as makeshift trash bags, lunch bags, food coverings, dirty diaper bags, litter box liners, and so forth, but their use or reuse comes at a cost, particularly to the environment.
In an effort to clear out the clutter and preserve the environment, husband-and-wife duo Farzan and Jen Dehmoubed created a reusable shopping bag, the Lotus Trolley Bag. “We wanted to do something that combated all the plastic bag waste that is constantly filling up in our oceans and our landfills.”
The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. In 2016, California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags. This law inspired the Lotus Trolley Bag’s design.
As more reusable bags hit the market, the Dehmoubed’s noticed a huge lack of quality from competitors. “We just wanted to combine a whole bunch of features that people, including ourselves, really wanted. So, one feature that really has resonated with people is the insulated bag, so that you don’t have to rush home.”
In addition, the duo also designed a Lotus with a pocket for eggs and wine. “Because that’s another frustration people don’t know what to do with, you know, their fragile items. So, we have a pocket specifically for your eggs that hold[s] your eggs nice and tight. And we also have a pocket for your wine and bottles, so that those are protected also.”
The Lotus can also hold up to 70 pounds of weight. A big goal for the duo was producing a product that wasn’t just another “flimsy reusable bag that you might worry about ripping.”
When designing the overall look of the Lotus, the couple sought help from their friends and family. “…we used them for our focus groups, basically, to give us information and understand other people’s frustrations when it comes to grocery shopping and plastic bags. We had a lot of free focus groups that we took advantage of.” The focus groups helped pinpoint how to provide a versatile and functional bag. “We had handles that were kinda shorter initially, but then after talking to friends and family, they let us know that several people wanted to carry the bags over their shoulder, and some people wanted to carry all four bags at once.”
Making the leap into the small business world wasn’t the easiest decision for the Demoubed’s. Both Farzan and Jen held full-time jobs when they decided to create the Lotus. Jen was a full-time teacher, while Farzan worked in advertising. Farzan left his job first to test the success rate of the Lotus. “I first jumped in and we did a test run, basically, and the response was so great out of that test run. We sold out our first order.”
When detailing his adjustment to his new career, Farzan offered advice for other entrepreneurs yearning for success. “I would just say, at some point, you just have to take action and jump in with both feet. It’s very nerve-wracking and can be very scary, but the best way to learn about what you’re doing in the industry you’re in is to take action and just get your feet wet.”
The couple warns not to underestimate the importance of research. When leaping into a new business, knowing the ins and outs of the industry is an important consideration. “…not coming from this industry, necessarily, we listened to every podcast, watched every video [and] read every article we could about every part of this industry or our products. So, there was a lot of knowledge that we gained through outside sources just by learning it on our own.”
The duo’s success wasn’t a fairytale. Like every company, they had to learn their fair share of hard lessons. After selling out their first order, the Demoubed’s rushed their second order with their manufacturer. Assuming the manufacturer would build seamless Lotus’s once again, they never glanced at the progress of the bags. “Our product was actually outsourced to another factory…with new workers [and] subpar sewing.”
The couple learned the importance of checking for quality during the construction process. “But what we did learn is we learned a very important lesson in that we should have done quality checks, both at the beginning, and at the end and in the middle. Which, we didn’t, we trusted our manufacturer without doing our own quality checks, which we now do for every order, multiple times.”
When seeking other ways to promote a greener earth, the Demoubed’s decided to donate to a nonprofit organization. “…[W]e are members for the nonprofit company that’s called One Percent for the Planet. So, we donate one percent of every sale. When someone purchases a bag, we donate it back [to the nonprofit].”
The demand for the product is steadily expanding. With “demand from 14 different countries,” they are looking to take their concept international.
The Lotus Trolley Bag currently retails at $30-$35 for one set of four insulated bags designed to spread out accordion-style along the top of a customer’s shopping cart.
Brooke Allen is a graduate from Georgia State University, where she majored in Creative Writing. Her passions include hiding away in her bedroom spending all of her time reading, writing and editing (or watching Netflix).