Prior to the pandemic, South End resident Aurelie Steere was heavily focused on creating environmentally-friendly reusable bags with her company Cabagg, but has since switched gears to creating comfortable masks instead to meet the growing demand.
Cabagg was founded by Steere more than two years ago “in response to the lack of reusable bags in the market,” she said. She said she hadn’t found a bag that was easy to carry, held a lot of items, and was fashionable, so she set out to create one herself. Originally from France, Steere named the company Cabagg, which she said means “shopping bag” in French.
With a mission to help support local businesses and organizations, the South End-based company has a philanthropic aspect that she saivd she hopes to continue to expand. The reusable bags are made in conjunction with K. Sew and the Center of Hope in Southbridge, MA, to support adults with disabilities.
“It was a good time for Cabagg to join that global movement and help in some way mitigate the impact of single use bags and plastic bags,” she said of founding the company.
“When the ordinance from the governor came in where nobody would be bringing their reusable bags, I shifted quickly to making masks,” she said, adding that they “complemented the current line of reusable bags in response to community needs.”
The design of the bags was done in France by Steere’s friend who designs wedding dresses. The bags can carry ip to 25 pounds, and have thick straps that won’t fall off people’s shoulders while carrying.
For the masks, Steered decided she would use the CDC’s guidelines for creating homemade face cloths. She said that “we wanted it to be thick in terms of protection,” so the masks have four layers of cotton fabric, which provide both strength and softness, and is environmentally friendly.
Steere creates all of the masks at her South End home, and said that she uses social media and websites like Nextdoor to find out who needs a mask in the local communities.
Cabagg was also one of 13 finalists in the Massachusetts COVID-19 Intrapreneur Challenge, where Steere participated in a 5 week virtual program that focused on helping businesses change their manufacturing practices to be able to produce face masks.
“I got to ply with the big guys, I would say, and learn a little bit from them,” she said of the program.”
Steere said that most recently, Cabagg’s model to give back has allowed about 20 percent of net proceeds to be donated to organizations like Community Servings.
“I don’t know how long we will be wearing masks; for a while,” Steere said. “I didn’t plan on this being the core of Cabagg’s business.” She said that people have been asking for a “matching ensemble of bags and masks.”
She said creating all the masks by herself has been “a tremendous amount of work,” but “our customers pay about a $15 premium for consistency of premium products. She said that’s what she believes set’s Cabagg’s masks apart from the sea of other choices on the market now.
“I’m also supporting the community at a time when we all need to support each other,” she added. She said that while masks from places like Gap or Under Armour are a “fraction of the cost,” but don’t have “the aspect of transparency” that Cabagg does.
“It’s just to answer the need and supporting other community needs,” she said.”I’d love to be in a position where I can build partnerships with different organizations such as the Animal Rescue League and the MSPCA,” she said, and “have the customer really choose where they would want their donation [to go]. That would be a great next step for us and we grow philanthropic goals at the same time.”
She said she is “excited” at the addition of masks to Cabagg’s product lineup. “Hopefully this will help us get a little more on the road map of local businesses that are trying to support each other,” she said. “It’s been a great adventure; I’m super excited to see what comes next.”