Matilda Sandstroem Adventurist Backpack Co.
Matilda Sandstroem, co-founder of Adventurist Backpack Co. (Credit: Courtesy of Adventurist Backpack Co.)

In 2017, Matilda Sandstroem and her husband began shopping for backpacks to take on their travels, but couldn’t find what they were looking for: something both high-quality and affordable. They decided to start their own line – and ended up building Adventurist Backpack Co., a company making minimalist backpacks from water-resistant materials intended to hold up on any adventure. After finding success, the Denver, Colorado entrepreneur partnered up with Feeding America – today, for every backpack sold, 25 meals are provided to families in need across the United States.  

Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.

Tell us more about why you started your business.

After searching for ourselves, we quickly realized that there was a gap in the marketplace when it came to high-quality, fashionable and affordable backpacks and bags. So, we set out to craft the world’s greatest backpacks – well-made with minimalist designs, and for less than $100.

How is your business different from others in your industry? 

We have not only created a great product, but also, a business that in some way makes the world a better place. We decided from the start to integrate giving back into our business model – we’ve partnered with Feeding America to donate 25 meals to families in need for every backpack sold.

Tell us about your biggest success so far. 

We’ve been fortunate enough to be featured in publications such as Forbes, Outside Magazine and Teen Vogue. We have also had the chance to work with companies such as Google, HBO Max and SketchUp to provide backpacks for large corporate events.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

When we started, we didn’t have any prior experience or knowledge about the industry. So we’ve had to learn everything along the way. Early on, we turned to books to get guidance and tips on how to start and run a business. In later years, we’ve been able to learn from connections we’ve made with fellow business owners.

Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?

The first couple of years in business, we very much focused on marketing our products as the perfect choice for traveling. When the pandemic hit in 2020 – and all travel came to a halt – we quickly had to rethink that strategy. Outdoors adventures and travels had always been a part of the lifestyle we had built around our brand, so we decided to lean into this approach even more. Because of this, we were able to make it through the pandemic and increase our sales from previous years.

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs? 

The first and most important tip that I can give is to just get started! Taking that first step to actually start can almost be the hardest part – but once you’ve done it, you can learn everything else you need along the way. There will never be a perfect time where everything aligns perfectly, so you might as well get started right away!

How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

I find tons of inspiration in other businesses. Through social media and online, it’s easy to find brands that inspire you. Whenever I find myself in a creative rut, I look to my favorite brands and see what they’re doing. Often, this gives me enough inspiration and ideas to be excited to get back to work pretty quickly.

What is your go to song to get motivated on tough days? 

“I’ve Just Seen a Face” by the Beatles always seems to put me in a good mood, as well as anything by the Strokes. If I need to focus, I prefer classical music.

Who is your most important role model?

Melinda Gates has long been a role model to me because of the incredible work she does with her foundation.◼

Instagram: @Adventuristbackpacks
Facebook: @Adventuristbackpacks

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