I will never forget the day I received an email from Madeline & Company, I had to read it twice. She told me her story and I read it, re read it and tried to let it all sink in. Truly it was mind blowing to me. A high school student who could not find a back pack that worked for her designed one for herself, and then she started a company. And she did all of this while still in high school, I truly could not believe it.
Meet the darling Madeline, a girl unlike anyone you have ever met. She is currently finishing her freshman year of college and meanwhile her business is growing like a weed. That is what happens when you take an incredible and talented girl boss and add in an incredible product … the only way to go is up.
I had the privilege of meeting Madeline in July of last year at Americas Mart. We met for coffee and discussed her backpacks and she was even more lovely in person than I could imagine. She is kind and smart and incredibly talented. Her backpacks? Well, they are truly fabulous. I should know, we own two of them, one for my girl and one for myself . Her best friends also had to have them when they saw hers and we are slowly transforming her whole school. Good backpacks are hard to find, and cute ones even harder. This bag is more than cute! Every single time I wear mine I get questions and compliments. I am quite the bag snob and this one easily made the cut. It is stylish, durable, large and full of useful pockets. It is also incredibly comfortable to carry and can make middle school loads look like elementary school. In my book, that is a major win, win.
And one of my favorite things about it, each one comes with an inspiring message sure to empower those who carry them. Do you need to know anything more about these amazing bags?
I have the privilege of sharing more about Madeline with you today. I can promise you this, you will fall deeply in love with everything about her, just as I have!
First of all, tell me about Madeline. Where did you grow up and how did your childhood influence your life and who you are today?
I grew up in a small close knit community on the east side of Cincinnati, Ohio. My elementary school was two blocks from my house; almost everyday from kindergarten to sixth grade, I would walk with my sister and neighbors to and from school and home for lunch. (I loved coming home for lunch!) I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the friendliest, most genuine, hard working people who taught me how to be kind, caring, and honest. They showed me the importance of giving back to others and the community and looking out for one another, all of these values I hold close to me today. These friends and neighbors inspire me everyday to be the best version on myself, and I feel so fortunate to be able to call this small town home.
As a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up?
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved fashion. As a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was play dress-up. Twirling around in my dresses, I spent hours trying to figure out the perfect outfits for my dolls, piecing together skirts over dresses and adding a ribbon here and there. Most of the time I would dress them up without even playing with them! I wanted to be apart of the fashion industry as a little girl, and not much has changed since!
I love your story about how your backpack company came to be? Will you share it with me again?
Of course! Throughout high school, I saw all of the girls carrying a nearly identical black camping backpack around the halls. I didn’t want what everybody else had; I wanted to stand out in my own small way. My freshman year, I found a kelly green backpack and hot glued navy and pink striped ribbon down the front, and that was where the idea of the striped backpacks began! The summer before my senior year of high school, with the encouragement of my family and friends, I designed and produced the original Madeline & Company style backpack in eight of my favorite color combinations.
I am so impressed that instead of settling for a bag you didn’t love you decided to design one of your own. You are so brave to take it all on! How did you decide to take the plunge and launch Madeline & Co?
I wanted to start Madeline & Company while I was part of the target market. Based on my experiences, I knew what I wanted in a backpack. After searching for a stylish and functional backpack for years, I came up empty handed. I knew there was a gap in the market for a spacious, yet cute backpack. All of the “camping” type of backpacks were designed for outdoor activities as the primary function, and yet were being used as school backpacks. It seemed so obvious to me that every girl, whether it be middle school, high school or college, carries a backpack, why not create something that the primary purpose is for school and make it cute, too!
Anything you wish you had done along the way and didn’t do?
I wish I would’ve had the time to have more friends try the backpacks before starting Madeline & Company! I wanted to make a backpack that would be great for any girl, and since each girl has different backpack preferences, I would have loved to have spent more time tweaking the style! Every year we continue to make changes and get feedback to make it the best backpack for every high school and college girl!
Share two people who have inspired your journey and why?
