Nicole Flowers launched hiip this past summer with a dual focus of creating stylish bags while providing necessities to the homeless community. That's right, for every hiip bag you purchase, a hiip kit (which is a bag filled with shampoo, soap, toothbrush, etc.) is given to a person in need.
It was such fun to feature Nicole's story in the first issue of Delighted and I thought it was worth sharing highlights for anyone who missed it. You can also read the full story on pages 46-59. Visit hiip's website at hiipsf.com.
What is hiip?
hiip [helping individuals in passing] is a bag company with a purpose. They come in multiple colors and patterns and they put the fun in multifunctional. We've got adorable styles to choose from and there are so many ways to wear them [on or off the belt and even as a clutch]. The best part about the company, though, is the social component. For every hiip bag you purchase, we donate a hiip kit to a person in need. The kits are filled with basic necessities and we encourage those who are in the area to go with us on hiip handouts to pass them out. The idea is that we give back while we build the community through purposeful interactions.
Tell us how the idea for hiip came to be?
I was actually sitting in my apartment eating dinner and finishing up the book Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie and just asked myself what I could do with my skill set. I thought about what I was good at, who I wanted to impact, and how I could merge the two. The idea of redesigning the fanny pack came to mind and I went with it. I am a person of high but risky fashion sense so I wasn't sure I could convince people that it was time to bring this necessary item back into rotation; my gut told me a solid yes but I didn't hedge my bets until I passed it by a few friends. I have a heart for those in great need, a huge part of which is the homeless community in America (San Francisco more specifically), and I felt that hip bags could be beneficial all around. The best part about it is that I started implementing and researching the idea the next day!
What inspired you to start this venture?
I met Blake [Mycoskie] at a meeting in mid-2011 and my adoration for his social entrepreneurship model was heightened; I had followed him for about four years up to that point. Once I read the book, I knew it was time. I had wanted to start my own company since I was around 22 years old but I was never sure what it would look like. Once I put some real thought (and heart) into it, the idea was as clear as day. As I've gotten older I've realized that once I put my mind to something, I make it happen.
What has been the greatest challenge in starting this venture?
Learning everything! I have no idea how to sew so Kristina, my stellar designer/seamstress, has been a true blessing. She was able to conceptualize what I was trying to describe in my head and made the pieces so well. I also knew nothing about business. I studied Journalism at Pepperdine and to this day have never had a business class. Needless to say I've spent a lot of time getting opinions, perusing the SBA website, and talking to my financial advisor brother to get up to speed... really quickly.
What has been most rewarding?
Learning everything! Just figuring each bit out is exciting. I'm constantly challenged and not only am I finding how true and wonderful my friends and family are as they offer every bit of support that they can but I'm seeing myself grow as a person. It's an amazing gift to know that you will be truly impacting lives because of an idea you've had; what's even better is that everyone that surrounds me will be involved as well. I can't wait to see it... each step of the way is a reward in itself (including getting my packaging tissue!).
What do you love most about the product itself?
I love that it's actually a hip bag. I get frustrated easily when my purse constantly falls off my shoulders. Maybe I have droopy shoulders—who can say? —but I love that I can strap it on and run to brunch. Or to the market. Or to the gym. Or to the airport. Hip bags are totally functional and all they needed was some modernization and cute patterns. Now that we've nailed that (if I do say so), I love that I have an easy option to wear around town at any time. I can even wear it as a clutch for evening or just for a different look!
Which bag is your personal favorite?
I have two: the floral corduroy and the black and white mini-chevron. Both are so adorable to me - the floral because it's so sweet and girly and the mini-chevron because of the rich texture of the fabric.
What advice would you give to others who are considering starting a business that gives back?
Think of something that is both new and needed. It's sometimes easy to spin off an idea that is already happening but why not rethink what's out there? What is a group that you love, that you feel drawn to help? What do they need to survive or live better? How can you impact your immediate community? Once you think about that, you can create something that can help them and be beneficial to those who you want to buy it. Business will succeed if you have something to offer that others don't; the community that you desire to help will succeed because ultimately, I believe, people want to help but they just need the opportunity. We need more opportunities to make a difference!
Interview with Nicole Flowers | Photos by Bess Friday