Nov 14, 2012

SF Made: The Story of Rickshaw Bags

How do you build a company around a mission you care about? And how do you grow it internationally while keeping all the important parts of your business—your headquarters and your factories—in your home town?

Mark Dwight, founder and CEO of Rickshaw Bagworks, addressed these questions at Hot Studio last Wednesday as part of our social innovation speaker series, Triple Bottom Lunch. A gifted storyteller, Dwight kept us all engaged, opening up about his personal journey of reinvention and creative leadership.



What's interesting about Dwight—especially to us digital design nerds—is that he's a tech guy at heart. Dwight lived most of his life in Silicon Valley. He was an engineer, once upon a time working for Cisco Systems.

Later in life, he applied his passion for the development process of digital products to making awesome bags—first as CEO of Timbuk2 and then Rickshaw Bagworks, a company he founded and runs as a San Francisco-based manufacturing company. Rickshaw makes bags for cyclists and is guided by humanistic, environmental, and social values.

Dwight's love and excitement for what he does for a living was apparent during his presentation. He says he's always felt that way. "I have loved every job I have ever had," he told us. "My passion was doing great work."

Dwight is an advocate of local manufacturing and strives to reduce waste. He was inspired by a TED talk by William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle, challenging designers to take into account "all children, all species, for all time."

With Rickshaw, Dwight has followed through on this mission not only by making his bags made to order instead of trying to predict the market and working with retailers, but also by making incremental improvements like the "Round Trip Shipper"—a reusable cloth bag that a customer sends back to Rickshaw once an order has been delivered.

An extension of this is Dwight's involvement in founding SFMade, a nonprofit that's about building and supporting a vibrant manufacturing sector in San Francisco "that sustains companies producing locally-made products, encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and creates employment opportunities for a diverse local workforce."

Check out Dwight's latest blog post titled “Red White and Blue is the New Green.” You can follow him on Twitter at @markdwight. Learn more about Rickshaw Bagworks at www.rickshawbags.com.

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