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From dance competitions to pageants, 'Dream Duffel' eases travel stress

A dance mom turned business owner is helping parents and their kids have a less stressful experience while traveling for competitions.

PLYMOUTH, Minnesota — From dance competitions to pageants, it can be challenging trying to pack up all those costumes and accessories. 

A Plymouth-based company is easing that stress for parents and their kids with an all-in-one travel system. 

"It's surreal, honestly. It really is," said Barb Johnson, about her business Dream Duffel. 

Before Johnson was a business owner, she was a dance mom hauling her daughter's costumes to competitions. 

"I was trying to figure out how I was going to get all of her stuff into this venue and then get her all made up and pretty for her dance competition. Well when I walked in, there was a sea of people in blankets on the floor in a gym and I said, 'Oh my goodness, I can't do this,'" Johnson recalled. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Barb Johnson, owner of Dream Duffel.

Johnson, who has a mechanical drafting degree, designed a duffel that could serve as a home base for her daughter during competitions. It includes a built-in hanging rack, an insulated snack pocket and a folding stool pocket. 

"Everything's made to fit perfectly in our duffel," Johnson said. "I designed a bag... that a 7-year-old could do by herself." 

Dream Duffel officially launched in 2008. 

"We had orders on the website within hours of launching the website and it took off from there," Johnson said.

While the company specializes in rolling duffel bags for competitive dancers, ice skaters, cheerleaders and pageantry contestants, Johnson said she uses hers for traveling. Johnson said the carry-on is great for quick trips. 

Johnson is passionate about solving problems, coming up with better designs for everything from cosmetic cases to garment bags. 

Several family members work with Johnson, including her daughter Elyssa Danahy who does the company's marketing and social media. 

"It's been totally surreal. I don't think that when we started out any of us expected to be where we are now," Danahy said. 

Dream Duffel works with a manufacturer in China and sells its products worldwide. They all get shipped to their Plymouth office and inspected there before going out to customers. 

"To take that risk, it's a really hard risk to take. it's kind of scary," Johnson said. "Career-wise, it has been the most amazing experience I've ever had."

Their bestseller, the medium Dream Duffel, can hold up to nine costumes and retails for $260. You can check out their products on their website or by visiting their store in Plymouth at 13800 24th Avenue N.