Sherpani matches style with sustainability

BOULDER — Coloradans love the outdoors.  We hike in it, run in it, ski in it, and longingly look out the window at work dreaming about the next time we can soak it in again.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Coloradans aren’t alone in this love affair.  Outdoor pursuits in the U.S. rely on an industry that contributes more to the national GDP than mining, oil and gas.  Keeping up with the needs and desires of those outdoor enthusiasts keeps businesses focused on providing gear and opportunities that range from sports and leisure activities to travel and accessories.

Locally, Sherpani LLC does its part by designing, creating and selling handbags and backpacks that appeal to  women looking for products that are ethically and organically made.  The bags have a look that goes well on both trail hikes and in conference rooms.

Maria and Ed Ruzic started Sherpani  in 2002 to fill a void in the availability of outdoor lifestyle bags that catch the eye of women, according to Alexa Osbourn, brand marketing manager.  “There was very little for women in the outdoor industry other than a small pink option.”

The Ruzic’s brought their product and retail experience as dive shop owners in Key West to the new company.  With their outdoor industry business sense and Maria’s background doing design work for Speedo, the couple was well-equipped to come up with appealing designs as well as a business model that would work.

In addition to creating designs that visually go beyond the practical norm, Sherpani bags specialize in RFID anti-theft protected travel bags, luggage, crossbodys, backpacks and totes made with recycled and sustainable choices.  Bags start at $30.

“Ed and Maria went on a kayaking and snorkeling family vacation in 2009,” Osbourn said.  They were shocked at how much trash there was on the ocean floor and started filling a kayak with the garbage — finding a dozen water bottles and aluminum cans in the first 10 minutes of their clean-up effort.  “They saw so much plastic in the ocean and they wanted to clean it up and find a way to reduce it.”

The Ruzic’s way of addressing the problem with a next step was to create bags and backpacks that were made with recycled water bottles.  In 2010 they launched the collection, which was made entirely of fabrics recycled from plastic water bottles.  Since then, Sherpani has repurposed an estimated 3.2 million water bottles that would have polluted the environment.  The line — Essentials — currently includes 15 products.

Sherpani uses REPREVE, a branded recycled performance fiber made from recycled materials.  The recycled content is certified by an outside party.  The company has received an All-In award for integrating REPREVE extensively into its product line.

Another line — Sherpani’s American Ethos Collection — includes 15 bags and features textiles that are hand-painted and hand-glazed in a similar fashion as what artisans did centuries ago, according to Osbourn

With a brick and mortar store on Pearl Street and a presence online, Sherpani’s sales reflect a growing market share, according to Osbourn.  In 2018, Sherpani saw a 25 percent increase in sales over 2017, and sales are tracking to exceed that amount for 2019

Opening its doors in 2002, Sherpani moved from Arapahoe Avenue and 55th Street to its current spot on Pearl Street in 2015.  The retail store takes up about 300 square feet, and the remainder of the shop provides storage. Products are designed onsite and manufactured in Indonesia. 

Boulder is the sole Sherpani brand store.  “We have a strong customer base and loyal following at the store but our online presence has a larger reach,” Osbourn said.  Products are also sold through wholesalers like REI, Cabela’s, Nordstrom.com, Bass Pro Shops and The Container Store

“Like every other brand in retail and digital e-commerce, we promote ourselves on digital platforms like Facebook ads and Google ads,” she said.  “Digital marketing is the way of the future to be able to acquire and reach customers and to expand brands and reach.”

BOULDER — Coloradans love the outdoors.  We hike in it, run in it, ski in it, and longingly look out the window at work dreaming about the next time we can soak it in again.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Coloradans aren’t alone in this love affair.  Outdoor pursuits in the U.S. rely on an industry that contributes more to the national GDP than mining, oil and gas.  Keeping up with the needs and desires of those outdoor enthusiasts keeps businesses focused on providing gear and opportunities that range from sports and leisure activities to travel and accessories.

Locally, Sherpani LLC does its part by designing, creating and selling handbags and backpacks that appeal to  women looking for products that are ethically and organically made.  The bags have a look that goes well on both trail hikes and in conference rooms.

Maria and Ed Ruzic started Sherpani  in 2002 to fill a void in the availability of outdoor lifestyle bags that catch the eye of women, according to Alexa Osbourn, brand marketing manager.  “There was very little for women in the outdoor industry other than a small pink option.”

The Ruzic’s brought their product and retail experience as dive shop owners in Key West to the new company.  With their outdoor industry business sense and Maria’s background doing design work for Speedo, the couple was well-equipped to come up with…