Lisa D. Foster is an Inventor and the Author of Bag Lady: How I Started a Business for a Greener World and Changed the Way America Shops
Entrepreneur, environmentalist, and author of ‘Bag Lady,’ Lisa D. Foster took the germ of a green living idea and grew it into a national business phenomenon. When she realized that Americans were throwing away a billion bags a day, Lisa D. Foster discovered reusable bags. Over the next twelve years, she changed the way Americans shopped. She remained true to her original purpose to reduce plastic waste and beat the odds to create a thriving company with an environmental mission.
This is her story:
Tell us about your invention/product? What problem does it solve? My invention is my book, Bag Lady, How I Started a Business for a Greener World and Changed the Way America Shops. It is about my entrepreneurship journey bringing reusable bags to the US. In 2005, I was an English teacher who became passionate about reducing the devastating impacts that single-use plastic bags were having on our environment. My solution was to start a business to sell reusable bags and use the business to help others understand how important their small consumer choices matter. I would never have dreamed how far that one vision could take me! I sold of millions of bags and became a top bag supplier in the US, managed an international supply chain, and became a thought leader, publishing op-eds and speaking out about plastic waste. Over 60% of US consumers switched to reusable bags during the time I ran my company. I wrote the book to reflect on everything I learned that helped me stand out and be successful as a businesswoman. The book really provides a blueprint for other purpose-driven entrepreneurs starting out.
What was the inspiration for your invention/product? I first saw reusable bags on a trip to Australia. The government was publicizing the facts and I realized how devastating those single use bags were on the environment. We were using a billion bags a day in the US and a third of them were escaping into our environment, eventually ending up in our oceans. Scientists predicted we would have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if we didn’t do something about it, so I decided to do something about it.
What is the number one goal you have with regards to your invention/product? I really hope my book will inspire other people become entrepreneurs to achieve their own goals and find how transformative purpose-driven business can be. I didn’t have any special education or experience in business, but I saw a need and built a company to serve the need. I hope others will be empowered by my story.
Who is your product for (target market)? I wrote my book for people who want to make a difference in the world and who want to hear from someone who did. It’s possible!
How long did your invention/product take to get to this point (from the time you conceived of the idea to now)? I started writing my book during what I call the Winter of Covid, December 2020 to February 2021. The stories just poured out of me. It took another nine months to find a publisher and another six months to publish it. It’s coming out on Earth Day 2022.
What has been the greatest challenge in getting your idea from your head to something tangible? The greatest challenge was figuring out how publishing works. I tried to get an agent for the longest time, but then I realized that it wasn’t going to work that way for me. So I started looking at other ways to publish and submitted my manuscript to a few small presses, and it was amazing to find a press focused on books that will help change the world. In fact, it’s called Changemakers Books by John Hunt Publishing. They have been amazing and supportive partners throughout the publishing process. Finding a niche publisher for my story was the perfect solution for me.
Tell us about your background? I started my career teaching high school English. When I became passionate about reusable bags, I took all the facts and made a story out of them, which is how I developed my pitch. I started cold calling from the back staircase overlooking the faculty parking lot and I sold a quarter of a million bags my first year. Then I sold 2 million bags in my second year, and 8 million bags in my third year. It was a classic hockey stick curve and a wild ride as an entrepreneur. Every day felt like an emergency MBA, and when I sold the company in 2017, I felt like I had graduated. I launched as a business coach then to help other people learn the lessons I learned. I love working with the people I serve now, helping them see how they can become more effective and inspirational every day.
Who are your favorite female creators and why? I really admire Anne Boden, a British woman who started a digital bank called Starling Bank. It’s incredibly difficult to be a woman in tech and she was put through all the paces. Her story, told in her book Banking On It, is really inspiring to me.
What’s been the most surprising part of your creative journey so far? Ever since I was an undergraduate English major, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I really didn’t think there was anything I had to say that people would think was worth reading. With this book, I hope I find an audience that shares my values, my hopes and dreams, my determination to use business to build a better world. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? I give away free tips and content about leadership and how emotional intelligence helps you become an inspiration and driver for others. I hope your readers will check it out and take advantage of the lessons I’ve learned that I share with my followers.
What’s the best way for the readers/audience of Inventing Women to connect with you (feel free to include the links to your social networks and websites)?
What is the cost and how can we learn more, purchase your product? The book is $20.99 for a printed book and $16.99 on Kindle. (Amazon releases it May 1)
Buy the book on Amazon