9 min 1 sec

Tote Bag Titans! Teachers’ Custom Bag Shoulders $110,000 Profits

Two teachers create a multi-tasking tote bag from scratch, building it into a six-figure business in just six months.
High Profit Manufacturing Product SHS Success Story Teacher Hustle

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What It's About

A bag as multi-faceted as the teachers who tote them!

Business Model
Skills Required
Research & Coordination
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Stephanie and Allison have moved outside of the teaching niche when looking for customers. They said they’ve been targeting hashtags like #womenbag, #womeninbiz, #womanentrepreneurs, and #womenstyle. Doing this has helped them break into other areas and widened their customer base. It’s something they’d suggest anyone do when trying to get their message out.

Fun Fact

The word “dropshipping” is new, but the concept dates back to the 50s with the advent of mail-order companies. Those companies would send out mail-order catalogs to homes across the country. Those same companies would then fulfill the customers’ orders after receiving their payments via mail.

They’d then fulfill those orders through their warehouse who’d pack and ship the product directly to customers. Door-to-door salesman operated in a similar fashion. The internet has definitely disrupted this business model. Apparently, mail order companies of the 50s = today’s online storefronts.

Notes from Chris

Episode 759

Stephanie Doherty and Allison Panio are high school friends who met on the softball field. They developed a close friendship that’s endured many years. Now they’re both teachers in New York and Connecticut. Stephanie teaches high school math while Allison teaches kindergarten.

Also, they’d always wanted to start a side hustle together.

Being teachers gave them summers off. So, they’d get together to hash out ideas. They thought of a few but nothing ever panned out.

Then, at the beginning of 2017, they discovered this podcast. The two of them began drawing inspiration from the guests featured on the show. Stephanie and Allison said the stories were encouraging because they were tales of busy people who put time into their projects when they could.

It was inspiring to hear about a mom who’d work at night when her kids were asleep. Or a dad who’d work early in the morning before anybody woke up.

That summer, they stumbled upon a potential idea. What’s something that all teachers struggle with and how can they solve it?

They knew from experience that most teachers carry multiple bags with them to school (e.g., laptop, lunch bag, pocketbook, etc.]). They also knew what a drag it was lugging all of those bags around all day. Stephanie and Allison were determined to find a solution.

What if they designed an all-in-one bag that would solve that problem? What if they designed a bag specifically with the modern teacher in mind? [Does this bag come with a better salary and a smaller classroom size, as well as a reasonable amount of time to plan their lessons? No. However, it does have some other features.]

The bag would have pockets to contain all of your needs. Two outer side pockets to hold your liquid containers like coffee or water. A zippered front pocket to perfectly fit your cell phone. Inside the bag would be a built-in, insulated lunch box. There’d be a middle zippered compartment to safely store your laptop as well as a side flap for all your paper-grading needs. Several smaller pockets for pens and wallets. It would even come equipped with a key ring!

Introducing … The Teacher Tote!

Startup costs were $14,000. They ordered 500 bags for their first run. They had no idea how sales would go when they launched in July 2018, but they ended up selling out within 10 days. By the end of the year, The Teacher Tote profited $110,000.

How did these two, full-time teachers leverage their network and build a successful six-figure side hustle?

Stephanie and Allison said they scoured Instagram for teacher accounts with thousands of followers. They sent totes to 15 influencers and politely asked them to try out their bag, and if they loved it, to post what they loved about the bag and to tag them as well.

Their slogan: You totes need this bag!

So, what’s next for The Teacher Tote? Their business is expanding with orders increasing every day. They're now trying to figure out how to go from a small business of storing product in their parents’ garages and packaging the bags themselves, to growing into a warehouse and outsourcing their delivery with drop shipping.

The tote-tactular journey continues!


  • The Teacher Tote: This bag literally has everything—a place to put your lunch, all of the odds and ends you swear you'll clear out one day, those papers that you're planning on grading tonight with a glass of wine—get yours over on Stephanie and Allison's website!
  • Alibaba: The marketplace Stephanie and Allison used to source their bags
  • Shopify: Stephanie and Allison used Shopify to set up their site for The Teacher Tote, and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!


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
"I would say find someone who you could go into the business with. It has been so helpful to have two of us running the business. Allison had her wedding this year, and I am having a baby this year. It is nice to have someone else to rely on and pick up the slack, if needed. We each have different roles in the company, but we make most decisions together.​"
—Stephanie Doherty & Allison Panio #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau