By Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor & Publisher
Be Inkandescent Magazine
After spending 25 years working as an educator and marketing executive, Robin McDougal married her understanding of education with her flair for fashion in 2001 when she founded e-GLAM, a company that manufactures fashionable business products and sells them to the wholesale market. Her mantra: “Pursue your dreams in style.”
That philosophy put her in the company of Marie Osmond in 2008 when the pop icon hosted the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women — Untold Stories of the Heart campaign.
“Participating in Go Red For Women provided me with an opportunity to combine my passion for education, women’s health, and fashion, with my desire to give back through e-GLAM,” says Robin. “It was an incredible opportunity to share my laptop handbags with the world.”
An invention born of necessity
It is Robin’s long-term goal for e-GLAM to help level the playing field for people who have the desire to pursue their dreams. “And it never hurts to carry that technology around in a sophisticated, practical laptop bag that tells the world that you are successful, savvy, and ready to do business,” she notes.
A road warrior who worked as a marketing executive at Trans World Airlines and the Marriott Corporation in the 1980s and ’90s, Robin says she knows the frustration of having to carry around a laptop as you travel around the country.
But when she conducted space flight simulations and developed a critical thinking and problem solving curriculum for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education from 1995 and 2000, she knew she had to find an easier, more stylist way to lug around her traveling office.
“I spent countless hours in airports and hotels during my visits to corporations, educational institutions, and museums throughout the United States and abroad,” she explains. “Wireless technology was my lifeline to my office and our clients, so I never went anywhere without my laptop. The problem was that those typical black, nylon laptop bags just didn’t reflect my passion, professionalism, or purpose. I looked around for months for a better bag, but mostly found small modifications on the old, dull theme. I wanted a bag that was chic, unique, kept me incredibly organized, and showed the world that I was a savvy businesswoman. What I wanted was innovation.”
That’s when Robin took matters into her own hands.
“My goal is to create functional, beautiful organizational tools that help empower business people as they move through their busy days,” explains the fashionista, who recently sat down for coffee with Be Inkandescent Magazine to talk about her accomplishments, challenges, and goals for the future as she embarks on her 10th year in business.
Be Inkandescent: How did you come up with the design for your bags?
Robin McDougal: The very first bag was the Amber Collection, which we designed to help business travelers get über-organized.
Be Inkandescent: You called it amber, like the fossilized resin?
Robin McDougal: Exactly. I have always loved amber because it is not only a beautiful gemstone, it is full of evolutionary secrets. Millions of years ago, bugs and tiny animals were trapped by the sticky resin as it flowed down from trees as sap. Those ancient creatures are still inside, which I think is really special. Plus, I like the fact that amber’s golden color has long attracted the fashionistas among us. Archeologists tell us that it was one of the first materials prehistoric humans used for ornamentation. Needless to say, amber is complex, gorgeous, and mysterious — and that’s what makes it the perfect metaphor for e-GLAM.
Be Inkandescent: Being organized is definitely the key to success in business. When I go to see a client, I do not want to be fumbling in my bag hunting for a pen or business card.
Robin McDougal: Then you’d be the perfect e-GLAM customer, because inside the Amber bag is the “amber chamber,” which includes 27 easy-to-access compartments. There is a space for a lipstick and hair comb, another for business cards, one for brochures, a place for files — and, of course, the compartment for the laptop.
Be Inkandescent: Is it true that the bags also have a way to make it easy to pull out your laptop when you pass through airport security?
Robin McDougal: That’s right. Airport security can be a bane for business travelers, so we designed a top-loading case in the bags to ensure easy access during security checks. The bags also have a protective “cloaking” device in the laptop compartment that lowers exposure to theft while in public places.
Of course, fashion is the focus, so besides being incredibly practical, the bags look fabulous and come in a variety of colors, including Very Red, Banana Cream, Perfect Plum, Black, and Ginger Brown. We also have a two-tone Latte with Coco Brown trim, and a two-tone Cream with Coffee trim.
Be Inkandescent: Are your bags only for women?
Robin McDougal: We also have a line of bags for men, called the Tribeca Collection. The laptop carrying-case in this collection was designed to cater to the needs of technology enthusiasts. It is rugged and lightweight, and of course it allows men to be incredibly organized and fashionable, with more than two dozen hidden pockets and compartments.
We also manufacture a third, highly functional selection, called the Kanji laptop bag (below). It has 27 pockets, padding for your computer, and features an ergonomic handle. It’s very practical, which is important to a lot of business travelers. But, like all of our products, it is quite stylish.
Be Inkandescent: What does the next decade look like for e-GLAM?
Robin McDougal: In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out “green” products, including bags made of recycled soda bottles. And, after 10 years of working exclusively as a wholesaler, we have decided to sell directly to the public beginning in the spring. It is going to be an exciting year.
Be Inkandescent: As an educator, you have a strong desire to teach, share information, and give back to the community. Tell us about your philanthropic initiatives.
Robin McDougal: I love the idea of empowering business leaders — women, in particular — in every way possible. While the laptop bags help them look as chic as they feel, we recently started organized networking opportunities for women.
Last year, e-GLAM hosted the Smart and Beautiful Self-Empowerment Conference in Northern Virginia, which was a marathon of high-octane networking and information-swapping among some of DC’s most savvy and powerful women business leaders.
This year we are focusing even more on my passion for education. We founded Educators 2.0, a nonprofit organization that will foster interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for youths around the country. We received funding from the National Girls Collaborative Project, and are partnering with the American Association of University Women, National Geographic’s JASON Project, and the Phenomenal Women’s Alliance to help more students develop the 21st century skills they’ll need to be successful in the future.
I’m very excited about all of these initiatives, and I do think that 2011 will be an incredible breakout year for e-GLAM.
Be on the lookout for more from Robin in Be Inkandescent Magazine. Since developing leadership skills in youths and colleagues is critical to Robin, in the coming months she’ll be interviewing leaders from a variety of industries who will share with her their words of wisdom and secrets to success. Stay tuned: www.beinkandescent.com.