Before Jacqueline Tatelman and husband/business partner Scot Tatelman launched State Bags, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based backpack company, the entrepreneurial couple began sending underserved children to camp.
the most unbelievably eye-opening experience, working with these kids and seeing how much
positive role models and positive attention really enriches their lives and
their personalities," Jacqueline, who goes by Jacq, tells mom.me.
The Tatelmans, who have a young son and daughter, decided in 2009 to take idea that a step further by launching State Bags with the same philanthropic goal of giving back to kids in need—children, here in the U.S., who can't afford school supplies or backpacks, let alone stylish ones.
"One of the things that we kept seeing were the kids coming
off the bus with their stuff in trash bags, and so spending so much time with
these kids, spending time in their neighborhoods, getting to know their
families and their lives, we decided to start State," Jacq says. "So for every bag
we sell, we donate one to American kids living in situations of need."
Jacq talks to mom.me about the sacrifices she's made to grow her business, the pros and cons of working with your spouse, and that time she found herself very pregnant in Beyoncé's office. What?!
Describe the moment when you first felt
Being an entrepreneur
comes with so many highs and lows. Our collaboration with Beyoncé was the
moment that I felt like, "OK, I think we really have something going on here." We
had worked with Jay-Z’s Life + Times blog, and that had evolved and the
conversation kept going because the people there believed in what we were
doing. They eventually called us about an opportunity and told us to show
up at this address. I was very pregnant with my second child, and we just
showed up. We were looking at Grammys on the wall and Blow
Pops on the table, and I’m like, “Where are we?” and they were like, “You’re in
Beyoncé’s office,” and I was like, “Wait, what?! I’ll try not to have a baby
right now, but OK!” When we felt like she was a fan of what we were doing, we
were like, “What’s next?”
As a successful female entrepreneur, what are
some ways that you are or want to teach your kids about "girl
I’m constantly trying
to build my daughter up, and it is hard. I don’t project any signs of
insecurity with my daughter. I never talk about my body in front of her. I never
complain about the way I look or anything like that. I try not to fuss with my
clothes or change my outfits too much. I try to be as strong-minded as possible
in front of her, but she innately has these feelings that her hair is inadequate.
She wishes this looked different and that looked different, and that is very
hard for me because I definitely went through my own stuff, my own insecurities. I said, “If I have a daughter, I’m
going to build this girl up and I’m going to make her feel like she can run the
world.” Any time I tell her
she looks beautiful, I always am saying something about who she is inside.
Your company has given away so many bags to kids
in need. Has there been anything about this process that has surprised you or
inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
I would say that I’m surprised by how long it
actually takes to build a business. I guess I thought that if we were lucky enough to
score these incredible collaborations with Beyoncé, with Jessica Alba’s Honest
Co., American Eagle and all of these wonderful partnerships, you just think
there’s going to be this pop in business and all of a sudden everyone is going
to know who you are and what you’re doing—and it’s really not like that
anymore. Celebrities are putting their names on a lot of different things, and
it’s a little bit harder to grab people’s attention.
We just have to keep at
it. I love my job. I love what I do. And our team
that is also here—a lot of people took pay cuts to work for this company. We
are a small and scrappy team, and everybody is "nose to the grindstone" every
day, pulling for us, wanting it to be successful, wanting it to be huge, and
that is a huge inspiration and huge motivation to me.
What's your advice for moms who are looking to
start their own business?
advice would be definitely that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You have to have
patience, and you have to have perseverance, and you have to really, really,
really love what you’re going to do. There’s just something to the idea of
having intense passion behind what you’re doing and feeling like you are going
to make a difference, whether it be with your product, just getting out there
to customers and making their lives a little bit easier, or solving a problem, or
just giving them something that they’re proud to wear. If you
have passion and you really believe in what you do, you just have to keep your
head down and go for it. Take the ups and downs, and make them make you
stronger and just go for it.
Take the ups and downs, and make them make you
What are the best and most challenging parts of
working with your spouse?
I am totally obsessed
with my husband. I have been since the moment we met. I am a very spiritual
person. I also believe that there are several people out there for everyone,
but I believe that I was put on this Earth to meet him and marry him. I always tell him, “We were definitely married in our last life,” and
I adore him. But he makes me crazy when we work together. Working together is
really hard, and again we’re parenting two total maniacs, so I feel as though some of the best
times we have are on the train ride home, where we’re laughing or dancing.
It’s amazing that I get to work with him and watch him
just be this unbelievable leader and create these amazing give-back programs,
but we do do couples’ therapy. The highs are: I’m doing this
amazing movement with the love of my life and my very best friend, someone that
I totally adore. And the lows are: I’m doing this with my very best friend. [laughs]
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and an
entrepreneur to keep everything in balance?
were divorced. There was a lot of back and forth, and a lot of tumultuous
scenarios where I never felt like I had a really safe, stable place. I was
always so envious of my girlfriends and my friends who would sit down with
their families every night, and I just felt like that was such a grounding
thing and something that I wanted so badly for my own family. And it sounds
like such a simple little thing that most people don’t even really think about—sitting down together as a family and having dinner, but that’s something that
I’ve really always believed was going to be the cornerstone of my family life.
Recently, because things have
been so crazy, we just haven’t been able to do that. We’ve had to stay at work a
lot later or travel. I just said to him the other day, I don’t want to lose
this, but I feel like for right now, for the business, this is something that
just has to be put on the back burner. We can’t do family dinner every night—two nights a week is probably the most we can do, and for now that’s how it has
What would you say are the most important skills
and experiences you've brought from previous positions to being the leader of
that people like working for us because we work really hard and we also very
much believe in a work-life balance. We’re also compassionate people, but then
we bring this level of fun and lightheartedness to the situation. I think
as leaders, you have to have so many different facets to who you are as a
leader. You have to put your foot down when you need to put your foot down, but
I think that the people in our company really respect us
because we are honest, and we’re transparent, and we are fun, and we do silly
In the afternoon, we’ll have a random jump-rope contest. Do a fun
cheer. Randomly jack up the music and everyone just starts dancing. There’s
that element of playfulness and lightheartedness that we bring that comes from
our lives as camp counselors and camp directors, I think people really appreciate.
think the fact that we are really genuinely doing this for the right
reasons—and we really appreciate them and tell them that often—really makes
people want to work with us.