In our startup story this week we chat with Takao, the founder of Solahanpu, a company that has made a unique sling bag called Baksteen (among other products) which has raised its funding from a crowdfunding platform in Japan known as Machi-ya, and on Kickstarter in Japan. Most recently the product was also on Indiegogo InDemand.
The company’s unique products are created using superior quality canvas that is coated with a special paraffin wax that creates a leather-like texture.
As we start off our chat, the main question that begs to be answered is why a sling bag called Baksteen.
“We wanted to make a shoulder bag for people who are active with a good shape for enabling mobility while keeping out the rain. Baksteen is totally waterproof and sticks to your body when in active motion or biking.”
The sling bag market is quite competitive with a range of products that are all competing for this market. However, for Baksteen, this bag marks a unique jump into an unexplored area for a long time.
He remarks, “It is a bag that helps you with a lot of outdoor activities without all the hustle and discomfort that comes with a lot of other bags in the market.”
The design is a huge reason why Takao’s sling bag has been quite successful with its crowdfunding campaigns. “We focused on minimalistic simplicity. If you look at the design, you notice that. We couldn’t even find a lot of factories that can produce it.”
Sometimes working on one product and scaling works well for a lot of companies. However, for Solahanpu, this slingbag is just the beginning. The technology for the bag is unique but it can be replicated to make a range of bags that are quite effective for the outdoors due to their portability, comfort, simplicity, and waterproof capabilities.
“We just made a backpack but it’s only available on a crowdfunding campaign in Japan.”
The backpack follows suit in the mould of the slingbag, with comfort and ability to carry without it jumping around a very important part of the product.
The company is expanding not just with the backpack but a whole range of products from bags to wallets and other accessories.
Owing to the special features of the material and its success on crowdfunding platforms, the question of production comes up. You can’t help but wonder how such a product can be produced at scale when the company’s founder has admitted to the lack of many factories that can produce the products at scale.
Takao remarks, “For now, it only can be made by hand, we have partnered with a craftsman in Taiwan. His team can produce some couple of thousands of this bags per month.”
THE US MARKET
In Japan, the company started by making wallets. However, as they explored other options the sling bag happened. It awakened the brilliance of these Japanese startup and the validation for the product has been with its crowdfunding campaigns.
“We design this bag in Japan and produce in Taiwan. We are trying to ramp up our operations so that we can enter the US market as well as other Western countries. The Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns prove there is demand.”
“Our target market is mostly men and women between ages 20–40 that are active in life with activities such as walking, travelling, cycling, and exploring nature,” he says.
“However, no matter the function, gender, or age, based on statistics from Japan this is a product for all the world to use without being put in a certain box.”
THE FUTURE OF BAKSTEEN
For a company that has done so well in its early launch, there is definitely a lot to expect as Takao indicates.
“We sold more than 800 pieces for our 1st year mostly in Japan and we think as long as this gets seen more, it hopefully would bring 2 or 3 times larger the number of sales in the West.”
LESSONS FOR NEW STARTUPS
After two successful crowdfunding campaigns and a product that has clearly gained a lot of fans and customers in the past few months, Takao has gotten a lot of lessons from this early phase of his company.
“Though we already had a entire image of the shape and design, to make the first prototype took us 3 months making 15 samples over and over again. This is mostly because we wanted to be keen with our sewing method and the tools to use so that we don’t make just your typical bag.”
Driving at the patience it must have taken to make the first prototype, Takao is one to stick onto the details, a perfectionist that wants every step of the sewing done right, and every tool used with craftsmanship beyond your typical handyman.
He continues, “But we always have kept our specific philosophies that designing outstanding products needs some special considerations.Like for Baksteen, we were very pragmatic to ensure the bag’s edges needed were made from folded paraffined canvases rather than sewing so that you achieve very sturdy corners and edges for a robust product.”
Definitely, the craftsmanship and concern for details is breathtaking. He adds, “We don’t follow trendy things but keep focusing on making features, edges, and functions all based on uniqueness to transmit new experiences and lifestyles to our users.”
The company wants to launch a campaign on Kickstarter US in the next few days, hoping it kicks off something special in this part of the world.
As we conclude, what do you think of the slingbag? Do you have any comments regarding the quality or design? Let us know in the comments or by chatting us on @thepressfarm.