As readers of The MALESTROM well know, we’ve always had something of a penchant for adventure. Over the years countless adventurers we’ve interviewed have stressed the importance of having a bag for their kit that is built to last and won’t come up short when a bit of extra grit is required. Which is exactly why Stubble & Co caught our eyes.
Stubble & Co is a British born brand who have gone out of their way to create some of the toughest, most durable bags in the industry today. Whether you’re heading out a trip of a lifetime to the Amazon, or just off on that package holiday for two weeks in Magaluf (we can dream right?), these bags are designed to make travelling as easy as possible.
Their bags are all about functionality and performance, from their waterproofed exterior to their slick ergonomically designed core. And as well as being built for adventure, they tick another massive box in terms of sustainability. Whether it’s making products from recycled post consumer plastic waste, ensuring all of their packaging is 100% recyclable and even offering an in-house repair service, sustainability is the watchword of Stubble & Co.
We caught up with company co-founder Ben Watkiss to find out about how Stubble & Co came to be, what the brand’s key ethos is and their big hopes moving forward. There’s no time like the present, let’s Meet the Brand.
The MALESTROM: We’re all about championing brands we love here at The MALESTROM, why don’t you tell our readers a bit about Stubble & Co and how the business came about?
Ben Watkiss: After 10 years of travelling most weeks for work, I’d been through my fair share of bags. I continually struggled to find the perfect bag; one that could be used for short business trips, going to the gym, commuting to work and visiting friends, they either broke easily or had a premium price tag. It seemed crazy there wasn’t a suitable option out there.
The idea for Stubble & Co first came to us whilst exploring the Philippines. Three idyllic weeks, escaping our London office jobs with time to think about what we wanted in life. Our vision was to create a range of bags that people would never stop using, wherever the destination. Bags that could go anywhere and do anything. Bags built to last.
It then took two years of researching, prototyping and planning before we sold the first Stubble & Co bags in March 2017.
TM: What are some of the pitfalls you’ve faced along the way?
BW: Like so many brands, 2020 was our most challenging year to date. Our bags are built for travel, commuting, short trips, weekends away and the like, so not much use for them last year!
Rather than worrying about selling bags in the short term, we looked to create content that inspired and educated ready for when travel was possible again, and looked to react to changing market needs as we developed our Roll Top backpack. Agile, versatile, functional and sustainable, this bag was born to help our customers to explore the world on our doorsteps by foot and bike.
TM: What is your ethos? And how important is it to the brand?
BW: Quality is the centre of everything we do. Exceptional quality products, at an affordable price point. We want to exceed customer expectations from the moment they first discover the brand, all the way through to years after they have purchased one of our products.
We make bold quality promises to our customers, and we do everything to over deliver on them. The customer comes first in every decision, and it’s the most important thing about our brand.
TM: We’re all about sustainability, why is this so important to Stubble & Co?
BW: Our mission is to produce bags that enable exceptional travel experiences, and if we don’t collectively look after our planet and environment, this simply isn’t possible. This means sustainability is inherently linked to our vision, and we take steps every day to become more sustainable.
Examples include designing timeless bags (not fast fashion!), launching products made from recycled-plastics, offering an in-house repair service, offsetting our transportation carbon footprint, a carbon negative warehouse and ensuring all of our packaging is 100% recyclable.
TM: Tell us more about your products?
BW: All our bags are rugged, versatile and durable; the perfect blend of urban and outdoor design. Our range includes timeless holdalls and backpacks crafted from premium waterproofed canvas to our go-anywhere Adventure Bag and Roll Top made from tough waterproof recycled plastic.
All bags contain a protected laptop pocket, ultra-reliable YKK zips and have been meticulously designed to make every journey easier, wherever the destination.
TM: As the old adage goes, buy cheap, buy twice. Your bags are premium and seemingly very durable, is this something that sets you apart from many other brands within the same sector?
BW: Absolutely, we firmly believe that at our price point you will not find a better quality bag. We’ve received almost 3,000 independent reviews from our customers, and the vast majority of these reference the quality of our products. It’s something we’re really proud of.
TM: What’s the most popular item right now?
BW: We launched the Roll Top last October, and we’ve sold out three times already. We’ve been amazed by the consistent demand for it, but with a move to spending more time walking and cycling, given the bag is so comfortable, waterproof and versatile, it’s popularity is understandable.
TM: What does the future have in store? What are your aims?
BW: Hopefully the future involves a lot more travel and everyday adventures, living the brand day in day out, getting out there testing and improving our products. We envisage always having a small permanent collection of bags, however we want to stretch what is possible from a material, feature and construction perspective, and the best way to do that is to get out there and test them in the wild.
TM: What advice would you have for anyone thinking of starting their independent business?
BW: The first step is the hardest and scariest you’ll take, the hours are going to be far far longer than you imagined, and you’ll make many sacrifices along the way. However when you start seeing your product worn by strangers in the street, everything suddenly becomes worth it. It’s an incredibly proud and rewarding feeling. Hang in there, if you’ve got passion and love for what your building, you’ll make a success of it.
TM: How important is it to engage with other like-minded brands?
BW: As mentioned before, we’re obsessed with creating exceptional travel experiences for our customers. This means we not only deliver the best bags, but we also help educate and inspire a life of travel and adventure. If through working with other like-minded brands we can create value for our customers, then we are always keen to work with them.
TM: What’s your favourite independent brand? Who would you nominate for us to feature next?
BW: We’re big fans of Allbirds, who like us, launched the business via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Some claim they’re the most comfortable shoes in the world, but we also love them for their versatility, simplicity in design, and inspirational use of innovative sustainable materials. A lot of their shoes can be worn in almost any situation and any weather – perfect for when you’re looking to travel light.
TM: How can people track you down?
BW: We love it when customers pick up the phone and give us a call on 0333 444 9943 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our full range can be seen on our website: stubbleandco.com
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