The Sash Story

Nichole MacDonald, the founder of The Sash Bag, grew up in Sonora, California with four brothers and a baby sister. She was more often surrounded by footballs and four-wheelers, than fabric and fashion. But even as a child, Nichole’s entrepreneurial spirit was already apparent. She would turn summer lunches into imaginary restaurants, complete with handwritten menus scrawled in crayon. Acting as waitress, she would take her brothers’ meal orders, and then turn them over to the kitchen. The kitchen was a staff of one: Nichole’s mother, Kendra.

Kendra not only encouraged her daughter’s “business” ventures, but also introduced Nichole to her first sewing machine. With such a large brood, Kendra found homemade apparel a frugal necessity. At the time, Nichole was sometimes embarrassed by wearing handmade clothes, and longed to sport the name brands the other children wore. Even her prom dress was a Kendra original. Unbeknownst to Nichole, her mother was not only piecing together her dress, but also piecing together her future approach in life: DIY with originality and style.

Nichole entered the workforce with a successful and creative career in graphic design and product development. Though she aided the launch of many companies, her enterprising passion never waned. And so she finally launched her first company, Bagonia, offering upscale bags made of recycled elements. Immediately, she felt at home in the entrepreneurial community, and knew that this was her calling. However, as with many first businesses, Bagonia was not a success. Nichole wouldn’t be deterred. Her tenacity led to even more potential ventures: creative studios, coffee shops, children’s furniture, even a sock factory. But, she knew that if she were patient, she would eventually come up with a winning idea. And then one fateful day, she took her son to the amusement park…

A harried Nichole stood outside the car, with her impatient five-year old son pulling her towards the theme park gates. But, Nichole was having a common mommy-quandary because she couldn’t figure out what to do with her purse. She wasn’t wearing pockets, so she needed something to carry all her son’s essentials, but she couldn’t take her bag on the rides. There was no right answer. Either choice meant an added hassle to an already stressful outing. And suddenly, she envisioned a Sash bag. She saw pockets. Lots of pockets. And she felt relief. This could be an answer.

After a day of miserable purse juggling at the park, Nichole couldn’t wait to get to a sewing machine. She teamed up with her friend Vanessa Lillegren and designed, cut, and stitched together the very first Sash bag just in time for a girl’s night out. Only hours old, that first Sash bag sparked three “where did you get that?” requests.  Nichole never meant for the Sash bag to be anything but a quick solution to her own oversized purse problem. But, as she danced with her friends, and the Sash bag stayed effortlessly at her hip, she realized that this bag was the solution to every woman’s oversized purse problem. That night, The Sash Bag company was born.

However, designing an entirely new way of carrying a woman’s essentials involves a little more planning, and overcoming obstacles. The first design wasn’t wide enough to fit a passport, and wasn’t adjustable. The next design didn’t have enough storage to compete with a large purse. But eventually the pattern was just right, with adjustable straps, maximized storage capabilities, and no bulk.

Confident in the design, Nichole was able to attend her first trade-show with the generosity of crowd-funding supporters.  But tradeshows require inventory. And there wasn’t much time or space. So, a backyard full of machinery, in the August sun, became a makeshift factory. With the help of a small group of friends, willing to sew in the heat in exchange for wine and babysitting services, the first run of Sash bags became a reality. And these humble hand-sewn samples brought in more tradeshow orders than Nichole could’ve imagined. Nichole was so elated, she still remembers writing the very first customer’s name on the shipping box: Christy Pavano.

As The Sash Bag gained fans, Nichole gained invaluable support from formidable women. The Sash Bag runs its offices out of Hera Hub, a co-working space specifically for female entrepreneurs. This business nerve center is where Nichole first met Liz Stone. A life-coach, it was Liz’s workshop that convinced Nichole that she had the strength to be a successful businesswoman. At that time, Nichole had no idea that she would find more than just guidance in Liz, but also the first investor of The Sash Bag. 

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Nichole, far left, wearing the very first Sash bag she designed for her Girl's Night Out.