Inventor Jamie Bowerman sews on an ancient machine facing Barnard Street. His bag design office, also his house, looks out over a bicycle corridor near Forsyth Park.
SCAD students whiz by. Bowerman, 35, used to be one of those kids. He’s now created a product that he wants to put over their shoulders and on their backs.
“We were looking at a way for people to carry things better without the use of a car,” he says. “I was going from school to work a lot. And something just clicked.”
And you could read “clicked” in different ways. Five years ago, he invented a clasp that’s key to his modular bag system, Bowerbags. It literally clicks.
He’s also raised more money and gotten his concept further down the invention process than anything he’s done before. So, it’s clicked with investors.
“I was working on it for a while,” he says. “And then, it sounds so silly, I had a dream. And when I woke up, in the dream, it was actually this iteration.”
He points to a clasp on his desk. The design looks like an octopus. If I had the dream, I would have freaked out. But Bowerman knew what it meant.
It meant solving problems for those of us who bike or walk everywhere. Messenger bag or backpack? Where to shove the helmet, clothes and camera? Big bag or small?
“It’s like a Legos of bags,” Bowerman says of his modular concept. “You can design a system that’s right for you.”
The system relies on this clasp. He had inspirations for it, of course. But the military’s MOLLE webbing and traditional button snaps just weren’t cutting it.
And neither were the folks who heard about his dream, his company and his biking and walking song and dance and said, “Just throw it in the backseat and drive!”
“There’s always going to be a sea of people who think it’s just garbage or ‘Why do we need this?’ or ‘This is silly,’” he says. “So you really just always have to be willing to go out there and prove it to the market over and over again until the odds are in your favor.”
Bowerman learned to divorce himself early from naysaying voices and listen instead to the potential customer. His bags have gone through hundreds of little changes.
“If I have an idea and think it’s great, I prototype it quick and dirty, as fast as possible, test it with as many people as I can,” he says. “How could it be different?”
Those prototypes often emerge from that sewing machine on Barnard Street. Bowerman says a cousin’s friend used it to sew the Guinness Book record-holding “longest kite tail.”
I think Bowerbags might be around longer. Bowerman himself is setting personal records with his invention. None of his previous ideas have gotten this close to the sales counter.
He probably doesn’t want me mentioning the self-dispensing toothpaste holder, the self-watering tomato stand and the pool netting system designed to keep balls near the pool.
“That didn’t quite shake out,” he says.
But these things point to my idea that Bowerman is a “classic inventor.” He tinkered and built things in basements when he was a kid.
And he has that “classic inventor” self-assurance that allows him to put on a suit, stand in front of another suit and ask for money.
“It is a lot of just really knowing what the value that you’re bringing to the table is,” Bowerman says. “A lack of confidence, people can sniff that out.”
He’s hoping to sell Bowerbags later this summer. Snap on, Jamie!