Today we have the pleasure of sitting down with Maria Boustead, co-founder of Po Campo, a Chicago-based company that has found a way to produce some of the cutest and most useful, durable and weatherproof bike bags around. An avid biker herself, Maria knew exactly what she needed from said bag and what she couldn’t find on the market. She partnered up with her friend Emily Taylor and the rest is history. Here’s the history and some advice from Maria:
What inspired your business ?
Biking has always been my favorite way to get around Chicago. It’s fun and practical for city living. However, I don’t like wearing backpacks or messenger bags because I get too sweaty and they hurt my back if I’m toting a lot around. In the summer of 2008 I was biking to work with my normal purse bungee corded to my rear rack and I wondered why there weren’t any bike bags more appropriate for women biking to work. I was picturing something more professional and tastefully designed that could easily attach and detach from my bike, something to bridge the gap between riding my bike and the rest of my life. I shared the idea with my friend and fellow designer Emily Taylor and we decided to design a line of bags that would do just that.
How did you start your business? Were you sewing at home? What’s the production like now and how did you grow to this point?
Designing the first bags was pretty straightforward because we knew what we wanted. We identified two times when the typical bike bags on the market didn’t work because they were too basic, blah and masculine: Going to work and going out on the town. Then, we designed bags to fit those occasions. Our first Rack Bag (now the Armitage Satchel) was large and roomy for going to work and the Handlebar Bag (now the Streeterville Clutch) was small and cute for going out with the girls or out on a date.
We sketched up our ideas and made some rough prototypes on our home sewing machines. In the beginning, it was really important for us to produce locally and it took quite a bit of legwork to figure out how to do it since most cut-and-sew production has moved overseas. We finally found the right partner in Chicago with a proved track record of quality bags and the ability to scale up as we needed to. We’ve been working with them ever since.
What inspires you? What do you do when you have a creative block?
I like being out and about and experiencing things in the city, anything from attending an arts event to people watching to hanging out at the lake. Chicago is full of interesting creative people and I love being around that. Creative blocks for me are usually solved by a long bike ride, yoga or hanging out with friends and throwing ideas around. You never know where the next idea will come from, so I always try to stay receptive to new things.
What is your personal workspace like?
Ha ha, sadly nothing too glamorous. Po Campo is half of a desk in my apartment that I share with my husband! For now anyway….
Any advice to those who are looking to make the jump into starting their own business?
Just go for it, ask lots of advice and don’t look down.
Where does the name Po Campo come from?
Our brand name Po Campo comes from a character from Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove novel (my favorite book). Po Campo was the cook that went along on the cattle drive from Texas to Montana. We found him inspirational because he did things his own way, was always open to adventure and found something to appreciate in the most mundane or trying of times. Starting a business making fashionable bike accessories in Chicago, we needed a dose of his self-assuredness because we heard plenty of “that will never work”. As time has gone by, though, I feel his openness to what’s around the next corner continually inspirational. It’s kind of like the beauty of bike riding because you can go at your own pace and go where you want to go and experience new things each time.
Thanks so much for maria for chatting with us today! And for sharing this shot of herself and her bag in action!