Rachel Berick and Michael Berick own and operate Maptote. Their urban casual totes can be found slung around the shoulders of professionals, kids, parents and anyone interested in securing their handheld load in style. They live in Brooklyn with their kids and took some time from their busy schedules to answer some questions for this installation of Made on (mt).
What were you doing before you started Maptote?
RB: I was a freelancer for a long time. I worked as a fashion stylist and designer.
MB: I was a GIS Analyst (cartographer) for a small engineering firm.
Tell us about the process of creating your first bag and getting it in stores?
MB: We had talked about starting a business together and toyed around with various ideas. Since I made maps, I thought it would be cool to do a map of Brooklyn and print it on a bag. We had just been to Germany and collected cotton reusable bags that they sold at their grocery stores. We thought it was really cool and not something we had seen much here in the States. We started Maptote on a whim and did door to door sales. We figured if we didn’t sell anything we’d have presents for our friends for the holidays.
What were some of the things that helped grow your business from a side business out of your home to a thriving company with employees?
RB: We started doing trade shows. This got us bigger orders and it started getting to a point that we couldn’t handle it all and store our inventory in our NY apartment.
MB: Also we were fortunate to get some traction in the beginning with being on some great blogs. We were on Daily Candy in the first couple months, got tons of hits and sales from that and helped us realize that this might be a real thing.
What were some of the unexpected challenges you faced when growing your business?
RB: Many of our challenges early on were finding good manufacturers and sources for our production in the US. It was really hard finding good people and factories to work with.
Can you take us through a typical day for you, from waking up until going to sleep?
RB: Since we have 2 little kids, everyday is different. Our kids wake us up at around 6ish. Michael brings me a coffee to be to help lure me out as its always tough for me in the mornings. Our daughter goes to pre-school and we have some help with our son Max who is just 9 months. At the moment, he still hangs with us on most days. We both trade off between doing stuff with the kids and working. Since we can do most our work from the computer we work from home a lot. I even work from the playground with my Blackberry as I can’t seem to ever escape it. Michael drives to our factories in Brooklyn at least 1 day a week. We always try to make it to the office at least 2 days a week. Its only a few blocks away which makes a nice commute. Once our daughter comes home, we try to have a civilized family dinner and do our nighttime routine. When the kids are in bed we go back to work our computers for a few hours, do emails, talk about the day and what we need to accomplish the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat.
What has been the highlight of running Maptote?
MB: It sounds cheesy but we get to spend every day together. While we do have help with our kids, we are home most days and we love that we can have a job but also spend time and be flexible for our kids.
RB: Its definitely been amazing having this random idea together and starting a company on a whim, employ people to help us and then be able to see our products in stores around the world.
THE (MT) Q & A
What is the biggest obstacle you face to doing what you want to do?
RB: Getting something made in the USA and for a reasonable price has been difficult and at times become an obstacle.
What would be the worst possible job for you?
MB: Anything in the medical profession, I hate blood.
RB: Exterminator, I really hate rodents and bugs.
If you could collaborate with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you want to create?
MB: Fredrick Law Olmstead and Clavert Vaux. They were the landscape architects/ designers of many beautiful cities and parks including Central Park and Prospect Park. I don’t know exactly what I’d contribute, but I’d love to be involved in the process of mapping and planning one of their projects.
What are five websites you make sure to visit each week?
soccernet.com, brownstoner.com, designlovefest.com, refinery29.com, gothamist.com
What trend are you sick of?
MB: The beard
What project are you most proud of?
RB: We worked with the MoMA store on a themed collection they called Destination NYC. We were so flattered that they picked us for this exhibit that included a select group of NYC designers and manufacturers. We got to go to a party at the MoMA and they had our stuff on display there with our names which was pretty surreal.
What is your death row meal?
MB: Carne Asada burrito from Don Julio’s in San Diego
What would people be surprised to find out you’re obsessed with?
MB: I love anything sharks, stamps, skateboarding and amphibians. Interests I’ve had since I was 12 years old.
RB: Not sure if people who know me would be surprised, but I’m definitely embarrassed… anything on Bravo
What is one song you always have to turn up? What’s one you always turn off?
Turn up: All I want for Christmas by Mariah Carey.
Turn off: Poker Face (I think thats the name?) by Lady Gaga
Space travel or underwater exploration? And why?
MB: Underwater exploration. I love the ocean especially the esoteric animals they find in deep ocean water. And did I mention I love sharks?
What has been your most enjoyable project to work on?
RB: Our products are popular in Japan and we were lucky enough to go there a few years ago. We got to meet with some clients and work on designs with them there.
If you could have any piece of artwork displayed in your home what would it be?
The Dream by Henri Rousseau
What do you love most about where you live?
RB: We love the convenience of living close to our office and being able to walk most everywhere. We love the restaurants and cafes. We love being close to Prospect Park which makes living in a city a bit easier.
If we came over to your neighborhood where would you take us for a drink?
MB: Freddy’s, a dive bar a few blocks away.