Jen and Farzan Dehmoubed are now accustomed to shoppers following them through the supermarket. In fact, the Carlsbad couple enjoys the interest.
The Dehmoubeds are drawing lots of appreciative looks and gaining some customers, thanks to their new product, the Lotus Trolley Bag.
It consists of four heavy-duty reusable grocery sacks that hang like accordion files in a shopping cart. Before and after use, they can be folded up in a 2-pound over-the-shoulder carrier that resembles a yoga mat bag. Similar trolley bag systems have been popular for years, especially in other countries, but the Dehmoubeds believe their design is so unique they've applied for a patent.
Since they introduced the Lotus Trolley Bag at Fiesta Del Sol in Solana Beach two weeks ago, the couple has sold several hundred bags and they're now in talks with buyers at two local supermarkets that could begin selling the $30 products as early as next month.
It's been pretty funny and great," Farzan said. "Every time we go shopping with this, at least five people will stop us. It's very exciting."
The ecology-minded couple, both 37, were using reusable sacks long before California voters banned single-use plastic bags last November. Over the years, they grew frustrated with the flimsy quality of the reusables and the difficulty they had cleaning them, storing them and even remembering to bring them into the market when they shopped. So, when the bag ban took effect last fall, the Dehmoubeds decided to come up with a better solution, both for themselves and other California shoppers.
Jen runs a private tutoring business and is the main grocery shopper in the household. Farzan is a businessman with a background in marketing and innovation. Combining her shopping experience and his entrepreneurial skills, they spent five months researching, testing and refining the concept for their product. Jen, a yoga enthusiast, came up with the name, because the bags unfold like a lotus blossom.
The pastel-colored trolley bag is made from 120-gram non-woven polypropylene (most reusable bags are 60-gram) with reinforced handles and cloth mesh bottoms, for easy cleanup in case of a spill. One of the bags has an insulated lining for frozen items and another has vertical sleeves to securely hold wine bottles and egg containers. Sturdy rods that hold the bags in place across the shopping cart rim can be removed from the bags before washing.
For their initial launch, the Dehmoubeds were going to commission 1,000 trolley bags, but when they saw the reception the bags were getting from friends and shoppers this spring, they decided to take a gamble and start with 5,000. The risk seems to be paying off.
On the first day at Fiesta Del Sol, they sold out all 100 in the booth, then the next day they brought 130 and sold out again. The bags are now for sale via Amazon, where all of the buyers so far have left 5-star reviews. The Dehmoubeds are now talking with buyers at Jimbo's and Ralphs supermarkets, which are considering putting the product on store shelves for a test market in July.
Farzan said it's been thrilling to see their idea come to fruition and receive such a positive response. But it's also been gratifying to know that the product they're making promotes their own healthy, ocean- and Earth-friendly lifestyle.
"This is something that we're both really passionate about," he said. "I'm a surfer and I hope that with this product we can make a dent in the number of plastics we use."