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Get Inspired: Scot Tatelman of STATE bags

STATE bags founder Scot Tatelman tells us how his non-profit mission– improving the lives of kids across America– has motivated the growth of his business.

STATE bags

Like everyone else in New York City, Scot and his wife Jacqueline had a dream– but theirs has grown into a wonderful reality. The motivation and mission of backpack brand STATE bags has spread a positive, tangible, and empowering impact on communities and future generations. Scot dishes on the details.


What inspired STATE Bags?
Back in 2009, my wife Jacqueline and I created Camp POWER – a nonprofit summer camp for hundreds of kids growing up in Brooklyn’s most underfunded, turbulent neighborhoods. The goal of the program was to get kids out of the loud, hot city. More than that, we wanted to provide positive role models, give kids a space to try different things, meet new friends, and a place that allows them to simply act their age. Each summer, we witnessed countless kids carrying all their belongings in trash bags. It became very clear that in addition to a week away from Brooklyn, the kids also needed new bags, new jackets, shoes, and a whole bunch of “stuff.” But we also noticed that “stuff” could only go so far. It was encouragement from positive figures and love that would propel them to beat the odds stacked against them. All of this inspired Jacq and I to create STATE Bags and our GiveBackPack Program.

STATE bags founders
Scot and Jacqeline Tatelman, founders of STATE bags and life partners.

What came first, the mission or the product?
We’re super proud of the fact that the STATE mission came before anything else. I always wanted to create a company that blended the for-profit world with the non-profit vibe, especially after we created Camp POWER. When we saw the kids coming to camp with their things in trash bags, we immediately landed on bags. Finding a charitable angle for companies post launch has almost become a popular thing to do, so Jacq and I are really proud of the fact that before anything else, we knew the company we created had to have a genuine, impactful social purpose that led the way for everything else. It’s our DNA, and it drives us everyday.

Camp POWER 2015 Olympics

What is the scope of STATE’s mission in PACKmen and PACKwomen? Do you see STATE’s involvement in education reform?
Our work with the kids of Camp POWER has proven to us that simply donating material things doesn’t get them very far. What’s really needed is role models, positive messaging and genuine love. This is why we built out our bag drop experiences the way we did: kids leave our events with not just a new bag, but a new found belief in themselves, motivation to follow the right path and inspirational figures in our PackMen/Women who have successfully risen from similar situations as the kids we serve.

Our goal is to always leave schools and organizations in a better position than where they were before which could be through providing new backpacks packed with essential tools for success, role models or press coverage that highlights the great work they’re doing.

STATE bags
Kids sport their STATE bags during the 2015 Camp POWER Olympics

The model of a benefit corporation seems to be the new successful business/marketing strategy– the new way to ‘brand’, if you will. What are difficult challenges and rewards in building a brand like STATE?
The challenges are endless, but the rewards make the challenges easily forgotten. Some challenges I could list would be constantly evolving as a brand, staying up to speed on what’s going on in the digital and ecommerce space, building a team and culture that oozes what we represent as people and a brand, and never really resting and being totally satisfied as you always have to ask yourself “What’s next?” The rewards are getting to see the fruits of our labor at our bag drop events and the constant emails we get from people we’ve served, doing what I feel like I was truly put on this Earth to do, and doing it all side by side with my wife. That’s pretty cool.

How did you get involved with Startup Rock Climbing?
My buddy, Jake Koenig. Years ago he used to train me at Crunch Fitness…so in a way, him inviting me to something that’s going to tempt me into doing something physically grueling makes a ton of sense.

Do you climb? If so, how long?
I haven’t consistently in years, but we took our Camp POWER kids to Brooklyn Boulders a few years ago and they had a blast! My kids climb all over me all day…does that count?


What do you have in your bag? 

My grandfather passed away less than a month ago and it was a huge hit to our entire family. Since then, I’ve been wearing and carrying around his dog tags in my (STATE) Bag. Jacq and I always have so much going on, but I’m carrying these dogs tags everyday to remember that like my Grandpa Lou showed us every day of his 95 year life, nothing should ever come before family…no matter what. In addition, these jingly, loud tags remind me to never take anything too seriously and never lose your sense of humor. So when my three year old daughter asks why my “tag dogs” are making so much noise, I’ll respond with what my Grandpa would say – “these tags aren’t loud…you hear loud!”


Join Startup Rock Climbing for their September workshop with Scot Tatelman, where he’ll share his experience building and growing a benefit corporation and working with celebrity endorsements! Free for BKB members, $25 tickets include day access pass and climbing gear. Buy a ticket today!

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