FILLED WITH PURPOSE: A luxury bag brand giving back from the beginning

What do golf bags and backpacks for kids in sub-Saharan Africa have in common? They’re both items Vessel Bags makes on their mission for excellence. Since its start, the company has pursued quality craftsmanship in its luxury goods brand along with significant social impact. With its “Buy a Bag, Give a Bag” program, Vessel has donated over 60,000 backpacks to kids in need around the world. “Since day one, I wanted this company to give back,” co-founder and CEO Ron Shaw explains. Their model stays simple: Every bag sold equals a backpack donated to a child in need.

Shaw remembers asking his dad, also a maker of golf bags, what the number one purpose of his company was. The answer: profitability. But something about this didn’t sit right with the younger Shaw. So when he set out to create his own line of high-quality golf bags—eventually expanding the brand with intentionally designed travel and tennis products—Shaw knew he’d make products that were filled with a different purpose. “There’s a reason we are profitable and it’s for more than ourselves. Why not give back,” he says, and “have that purpose be the reason behind the company?”

After donating backpacks to assemble World Vision Promise Packs in 2013, Vessel was all-in with World Vision. “Knowing we can give bags to an organization like World Vision who knows how to distribute the backpacks— it’s great to know that our bags go wherever they’re most needed,” says Shaw. In 2019, Vessel Bags donated 11,500 backpacks that were used to build Promise Packs for Niger, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), and Afghanistan. The company also donated 600 backpacks and assembled them into SchoolTools packs at their corporate office. Vessel’s staff distributed some of those Promise Packs— assembled with their own backpacks—to an elementary school in southern California, near their office, where over 80% of students receive meal assistance. “The smiles and the excitement on [the kids’] faces were definitely unforgettable,” says Shaw. “My goal is that World Vision never has to worry about backpacks again.”