I purchased my ONA Bowery Camera Bag back in February as I was getting ready for my extended trip to Japan. I not only became obsessed with my bag, but also with the story of Tracy Foster, the CEO of ONA Bags, as she is a bright, positive boss lady creating not only an amazing product but also inspiring others to pursue their goals. Her job calls for lots of business travel (as you can see on her Instagram), so I had to ask her how travel influenced her creations. Here’s her story:
Travel Influences: Tracy Foster of ONA Bags
Where was your first trip abroad as an adult? What were your impressions?
My first trip abroad as an adult was to Tulum, Mexico. During my junior year in college, my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I took a short trip during a school break. I distinctly remember enjoying the balmy weather and gorgeous coastline, but I was mostly taken by the Mayan ruins. Having mostly traveled within the US, it was pretty amazing to have a glimpse into an ancient civilization. That trip really inspired both of us to expand our horizons and do more traveling abroad.
Which place abroad has given you a completely different perspective on travel?
In 2006, I spent two weeks traveling in Italy. I was fortunate to spend part of the trip staying with a friend that I’d met during a fellowship the year prior in New York City. While staying with her and her family in Como, we ventured to Milan together, took a boat ride on the lake, went to her favorite gelato and pizza spots, and had a beautiful evening enjoying aperitivo with her and her girlfriends. She also connected us with a friend who was the owner of the perfect little B&B for our time in Venice.
Experiencing Italy with my friend opened my eyes to how nice it is to have real, authentic experiences that are unique to the destination – and that help you better understand the local culture – as opposed to only doing the “touristy” things. So now, even when I don’t have a friend to meet up with in a particular destination, I always look for opportunities to experience the true essence and culture of a place rather than only visiting the main attractions.
How does travel inspire the design of ONA Bags? Has a particular destination been instrumental to the creative process?
It was actually during a trip to South Africa in 2008 that I was inspired to create ONA. I was carrying a traditional ballistic nylon camera bag and I wished that there was something more stylish yet discreet on the market. When I couldn’t find anything that I liked, I got to work on developing our first bag. We launched with that bag in June 2010. Today, all of our products are inspired by travel, and each bag is named after a place that I’ve visited that has a special significance to me. I love travel and photography and design, so launching and running ONA has been such a rewarding experience for me. One thing that brings me so much joy these days is to look at the #whereonagoes hashtag on Instagram and see all of the beautiful places that people are now carrying ONA products around the world.
You travel often for your job. Which place in the last year have you enjoyed the most?
Earlier this year, I spent a few weeks traveling in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The distributor for ONA in Japan was participating in a trade show, so I was excited to meet with them there. It was great to see how they are working to grow the brand in that region. I also had an opportunity to meet the owner of one of the largest stores in Australia that carries ONA bags and to connect with a blogger we’ve worked with in New Zealand. I’d always dreamed of being able to travel to awesome places for work (mixed with some fun, of course!). I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to live this dream.
Share an essential business travel tip.
Pack light! I exclusively travel with carry-on bags to avoid the hassle of waiting for bags at baggage claim and to reduce the risk of my baggage getting lost. I find that this makes my travel experience so much simpler, especially when I’m traveling for business and time is of the essence.
Big thanks to Tracy Foster of ONA Bags for her interview! Check out their bags here. The question is…which bag should I buy next?