Sharks Don't Take A Bite But Backpack Takes Off
Published 12:37 pm Thursday, February 26, 2015
PRINCE EDWARD — Jack DuFour and Alley Heffern pitched their Taaluma Toes to the entrepreneurs at ABC’s Shark Tank in last Friday’s broadcast.
The Sharks weren’t biting, but they offered some deep complements for the project manufactured locally at Southside Training, Employment and Placement Services (STEPS).
“…What was really interesting was when I sat down and replayed it and had time to really think it through…the comments that the investors made, ‘This is a quality made bag, I would pay over $200 for this bag, we love your mission,’ …that really is all stuff to build on,” STEPS President and CEO Sharon Harrup told The Herald Tuesday. “And I think Jack and Alley felt the same way.”
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The two engineering graduates from Virginia Tech travel to Third World countries and purchase fabric, which is then shipped back to STEPS’ manufacturing plant in Victoria (which employs workers with disabilities) where the backpacks are sewn. The backpacks are sold through the company’s website, www.carryacountry.com.
According to the website, they get traditional fabrics, have totes “made of the sweetest silks and craziest cottons a traveler can find” by adults with disabilities, and have 20 percent of the profits going back to the countries in microloans to farmers and small business owners.
And even though the Sharks didn’t jump in, Carryacountry has gotten a boost.
A big boost.
STEPS normally makes about 125 backpacks a week (which sell for $65). Harrup told The Herald Tuesday that she had received an email from DuFour Monday morning and, “since the show aired Friday night, until he emailed me, they had sold over 7,000 totes online. The purchase order yesterday dropped for 8,000 totes. So, yeah, we are putting a ram up plan in place right now.”
And it will mean more job opportunities. There’s a target list of folks to call back, and they’re calling back employees with disabilities first.
“So any of ’em that were running a machine or were being trained on a machine with the plant closed, they will be given first dibs to come back,” Harrup said. “And the good thing is Jack and Alley are firm that they want quality over speed so they know that there’s gonna be a ram up time before…large volumes can go out.”