My mom. She is one of the most hard-working, strongest woman I know. She never ceases to amaze me with her ability to balance our family and work. From day one, she has been so supportive and helpful; she has taught be the importance of kindness towards others, doing something I love, and never giving up. I am beyond thankful for her (and my dad and sister’s) support while starting Madeline & Company!
My grandpa. Not only is it inspirational that has he built a successful company from the ground up, but what is more admirable is the way he has done it. He truly is one of those people that will always think of others first. He is very humble and always see the best in others. My grandfather is so special and is the example I want to live by in my life and business.
Can you share a high point in your journey and what was that like for you?
I am so thankful for every step along my journey, so it’s hard to pick just one high point! One of my most memorable moments was almost two years ago just as I was starting Madeline & Company. I was lucky enough to sit down with Carly from The College Prepster and get her feedback on the product before it launched. Carly has had such amazing success growing her brand that I have admired for years, and she was very kind to take the time to help somebody small like me out!! She was so sweet and gave me such a big confidence boost. I feel fortunate to be able to start my own company at a young age, and I would love to eventually help others out as Carly did for me.
How does it feel to see photos of girls using your bags?
It is so rewarding to see girls carrying their Madeline & Company backpacks around! One of the most pinch-me moments I’ve had was walking around campus this Fall, still learning my way around Miami University, and passing a girl who was carrying our backpack. My community and high school has been so supportive, but to see someone I had never met with one of our bags, (at my new school) just made me smile! I absolutely love seeing other girls happily sport our backpacks!
What would you say are essentials for any good backpack?
Backpacks have to be the right combination of function and fashion. One of the reasons I designed our signature style the way I did was because I could not seem to find a backpack that was deep enough to hold all of my books without falling over. Space for both a laptop or tablet and an endless stack of cute notebooks and binders is essential. I love little pockets to throw my headphones and small school supplies in so they don’t get lost and jumbled in with everything else. Most importantly, it should be something you are proud to carry. You carry your backpack nearly everyday, so I think of it as more of an accessory.
What do you think are must haves for inside your backpack?
Cute school supplies always makes those not-super-fun classes go by just a touch faster! Pulling out a bright, printed notebook is so much more exciting than a solid color! I am a huge fan of having a pen in every color under the sun to be prepared to color code anything! Another must-have is a planner; I’m all about organization, so it’s great to have this with you at all times. A water bottle, gum, earbuds, a Cliff bar, and a stack of post-it notes are some essentials I always keep with me. I love that our bags have striped linings and inspirational sayings on the back of them.
What has this first year at college been like for you trying to juggle a full load and a growing business?
Balancing college plus a business is not the easiest. Between homework, club meetings, presentations, group projects, and sorority gatherings, my calendar stays pretty full. I often stay up late after finishing homework to work on Madeline & Company. I also try to read emails as I’m walking to and from class because sometimes those 10 minutes are the only free time I have all day. I’m still searching for that perfect balance of school and work that I may never quite find, but I’m trying my best to make it all work!! One thing I know for certain, is that I am grateful every day for the journey!
What is your favorite way to unwind?
Curling up under my favorite fuzzy blanket with one of my mom’s gooey chocolate chip cookies and scrolling through Instagram!
Five must haves?
I always have my favorite pink Laura Mercier lipgloss, chapstick, my wear-with-anything-and-everything navy cardigan, gum, and my phone!
I love too many quotes, so here are two of my favorites!
“Too often we are posers. Don’t be afraid. Be you. Live a life worthy of the calling you’ve received.” -Bob Goff
“Choose joy.” (I have this one hanging next to my bed, so every morning I wake up and reminded to life my day with joy and happiness as my purpose.)
I told you she was truly fabulous! There are truly so many things I love about Madeline, but what I love most is her determination to bring a quality and fashionable backpack to production in a time where she was still its target market. She did her research and made it happen, and I find that piece of the story incredibly inspirational. When you speak to her all of these amazing bits of knowledge come out and I usually just stand there and try to take it all in. You must check out Madeline & Company backpacks as a recommendation from this very satisfied customer. They just added tote bags and they are just as amazing. You don’t even owe me a thank you!