For someone who was once afraid to fly, Carmel resident Erin Borges is racking up a lot of frequent flier miles. Her will to succeed as an entrepreneur and her passion for what she calls her “baby” has her crisscrossing the U.S., never mind the aviophobia.
It was her fearlessness to pursue her invention, the GoGo Gift Bag, that superseded other fears. Borges didn’t let a lack of experience, money, sleep or time stop her from pursuing a patent, then getting on a plane to present at her first major trade show.
In only 11 months she’s gone from schlepping boxes of samples in an Uber across Manhattan to winning the Customer Choice Award from national retailer HSN in the American Dreams Contest sponsored by HSN and Good Housekeeping, securing a licensing deal with the international company IG Design Group and selling her bags on HSN.
Her GoGo Gift Bag launched nationwide in Cost Plus World Market stores on April 15, including at the Seaside location. It’s called the “bag that blooms,” because of how the tissue paper – already affixed to the inside of the bag – folds open and fans out to completely cover the top of the bag. The bags sell for $4.50-$5.50 each at Cost Plus, and in packages of 10 for $19.95 from HSN, where Borges presented them over two days earlier in April from the network’s St. Petersburg, Florida, studios. Borges says they’re a major innovation for gift bags, which were introduced in 1987.
It’s easy to see the love Borges has for her product – her brown eyes shine with excitement when she talks about GoGo Gift Bag and the adventure of bringing it to the public. The Pacific Grove High School graduate, now 37, spoke with the Weekly about developing the product starting in 2014, through getting a patent and taking it to market.
Weekly: What was the “aha!” moment for your invention?
Borges: I was at the store with my daughter and I went shopping for a gift that was about $10 for her preschool party. I bought the bag and the tissue and the gift like I always do. When I got to the checkout it was over $20 for the whole purchase and I thought, “Wait, what?” I was so mindful of what I was purchasing to be something that was affordable, and [packaging] doubled the cost of my gift. When I was trying to style it, I wasn’t getting the coverage that I wanted, and I thought, well that’s the whole point when you’re wrapping a gift: to have it covered and have a beautiful presentation.
I went home and started fabricating the GoGo Gift Bag as far as engineering the tissue and figuring out how long the insertions would need to be to appropriately house within each bag. I was figuring out the specs and how that works, and developed a prototype.
Did you have formal training in product design or manufacturing?
At the time, I was working for my husband, Shawn Borges, who is a chiropractor. I’m a mom (to 5-year-old Dahlia) and I have an Etsy store (ColdFeetWeddingSocks), which I still have as well, and that was my life. I didn’t have any background in engineering or startup businesses or gift bags or anything of that nature.
I unfortunately didn’t go to college, and always wished I had. I started working at a very young age, and I moved out when I was 17. I’ve always been a hard worker and someone who’s wanted to create a better life, and provide that for my daughter.
What advice do you have for other budding entrepreneurs?
When they tell me, “I had an idea, but I don’t have time, I don’t have money, I don’t know what to do,” I tell them that’s not an excuse. I try not to be too harsh, because I was just as ignorant as the next person. I didn’t have a rich uncle, I didn’t have a mom or a dad to guide me and say this is what you do. I was a consumer, nothing more. So I say we’re fortunate to be born in a decade when we have internet and Google. If your mind is geared toward curiosity and you have a dream, you can research and educate yourself on just about anything online.
What’s the next big idea?
I actually have a list of products, and I’ve presented a prototype to IG Design Group for the next product that I can’t reveal, but stay tuned. This isn’t going to be a flash in the pan, so it’s exciting.
Some of us are missing the gift-wrap gene. Will your bag work for us?
If you can unzip a Ziploc, you can deploy a GoGo bag. For those that have struggled, now you’re going to look like those people that had that knack for so long. It turns your to-do into a ta-da.