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Conversations with Tish Phillips

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tish Phillips.

Hi Tish, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
When I started NewBlue in 2020, friends thought I was crazy to give up a successful and safe career as a home designer and builder in one of the most thriving housing markets in the country. At that point, there were hundreds of reusable bags on the market; canvas bags, nylon bags, and lots of reusable plastic bags. However, none of these bags were designed with both style and functionality in mind. I knew I could design a seriously better reusable bag that would look and feel great and inspire people to ditch single-use bags.

What’s the number one reason eco-conscious people don’t carry their reusable bags? They forget them at home or in the car. I think people will remember their bags when they feel proud and excited to carry them. I wanted to turn the humble reusable bag into a sleek stylish bag that you would also want to put on your Instagram.

I felt in my heart that people would buy a seriously better reusable bag; one that would not only look great but would also fold flat, hold lots of weight, be machine washable, and last for years. I believe NewBlue can create a movement of people carrying reusable bags everywhere they go.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
HA! Lots of struggles. The struggles have been in execution and cultural.
From an execution standpoint, NewBlue is the first company to use a German textile called washable paper to manufacture reusable bags in the U.S., however designing with it is challenging. Washable paper has actually been around for over 20 years, for example the brown tag on Levi’s jeans that people often think is leather is actually washable paper.

Initially, there were many design, manufacturing, and supply chain issues in creating our bags and we are just beginning to work these out. I knew that a good reusable bag needed to stand on its own for easy loading and unloading and it needed to be able to carry a good deal of weight. I was also designing in the early days of the COVID lockdown and people were hyper-conscious of washing their reusable bags if they were able to use them at all. I came across washable paper through some people in eastern Europe where it’s a popular material due to being very environmentally safe and sustainable product (I think Europeans are a little ahead of Americans in that regard). Washable paper is also difficult to sew and I’m not a very good seamstress so the learning curve was steep. I failed many times when developing prototypes and it was a slow and arduous process.

From a cultural standpoint, I had no idea my initial vision was so ambitious. The concept of avoiding single-use and moving towards REUSE is a deeply important message but also a novel idea to many. Helping people to completely re-think their reusable bags – how and when they can REUSE and why it’s important is a broad ambition. Our success confirms my hunch that people truly want to be more environmentally responsible, they just need better products (along with government regulation) to help them break single-use habits.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Finding new ways to work with washable paper, which has been around many years, has been fascinating and exciting. As a vegan product that is not synthetic, it softens like leather with age, is very durable and is ultimately biodegradable. It’s a wonderful textile and I think we will begin to see more uses for it in the future.

No one else in the US is manufacturing mid-cost bags as we do. We have two seamstresses that sew excellent quality bags. We have a rivet setter who happens to be a high functioning Autistic young man that sets the rivets on our bags. This is a demanding job that requires skill and precision and we are fortunate to have him working at NewBlue.

Brand wise I am most proud that we are inspiring people to become aware of the impact of their actions on this earth.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Some of the same skills that served me well as a builder also work well for NewBlue. I hire good people who are better at things than I am, then I get out of their way and let them do their jobs. I am not very detail oriented, I’m a visionary. The best people in our company are very detail oriented and precise. Finding the right people is always a challenge for new businesses. You know pretty quickly if someone is going to work out. I am also very persistent. My dad was a life insurance salesman and he used to tell me, ‘every no gets you that much closer to a yes.’ It’s true. There’s a great deal of failure in launching a new product or idea, persistence and resilience are key.

Pricing:

  • NewBlue bags range from $30-34

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Kara Marie Collective

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