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Entrepreneur Creates Accessory That Allows Men and Women to Ditch the Bag, Fanny Pack

Accessories are apart of our every day life, so simplicity and efficiency is key. I was thrilled to interview entrepreneur, Tina Hobbs, the creator of Side Pocket, as she chatted about her fashion venture.

Check out the interview below:

The Empress Dee: Can tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do?

Tina Hobbs: Sure, my name is Tina Hobbs and I am the owner of the Side Pocket accessory. This has just recently made me an inventor but in my everyday life, I am an independent casting director and film producer in Ohio.

The Empress Dee: Oh wow! Can you tell us more about that?

Tina Hobbs: Sure!So, I focus on independent film. We have a growing industry in Ohio and generally I either cast for a project or I do both, cast and produce; mainly feature films, web series…you name it, commercials. My production team just completed our latest feature film and it is called, “A State of Mind,” and it just premiered a couple of weeks ago. We are so excited about that.

The Empress Dee: Oh my goodness, that is amazing! It sounds like it was a lot of work.

Tina Hobbs: It is, you do not realize it while you are doing it, but it is so rewarding and when you are done, you are like…wow, I just made a movie. It is a lot of work and during the whole process I am pulling my hair out but once it is all over it is forgotten…kind of like having a baby, you forget how much pain there was and you’re like…ok I’ll have another one (she laughs).

The Empress Dee: What inspired you to create the Side Pocket?

Tina Hobbs: I have a son…I have 3 children but my middle son who is 24 years old now, I used to tell him all the time that if his head was not attached to his body (@The_EmpressDee laughs in the background), he would lose it. Because he would lose his wallet all the time. So, it started from that and he is actually my silent partner. It is a bag where you can keep all of your valuables, the things that you would normally stuff into your pockets or in your wallet; your keys, headphones, chargers…money and your credit cards.

 It has a very cool shape and design (@the_empressdee confirms that she has seen the design), which is really fun and it also has a feature that I think is very specific to the Side Pocket because it has a banana clip that you can clip to your belt loop. It also has our signature clamp, so if you are wearing pants without a belt loop or if you ladies want to attach it to your purse or maybe if you have a book bag, the clamp makes it possible for you to take it with you wherever and not lose it (she says as she laughs).

The Empress Dee: That is awesome. Tell us, what the difference is between the Fanny Pack and the Side Pocket…what makes it stand a part, what makes it better?

Tina Hobbs: The Side Pocket is for men and women. Men can feel comfortable using them…in fact some of my first customers were men and it was made for men. But of course all my ladies wanted one too (laughter) and that is how it became available for both men and women. I also think that Fanny Packs may not be able to be used by everyone. The Side Pocket is designed to be used by everyone, regardless of your shape or size.

The Empress Dee: I also thought that it was more fashionable as well. Because like you mentioned, guys are not about to wear a Fanny Pack (laughter), not very men would do that.

Tina Hobbs: They are not going to do the Man Bag either, but they will have these huge wallets in their pocket and then when they sit down, it can easily fall out (under the seat of a car or a couch cushion), and that is what would happen to my son all the time. With this it clamps on and even if you forget about it, it is still with you the entire day.

The Empress Dee: Are you finding it to be more popular amongst men or women?

Tina Hobbs: I think that men use it more because it fills a need for men. Women, we need to learn how to go bagless, that is one of those things that from the time that we were little girls, we needed to have a purse (@the_empressdee agrees). I think that millennials are starting to the value of not needing to carry around these big purses. It has become popular with millennial females, but I think that the men are getting the most use out of it.

The Empress Dee: I agree, and I think that even with me being a millennial like you mentioned, I do not like the big bags, and I do try to keep a little purse and I was always thinking where can I get a little bag and so I thought that it was perfect when I saw it. It is an amazing creation and I love it. So, who would say were some of the motivators for your creativity?

Tina Hobbs: I would definitely have to say my children. I have 3 very creative children. My oldest daughter lives in California and she is an actress by day and my youngest daughter is a student at Kent State and she too is very talented. They have a HBCU style dance team and she is their captain. My son who is in the middle is my brain storming partner and he is who the design for the Side Pocket was for initially.

The Empress Dee: So all of your children are grown?

Tina Hobbs: Yes all of my children are adults. My youngest, just literally signed her first lease, she is in her third year of college and so she lives about an hour away. But this is the first year where I feel like an “empty nester” before that the kids were back and forth quite a bit and now they are more independent and my youngest daughter was probably the last one that was hanging on and now she has her lease and I do not see her as much. They are my babies, but they have flown the coop.

The Empress Dee: I hear you and now it is time for you to kind of kick back and do your thing, I get it.  (Tina mentions that she has been doing that and that her children are used to it) (laughter). So, with the Side Pocket, did you know that it was going to be so successful and spark the interest of so many people?

