Maker: Rickshaw Bagworks — Fresh Bags Made Daily

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Maker: Rickshaw Bagworks — Fresh Bags Made Daily

“I’m not driven to be the king of the bag industry,” Mark Dwight says. “I love being hands-on, and I love everything about this business. I’m in the factory every day.”

Rickshaw Bagworks Factory

 
 

“We welcome anyone to come see our factory, take pictures and videos, and post them on the internet,” says Mark Dwight, BSME ’82, MBA ’89.

Editor’s Note

As part of Stanford Business magazine, “Maker” is an ongoing series that uses one annotated photo to tell the story of a manufacturing business overseen by a Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus.

Mark Dwight, founder and owner of Rickshaw Bagworks, also founded SFMade, a nonprofit that supports San Francisco’s manufacturing sector and maker movement. “Small manufacturers are an endangered species, especially in high-cost cities. We need all the help and recognition we can get.”

“Manufacturing is theater, and this place — this theater — is essential to our brand. We make what we sell.” Dwight recalls that former Stanford GSB professor Lynn Phillips taught him how a physical product can have both actual and perceived value, and how storytelling can animate products and enhance that value. Rickshaw’s core brand story is that it designs and manufactures all of its products in a self-owned factory in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch neighborhood — a story summarized in its tagline: “Fresh Bags Made Daily.

Dwight started his first business — making stained glass windows — as a teenager, and his current business is poetically similar. “Then, my materials were glass and lead,” he says. “Today, they are fabric and thread.” He founded Rickshaw in 2007, after spending 20 years at various Silicon Valley tech companies and four at the helm of Timbuk2, another San Francisco bag maker. At Timbuk2, he oversaw sales growth from $4 million a year to $19 million, eventually selling the company to a private equity firm. With annual sales of $1.5 million, Rickshaw is a much more modest enterprise, and Dwight’s ambitions for the business are less about growth and more about crafting his own destiny. “I’m the sole owner, and this is my passion project. I’m not driven to be the king of the bag industry. I love being hands-on, and I love everything about this business. I’m in the factory every day.”

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