published Friday, June 24th, 2011

Mom’s business turns old clothes into backpacks

Jessi Harris hand crafts her backpacks using recycled clothing and vintage fabrics.
Jessi Harris hand crafts her backpacks using recycled clothing and vintage fabrics.

• What: Children’s backpacks

• Company: Bratsacks Babyware

• Website: www.bratsacks.com

• Telephone: 706-847-9942

• Owner: Jessi Harris

• What’s special: Harris handcrafts her backpacks using recycled clothing and vintage fabrics. Her main material, corduroy, is made in only a handful of colors every year. By using corduroy produced in different years, Harris said she is able to offer a more colorful, durable product than mass-manufactured items. “When things are made (in an) assembly line, mistakes are made and quality is compromised,” she said.

• The origin story: Harris made her first pack in 2006 as a birthday gift for a friend’s son. When she asked her husband how large she should make it, he suggested making it large enough to hold a Dr. Seuss book. The finished product was a big hit. “That backpack has lived through three children, I think,” she said, laughing. “It’s still functional, but beat up. The toddler-size pattern I use now is pretty much the same [design].”

• How long does it take to make: About an hour per pack

• Where it’s sold: Through her account on the Etsy online crafting network, http://bratsacksbaby.etsy.com, as well as at Chattanooga Market and area craft fairs

• What it costs: $28-$39

• Expansion plans: Harris recently introduced a line of adult-sized bags with adjustable straps. She said she would like to keep the business a cottage industry. If she needs more help, she said she would like to hire other work-at-home mothers, rather than expand into large-scale manufacturing.

• Lessons of the trade: “Just managing my time,” Harris, said, laughing. “I have two special-needs children. I think having family support to help me with everything is probably the most important thing a mom with a work-at-home business can have.”

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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