Tina Hobbs: I did not. I thought of it as a need that had to be filled and if I had that void…and I have male friends, even did a focus group in order to determine what some of their main issues were and to see if they would even be interested in wearing something like it and if it will hold all of their stuff. Because another thing that men like to do is that they have this wallet with all this stuff in it and then they will stuff their pockets (@the_empressdee agrees FACTS!). So, I was like we can pull all of that stuff out of your pockets and put everything into this (like you said) put in into this cute little fashionable trendy bag and you will not have those issues anymore. So, I guess what happened was and kind of like I thought, there were more people out there who had that same void, and this takes care of that void. I am happy that it is becoming so popular and people are taking to it and I get emails, our IG gets hits all the time, with comments about how people are feeling about the Side Pocket and how well made it is. That was important to me as well, the quality…I wanted to ensure that it was well made, that it could hold up and stand the test of time.

The Empress Dee: From what I have seen on IG, I have seen the Side Pocket in black, do you offer it in any other colors?

Tina Hobbs: Yes! We have red (scarlet is what we call it), we also have a clear one and the reason that one came about was because before Covid-19, when you went to events or concerts, you were not able to bring your purses in and you would have to carry them in a plastic bag, so it was offered as an alternative. You can still be cute or fashionable or whatever and still have everything that you need.

The Empress Dee: That is very convenient. I really appreciate you for thinking of that idea because like you said, with millennials, these are issues that we have (Tina can be heard laughing in the background) so smart of you to come up with this and I love it. (Tina states that she is happy that @the_empressdee likes it). So what are some of the things that you keep in mind when you are developing new products?

Tina Hobbs: I try to see where the void is. The clamp on the Side Pocket is very unique and it is very different and that is something that I have in the works that is being developed for other products. Something that you can keep easily without having to have a lot of bulk and that is what my product line is focusing on…getting rid of the bulk, helping to get rid of the things that you do not need allowing you live a simpler, freer life. That is the goal and it should be everyone’s goal to live a simpler…freer life.

The Empress Dee: Absolutely! So are there any other accessories that you currently have in development that we should be on the lookout for?

Tina Hobbs: I do not have any that I can talk about at the moment but my focus has been on the Side Pocket because it is fairly new, it just came out this year so I really want to make sure to focus on that but definitely stay tuned for more.

The Empress Dee: I hope so because I can see you coming out with some stuff. Like I mentioned before I believe that it was such a great idea and I do not think that a lot people think of things like that, yes you do have the Fanny Packs and things like that and people will already assume well there is a product out like that but there are issues that you are taking into consideration that have not been addressed by anyone else. So, I can definitely see you coming out with some more great ideas. What is your ultimate vision for your brand in terms of what you see for this company?

Tina Hobbs:In addition to other products, the Side Pocket specifically, I think of it as a fashion statement so it reminds me of Nike, we have the black, clear and the red but one day I would love to just drop a plaid…you know? A different color, a different shape, something like that…where it can become a collector’s item. So, I can see having a Side Pocket with every outfit being the next thing. We just rolled out the red and the clear but be on the lookout for more colors and designs.

The Empress Dee: What were some words of advice that you were given about becoming a new entrepreneur?

Tina Hobbs: You know one thing that we do not do…everyone has ideas or they will see a void somewhere and will have an idea for a product and will think, oh my gosh, we really need XY and Z, but we do not typically act on that and then when you see something similar come out a few years later, you’re like, I had that idea. So my advice would be to just act on it and get the ball rolling, ask questions, there is definitely a lot of help out here to develop projects and products and things of that nature. But just start working on it and become familiar with copyright laws, how to patent…you know because that is your idea, do not allow someone else to develop it.

The Empress Dee: A lot of time I have encountered people who want to become entrepreneurs, but they are not really savvy in terms of the documentation to maintain that brand, so what advice would you give to them?

Tina Hobbs: Yeah and that is definitely not for everyone, you have your creative people and you have your businesspeople. I am more of a businessperson than a creative person. For me it works because my son is creative and then I have the business mind. I was able to figure out how to navigate the patent and the copyright and all of that and starting the business part, whereas he was very helpful in terms of what it should look like, the quality, the branding and so forth. So, ideally, it is nice to have someone that you work well with who is strong in certain areas that you may not be but at the end of the day, you have to do your research or hire someone to do the research if you do not want to do it but you definitely have to figure out how to get that business part included in your brand.

The Empress Dee: You talk a lot about your son helping out with the design, did you guys actually draw it yourself and come up with the design or you knew that there were certain things that you wanted and you gave it to somebody else to come up with the design?

Tina Hobbs: We created the design. We partnered up with some manufactures and let them know that this was the design that we wanted. We came up with the design first. If you notice in the Side Pocket, there are little files or slots for your credit cards…we thought about that. We came up with the design, worked with manufactures and it was completely made here in Ohio. So it is an American made brand and we keep the product in stock, so we do not have to worry about it coming from China or some other place. So when you buy a Side Product you are purchasing from a Black owned business made in America.

