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North Mpls. girl inspires family to start 'Bags Well Packed' business

A north Minneapolis family's back-to-school business is just getting off the ground.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Inside the Burnett home in north Minneapolis, you'll find more backpacks than one family would ever need.

"We're doing something to help other people and we're doing something to start a business for our family," James Burnett said.

The family's startup, Bags Well Packed Plus More, was inspired by the family's 9-year-old daughter Tashi Burnett.

"Ultimately the idea came from Tashi, our lovely daughter. As parents, dropping the ball on school supplies and her bugging us to get school supplies and backpacks and time is always a factor," said James, Tashi's dad.

When Tashi brought up the idea of buying backpacks in early July, James went along with it and ordered 350 backpacks from online distributors.

"She has an entrepreneurial spirit. We try to instill that in her. So once she expressed interest in starting something to be a part of, I totally wanted to support her," he said.

Tashi Burnett shows off some of the backpacks meant for middle school and high school students. (Photo: Heidi Wigdahl)

"I was really happy and I just wanted to start packing and getting the backpacks ready right away," said Tashi, a fourth grader at Emerson Spanish Immersion in Minneapolis.

They bought backpacks for elementary, middle and high school students. Inside the elementary backpacks they've packed school supplies including notebooks, folders, pencils, pencil sharpener, a pencil pouch, glue sticks, scissors and crayons. Their goal is to eventually include supplies in the middle school and high school backpacks.

Tashi's mom, Gwynder Burnett, also mentioned how parents will sometimes wait until the last minute to try and find supplies, saying, "How do we help families to ease the stress of having to go out and do this? We'll do it for them."

They call themselves the Bagwell family. Earlier this summer they got their permit and in August they started selling the backpacks at the Farmer's Market Annex in Minneapolis.

There are two ways customers support the business: Buying a backpack for their kid or buying a backpack to donate to a child in need.

"It's a small family business. So we're not a nonprofit," Gwynder said.

However, nearly every customer has decided to buy a backpack to donate; they have the option to pick the school it goes to. So far, the family has hand-delivered 70 backpacks to six Minneapolis Public Schools—all donated thanks to customers.

Bags Well Packed dropped off multiple backpacks to Bryn Mawr Elementary School in Minneapolis in the end of August. (Photo: Burnett family)

"We're both educators. My wife is a teacher in middle school and I'm a professional in higher education," James said.

Tashi recalled seeing some of her friends without the supplies they need, saying, "Some of my friends in my class don't have like crayons and other stuff like that... one of my friends had one folder and notebook, that's it."

So far they've sold about 150 backpacks and they still need to sell 200 more.

"I'm excited to see her in this space. I'm excited to see her doing something she's passionate about doing," Gwynder said.

James said they hope to do something similar in the winter, possibly selling coats. They have a GoFundMe page to help them expand their startup.

You can find them at the Farmer's Market Annex in Minneapolis every weekend through October. You can also check out what they're up to through their Facebook page.

Elementary school backpacks pre-filled with supplies - $18 with tax

Middle school backpacks - $21 with tax

High school backpacks - $25 with tax