Rebecca Smith founded Better Life Bags during her pregnancy, when she decided to keep busy, buy some fabric, and make her own diaper bag.
Friends and family noticed the style and quality of the bag, and they suggested she sell them online.
Smith took the advice and opened an Etsy shop selling her hand-made individual bags — and soon enough, the demand was too high for one person’s labor.
To keep up with the demand, Smith turned to her community for help and found a neighbor with sewing skills, Nadia, who agreed to work for her, helping produce so many bags a week and filling a quota.
The demand for bags continued to increase, and Smith had to hire more employees, and that’s what puts the “better life” in the “Better Life Bags” name, because Smith’s employees are chosen carefully and specifically. After seeing the impact she made on Nadia, who can now afford to buy her children some necessities, Smith wanted to extend the work to other women in the community.
Smith said she moved into Hamtramck to surround herself with rich diversity and culture without knowing the impact she would have. That impact being: hiring women inside a community who face strong barriers when trying to find work, who need to help support their families, and who know how to sew.
Some of the women work in the shop while others work from home, whichever is more ideal for them, and they sew bags out of three different colored leathers and over 40 fabric patterns. These materials can be mixed and matched because the website is interactive — each customer can customize their own bag, or they can shop in the “ready to ship” section of the website to receive a bag in less time.
The workshop opens for retail every month on the second Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., which is the perfect way to buy your bag in person and to speak with some of the workers.
Each of the bags are sent off with a card with the name of the woman who made the bag to add a personal touch and to give the quality a name, as the goal and purpose is to create a quality product, hire quality people, and give them quality respect.
The bags are also made with the intent of expanding and supplying jobs to women who struggle finding work — and to put some breath back into the city’s lungs.