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by Celene McDermott

Related: Suffolk County, Long Island, NY, LI, Rebecca Lesser, MatSack, Patchogue, Ronkonkoma, germs, nutrition, parent-run business, mom business, mom, entreprenuer,

Rebecca Lesser, the East Patchogue, NY, mom who founded The MatSack, Inc., was inspired to reinvent the lunchbox from real-life experiences with her daughter. Find out how she made her idea into a reality and how she now juggles business and family life.


Quick Stats: Rebecca Lesser is President of The MatSack, Inc., based in Ronkonkoma. She lives in East Patchogue with her husband Robert and 10-year-old daughter Alexandra.

Rebecca Lesser; The MatSack, Inc.; Ronkonkoma; East Patchogue; Long Island   When East Patchogue mom Rebecca Lesser took her daughter Alexandra to camp a few years ago, the idea that the lunchbox should be re-invented came to her when she saw kids put their food on the table at lunch time. "What are the tables cleaned with?" she thought. "It could be a toxic chemical." Not to mention, the table was full of bird droppings. After she left the camp, she thought that her background in a manufacturing company gave her enough know-how to design a new lunchbox herself, one that came with a washable placemat for the children to eat off of.

   She called her network of moms to ask what they thought, and if they would buy the new lunchbox, and with encouraging feedback, she began the process of creating the MatSack in six unique designs and colors inspired by kids. The design is U.S. patented, made of water-resistant materials that are free of lead and PVCs, and is large enough to hold a water bottle standing up. A smaller SnackSack is also available in the same designs. We spoke to Lesser about how she got her company off the ground.




What makes The MatSack stand out?

It's an evergreen product that goes out to all age groups even though I designed them for the children. There's a demand in the marketplace. I wanted kids to be able to identify the MatSack. There are six designs and they are all equally popular. A study in Columbia found that the germs on the tables were worse than a port-a-potty!  Having the placemat is the perfect option. A lot of moms are saying that it's a wonderful idea for kids with allergies that could be on the table...It has that extra layer of protection from food mixing. My daughter uses it, and the kids think it is the coolest thing!


How did the manufacturing background give you the confidence to start your own corporation?

It helped me to know the infrastructure; what type of departments would be needed, how to set up accounting so that I could have operation; from manufacturing one material, to turning it into a finished good. It also gave me a lot of connections. I set up a facility that I work out of, and then attached to that is a warehouse...where I house all of our inventory.


Walk us through the steps that you took to get The MatSack off the ground.

I sat with an engineer and came up with a practical idea for a lunchbox. I had to get a prototype made. I Googled manufacturers and selling contractors, and found one in Queens. They helped me create a pattern and sew the prototype. It was very important to me that I make high quality materials, compliant with the FDA and the CPSC and to design them with a fashion forward look. I didn't want them to look like standard lunchboxes. I set up a corporation, set up my patent, and had all my art labeled and designed and set up the internal infrastructure.


What was the biggest hurdle you faced?

I didn't realize what I was getting into...you have to go into the mindset that you're not stopping. It's really important to get a focus group [and determine], is it a good idea in the marketplace? I had to learn to not rush the process. It's a two- to five-year game. You have to put money into it and hope for a return later on.


How did you go about marketing?

I had to learn about the field that I was going into. Obviously, you need a website. I made phone calls. I worked with schools. I talked about my product. With word of mouth, I sold 500 units independently. 

  You have to think, what kind of retail outlet would sell my product? Sporting goods stores, TV shopping networks. Through the PTAs in the schools, I offered the product at a discount. Also media attention...we're currently doing a commercial. Right now, it's being sold on the East Coast, through family members and friends. A relative is selling them in Florida.


How do you juggle all this with taking care of your family?

It's actually amazing how I am balancing. It's very important that I don't sacrifice my daughter. I have a helpful husband, who helps me with the house. At this point, nothing is suffering, if you can schedule it and meet the time frame that you have allocated.


What's next for the company?

Penetrating the market. Having the resources available to get into the retail chains. We have the infrastructure to mass sell. We're also marketing our website. The sky's the limit. Whatever the demand is, I'll make it! My goal is to bring this company to a substantial size, so that I can meet the demand of selling the MatSack nationally. 

  The MatSack and SnackSack are available at FireFly Children's Boutique in Manhattan and Brooklyn and online at www.mymatsack.com. Mention the code "NYMETRO" online for 15% off and a shipping rate of $5.50.

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