8 min 11 sec

Environmentally Impassioned Citizen Designs Plastic-Free Bags

A Washingtonian carries her passion for sustainability on her sleeve with a line of eco-friendly grocery bags.
Blog Crowdfunding Manufacturing Product Retail

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What It's About

Fashionable, minimalist eco-bags for all your shopping needs!

Business Model
Skills Required
Design & Experimentation
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Here’s another refresher: Gabriella suggests seriously researching Kickstarter before creating your own campaign, and to keep in mind that Kickstarter is a business tool, not an automatic way to fund your entire project. But for her, Kickstarter was exactly the right move, and she was able to raise all of the initial manufacturing costs.

Fun Fact

The day Gabriella launched her Kickstarter, she woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning. She told everyone she knew about the Kickstarter, and then couldn’t check its status until her lunch break all afternoon due to a long meeting. She found that she was already half funded, and celebrated by eating cake for lunch.

Notes from Chris

Episode 524

The idea for Gabriella Jacobsen’s side hustle blossomed when she was doing a simple, routine task that most of us do each week: grocery shopping. This trip to the market was a little different. Gabriella had recently read some startling statistics about the harm plastic bags do to animals in the ocean. With this thought in mind, attempted to collect all of her food without using any unnecessary plastic bags. Unfortunately, her noble attempt just resulted in a mason jar shattering on the ground. But, something else happened. She realized that most people needed some kind of bags to carry their groceries, so she became determined to make sustainability more accessible for everyone.

Naturally, Gabriella started with what she knew. As a designer, she first began building a grocery bag prototype out of scrap materials around her house. Her day job easily translated into her side hustle in this way. She had already built up the skills she needed for it! And she wanted to follow two important principles: she would bootstrap her project and not go into debt, and even though her first motivation was to encourage less plastic usage, she’d operate this project as a for-profit business.

But, even though Gabriella had her design in the bag, she was still far away from being able to launch her product. Even with bootstrapping as a core value, she knew it was going to cost thousands of dollars, so she decided to create a Kickstarter campaign.

For Gabriella, Kickstarter was exactly the right move, and she was able to raise all of the initial startup costs of $8,000. And this figure included her LLC, initial manufacturing, initial marketing, and prototyping.

From there, she contacted the manufacturer that she had worked with to build her final prototype… and actually began to produce her bags. She now sells them on an eco-focused blog called Green Upward and at farmers’ markets. Within four months, she had already made over eight-thousand-dollars, which you might recall was a little more than the amount of money she initially invested in the project. She even sold out of every grocery bag on her website at one point!

So, Gabriella has now had a very successful first round of production. She is using the profits she made to expand Green Upward even more and looks forward to creating more than grocery bags. She envisions it as a cutting-edge design company with a variety of eco-friendly products and says she has dozens or even hundreds of new ideas already. Through this adventure, she’s learned to follow that classic motivational advice: think outside the bag!


  • Green Upward: Upgrade your basic grocery bags for these environmentally friendly reusable bags—learn more about them over on Gabriella's website!
  • Kickstarter | Green Upward: Learn more about the Kickstarter that started it all

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"We have enough junk in the world today… I believe the next generation of designers and entrepreneurs has the responsibility to question what they make and focus on solutions that contribute real positive health, environmental, or culture change."
—Gabriella Jacobsen #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau