A&O Company Feature: Curtis Williams, North St Bags

Since 2009, North St Bags has been designing, manufacturing and selling high quality bicycle panniers and bangs with USA made materials out of their SE Portland headquarters and showroom.

As described on their website, North St Bags prefers to take the scenic route and following their own path. They live this philosophy through their material sourcing, product designs and functionality, manufacturing, and even through a recent Outdoor Retailer research project. North St Bags’ owner and designer, Curtis Williams, recently attended this year’s Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City following his own path, as an observer.

He used his time at OR to meet with buyers, but he also researched how North St might benefit from participating this leading B2B outdoor tradeshow beyond wholesale opportunities. We caught up with him to a behind-the-scenes look at his unique manufacturing/showroom, learn about his experience at OR and how it might impact other Portland A&O companies thinking about attending next year…

Tell us a little bit about why you are going to Outdoor Retailer this year:
​This was my first time attending Outdoor Retailer. I was excited to go to see if North St would benefit from a booth there, and what section would be a good fit. I didn’t have a booth, so I was able to wander around and explore the show freely.

What did you do to get ready for this exhibition?

It was a great opportunity to connect with press, buyers and even some suppliers of ours.  I spent a lot of time reaching out to set up meetings, making sure to make the best use of the time as I could.

I had a sample kit with me and was eager to show as many people as would listen to me. I even brought a prototype or two for product testing and to collect feedback.

What about OR did you find the most inspiring/interesting?
It was exciting to me to imagine a North St booth at the show. I started the company in my basement, and had no idea at the time that I’d be considering a trade show like OR.​

It’s a big show with a lot of big names, and it was cool to think of North St at that level. ​

What was your biggest take away/lesson from going to OR this year?
I’d definitely like to come back with a booth. There are a lot of opportunities there, and not just in wholesale. I met with a lot of editors and influencers, and think that launching a new product line at OR would be a great way to get our message and brand out there.​

What advice would you give to a fellow Portland A&O company interested in attending next year?
I’d recommend​ spending some time on the OR site and getting to know the layout and which vendors you want to see.