The Empress Dee: I love it, I absolutely love it! So, how many hours would you say were put in to developing this product?

Tina Hobbs: To develop it, well that took a while. It took a while for that just because there are so many processes that you have to go through I have so many versions and I kept them (of the Side Pocket), you know of how many iterations we went through until we found the right manufacturer and we found the right one. So it is interesting, and it took a while because we would come up with an idea and we would send it out to a couple of different manufactures and then they would send it back and we would see it and think, well maybe it needs to be a little smaller or some other detail about it that we would notice and we went back and forth like that probably for months until we finally came up with the final product. Even coming up with the name was a process and again that took some time but when my son and I heard Side Pocket, we looked at each other and thought, that’s it!

The Empress Dee: Do you feel that it is better to go through the process of re-branding until you are finally able to come up with what you want or do you think that sometimes it is better to put the product out and see what type of feedback you get so that you can revamp it, which process is your preference?

Tina Hobbs: I would have to say probably a little bit of both. I wanted to put out a product though that was pretty much complete. So, I wanted to out a product that…like I mentioned earlier, I did a focus group (asking about their preferences), keeping in mind that everyone has an opinion so everyone is not going to love, love the product but as long as I love the product and my son loved the product, we knew that there is an audience out there that would love the product and that is our target, that is our base. For us, we wanted to make sure that we were happy because if we were happy with it then we knew that there were people out there who would be happy with it too. But that is not to say that we would not make some adjustments. The clear option was actually a recommendation from one of our customers who was like oh wow, she works in a place where they can only wear the clear Fanny Packs and she was like I wish that you had a clear one available. So I was thinking about the people who not only was it a requirement for them to have that but for those times when you are attending sporting events, you know how it is, you get there and then you have had to take your purse all the way back to the car. We are always evolving and developing, and we are not afraid to do that.

The Empress Dee: I hear that, and I understand. So, speaking on the family dynamic because I know that there are a lot of times when families come up with great ideas together and they want to collaborate, what would you say are some of the benefits and some of the challenges of working with family members?

Tina Hobbs:My son and I are a lot alike, so it was really easy for us to collaborate and in addition to that, I am the boss (she laughs) so I have the final say. But I am very open to what he has to say. But I think that if I was working with anyone else in my family it would have been a little more challenging because you have different ideas, different ways that you would like to go with the product, whose product is it, how do we navigate all of that, plus the opinions can stop a company from growing. So, I think that would probably be the biggest hurdle while working with family members. I am fortunate to have a very supportive family. They were first in line to get their Side Pockets and they are wearing them, posting them on social media and sharing as much as they possibly can. But if you have a great relationship with your family and like my son and I, we have similar goals, I think that it is an awesome way to get a business started.

The Empress Dee: Do you feel like even with the business that you play more of a mom role or are you able to look at it as strictly business when you are discussing business?

Tina Hobbs: When we are discussing business, I try really hard to make sure that it is about business (laughter), but I am definitely a mom all day long and he knows. He comes in with his long hair (he has dreads) and I will be like when are you going to get those re-twisted (laughter) you know stuff like that. So, I am definitely a mom, but he is a great partner to have and he has an easy-going personality and in general, I have never really had any issues with him.

The Empress Dee: Well you know that you have picked the right business partner and as long as everything is running smoothly, that is all that matters. What advice would you give at this time to entrepreneurs during this pandemic with all of these restrictions that you have learned about during this time?

Tina Hobbs: I think that this is…even though you are hearing that 2020 is the worst year ever, I think that it is also a good year because it forced us as a country, as a world to sit back and think about things and to reflect. I think that every period opens up new opportunities. For me, of course filming stopped quite a bit and I had more time at home to focus on things…what do I want to do, set some new goals, figure out where there is a need. There are plenty of needs now with Covid-19 and I have seen businesses now where they have masks. But it gives us that opportunity to sit down somewhere and take a breath to think about what it is that you want to do, set some goals and to start implementing those goals.

The Empress Dee: Absolutely. Well thank you so much, I appreciate you for taking some time out of your day to do this interview. I wish you the best of luck on your business ventures and I hope that we can be in touch and catch up when you get some more products developed.

Tina Hobbs: I will certainly reach out. I appreciate the support everyone has been so supportive, and I am looking forward to a long career.

The Empress Dee: You are so welcome, and we will be in touch, have a beautiful day!

ABOUT AUTHOR

  • Destinee Porter

    Destinee (The Empress Dee) Porter is a Restorative Justice Facilitator for Sexton High School in Lansing, MI. She is also the CEO of Empress Training Inc. which, educates young African American women about their African Lineage promoting self-love, divine femininity, and the expression of knowledge and grace. In the near future she aspires to become a Life Coach and Therapist for young men and women of color.

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