How it all begun
It all started when I quit my job at Nike after 14 years..
My job was to develop high quality products for the best athletes in the world. We made jackets, shirts, pants, socks, bags and much more.
And I have done this work with great joy during all these years.
I have worked for this great company for 11 years in The Netherlands and 3 years in the USA (Beaverton, Oregon).
Born and raised in The Netherlands. But I was always curious about other countries, cultures and visions. When Nike offered me a job as Product development manager at their headquarters in Oregon, the decision was made fast. I took my wife and 2 small kids to live in this beautiful state.
But home was calling and we decided to go back to The Netherlands after 3 years. It was hard to give up such a beautiful place. But new opportunities were waiting. You know what they say about closing and opening doors..
The new opportunity; a backpack for our ultimate journey
So, after returning back to The Netherlands I decided to start my own company. I had enough experience to make high quality products.
But why a backpack?
For me a backpack was the best choice for the idea I had already for a while.
It’s a product that you will carry with you almost every day. And that was an important detail.
On top of that I could use my experience, as I have been developing bags for Nike too.
Big question that everyone has when starting their own business is; what makes my product unique? In my case, what makes my backpack unique? When you search on Amazon there are over 20.000 backpacks!
Of course I didn’t want to be ‘just another backpack’ company. With profit and market share as main guidance to make decisions.
Well, in my opinion there are two things that make 12 DSCPLS unique:
1) It has a very different vision and is based on very different standards than 99% of the current businesses; I took the Holy Bible as my guidance to start this company and to design this backpack.
I have been a Christian for a long time. In America I got baptized. So, America will always be a special country for me. And being a Christian I wanted to combine my faith with my work. For me it was clear that the Bible would provide the tools to build a successful business.
At the website you can read the mission, the vision and the values that make 12 DSCPLS unique. All based on what the Bible teaches us.
This ‘unique’ approach is related to the product itselves.
2) The second thing that differentiates this backpack from other backpacks; it has a lot of details added to the bag. Details that are specifically designed for Christians..
To name a few:
-The name 12 DSCPLS; it’s pronounced as ’12 Disciples’. We are all disciples of Jesus and carrying this backpack reminds us of this. This was also the reason for choosing a backpack as we carry this almost every day.
-The inner lining; This lining has a beautiful, all-over print of the Bible verse Isaiah 40:31.
(But those who trust in the LORD will become strong again. They will be like EAGLES that grow new feathers. They will run and not get weak. They will walk and not get tired)
Every time you open the bag, you will have a little encouragement. It’s subtle, but not to be missed.
-An inner Bible pocket. Enforced and big enough for every Bible.
Of Course the quality of the bag is very good. I can tell you it is much, much better than the standard backpacks you buy for around 100$.
Because this backpack is developed to stay with us throughout our journey here on earth. I call it our ‘ultimate journey’.
At the product page you can see what makes this backpack so good
I do think these 2 things are making this backpack unique. It is not for everyone, I understand. It’s designed and developed for people that also think that the Bible should be our guide for everything we do.
The bag itselves will remind you of that. Everytime you open it, you will see Isaiah 40:31 (I always think that this verse is specially made for people from the USA :).
Often I heard from people that are not religious that they like the backpack. That is fantastic as it means the quality is very good. Or they like it because the outer fabric is made out of recycled fabric. And who knows.. maybe they will be also encouraged by the bible verse on the inside.
Were there any challenges..
There always are, right? And there were many. I told you I worked my whole life in product development. Making the best quality products.
Designing and developing the backpack was not so difficult. The rest was…
At Nike you are focussing on one or two things and getting specialized in that area. My focus was on developing products. And doing price calculations. But I had no clue about making a business plan (At Chamber of Commerce they laughed at mine, especially my mission and vision…), the logistics, the custom clearance, getting the brand name protected, making a website and selling products on the internet.
But I do believe a lot of people also don’t have all this experience. However, you will get a lot of energy and motivation because you believe in your dream.
And there are always people that can help you. Start trusting people. Not everyone. Use your common sense and your inner feelings. I have read a book called ‘the speed of trust’ by Stephan M. R. Covey. I can recommend this to everyone! You can not do things all by yourself. But that isn’t necessary. You will get help along the way.
In the end I got my products made, shipped to the USA, got my brand name protected, made a website and started to sell.
Sometimes frustrating. But always keeping the faith that it would work out.
My idea was to start small. And slowly growing. I am not doing this to be a millionaire. There is no rush.
I do have another job as a teacher. So, I combine it and use this specific experience to teach others. And who knows how it will evolve. There are lots of opportunities.
After the backpack there can be different bags. But also other product types like socks and apparel. The name and the idea are unique and important.
As long as I keep the quality high and stick to the mission and vision, it will be successful. 12 DSCPLS is a company that is supported by God. No doubt about that.
Therefore the opportunities are limitless. I received all my Nike experience for a specific purpose. And 12 DSCPLS is this purpose. To encourage you on our journey here on earth. Being disciples of Jesus.
But it is not just about selling bags..
Below are my vision and mission (the ones that were laughed at..)
Creating bags for all Christians* in the world.
*If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are a Christian.
Start and grow a company that can contribute to God’s glory in this world and that will be a blessing for others.
The bag is not just a bag to carry your personal belongings. It is also an opportunity to tell about Jesus. To get a conversation started. To show your belief.
Muslims and Buddhists are wearing specific clothes. You can see their faith by what they are wearing. Hopefully this bag will do the same for Christians.
Maybe this is the main opportunity of 12 DSCPLS instead of just selling bags.
A word of advice
For me the most important things are:
-Start small. It’s easier to add more products when you have feedback from buyers.
I started with 1 bag. 1 Color. 1 size.
And after a while I will add a new product. Based on feedback or requests from buyers.
-Have a mission and vision. Think about this very well. It’s the reason you start your business. Print it out or have it as your screensaver. But look at it often. This is your guide.
-Don’t be greedy. Of course, you need a healthy margin. But customer satisfaction is more important than a big margin.
-Quality is everything. There are a lot of cheap products on the market. And it might sell well.
For instance a cheap backpack.. You can buy one for 15$. But it lasts maybe half a year? The zippers will probably last even shorter. It brings a lot of frustration if you have a bag that doesn’t function after a short period.
A bag that lasts a lifetime is also better for the environment.
Your customers will love it every day!
Starting this company was a leap of faith. A lot of people might find this idea a bit ridiculous. As I mentioned; at the Chamber of Commerce they laughed about my mission and vision.
Maybe you will encounter the same when you start. But let this encourage you! You probably have something unique…
Disciples are often laughed at. But only here on earth.
And at least we have a better backpack 😉
Drees de Wolf
Founder and Owner of 12 DSCPLS
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