BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - The next time you order a bag or clothing on Amazon, the designer on the label might be closer than you think. She's not in New York, not in Los Angeles, but Bloomington.
Kristin Rae wears many hats-- mom, designer, and entrepreneur. A travel mishap that many of us have encountered inspired her to design a brand of luggage and the inspiration didn't stop there.
"I had a shampoo explosion happen in my luggage." Rae says.
One ruined suitcase-full of clothes later, like so many of us, Rae found herself saying 'there has to be a better way.'
"I looked for a product that would prevent that from happening again, I didn't find it, so I created a prototype that I carried for myself for just about a year." Rae explains.
Using her design degree from Illinois State University, the Tiskilwa, Illinois native found a way to pursue her fashion dreams here in central Illinois, creating 'The Traveler', a bag with both form and function.
"You can take that liner out, wash it, you know, put it back in the bag and you're ready to go." Rae says.
Problem turned into product, Rae's design was picked up by the Amazon Marketplace, where she has since sold thousands of her bags to customers all over the world, all from the basement office of her Bloomington home.
"If you think about Amazon and you go into a listing and you see it's fulfilled by 'Inspire International', you're buying from a small business in Illinois, which is really cool. It gives you a national presence and you can still be local." Rae says.
Using the same mantra of finding solutions for everyday problems, inspiration struck again fro the busy mom when she was pregnant with her last daughter.
"I was kind of sick all the time so I wanted to go out and get my mail at 3:00 PM and look fancy so I kind of came up with a nightwear gown that was elegant and chic versus my baggy sweatpants and hoodie." Rae says.
The 'Runway Robe' allows moms to feel like they've stepped off the runway, without ever leaving her pajamas.
"Something sparked and made me want to turn it into a business. At this point, you know, I can't imagine doing it any other way." Rae explains.
As it turns out, it's her business venture that allows her to focus on her favorite job of all, mom.
"I can stay home part-time with my kids, you know, spend more time with my family, have a flexible schedule and that all means a lot to me." Rae says.
So the next time you hit that check-out button, you just might be supporting this local inspiration.
Kristin's items go for about $30-$50. She's has a new line of bags and luggage launching soon on Kickstarter.
She now consults other local brick-and-mortar businesses to help them achieve a national presence on Amazon, including Beer Nuts.
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