November 21, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Abby Gross sat in Memorial Stadium looking out across the football field. She cheered on the Huskers, but she looked at the bags of the people to the sides of her, in front of her, across the stadium from her. The 50,000-plus, 12 inch x 12 inch x 6 inch bags all bore the same red N on them. They looked like the type of tote bag one used to lug around groceries. And they all emitted a noxious odor that could not be good for anyone’s health.

Many of the women in that stadium had carefully chosen their outfits that day. They were out on the town, and they looked good—except for their bags.

In recent years, many venues have instated a clear bag policy that causes customers to become frustrated. Company after company has created, essentially, the same tote bag. A big red N or blue C (for Creighton) might be the only difference.

The lack of fashion statement in clear plastic bags was one area where Gross had the know-how to help. She graduated with a degree in textiles, apparel, and design from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and interned in the fashion industry in L.A. She ran an apparel pop-up shop called East Campus at Nebraska football games. And she had been the sales and marketing director for leather handbag brand Tehra&b.

She saw person after person look uncomfortable as they took wraps and other too-big items out of mass-produced clear bags, and she began researching what women thought when security stopped them.

“She left no stone unturned as it related to what it was like to walk through the turnstiles,” said Erica Wassinger of the Startup Collaborative, where Gross spent time researching and creating a line of handbags. Many women told Gross they did not know what they could carry to a stadium, or how they would get through security with the amount of stuff they needed to bring.

Gross started with a demo project, using a clear plastic bag she found to use as a pattern.

“I went to Amazon to find the cutest one I could find and then just made my own keychains to go with it,” Gross said.

She took the bag to her pop-up shop. People liked the sleek design, so she created a small run of about 15 bags. “They sold out instantly,” Gross said.

Many women wanted to replace their standard-issue stadium bags. There were some things about the regulation bags that bothered Gross. PVC vinyl—with its noxious smell and weak construction—is bad for the environment. And these bags are created for one specific reason, resulting in more waste ending up in the landfills.

Gross researched environmentally friendly ways to create clear plastic for 18 months, and concluded that bags made of thermoplastic polyurethane are sturdier and more resistant to abrasives, like sand or loose keys in a purse, than PVC. TVP is also odorless.

Gross designed purses in popular styles, such as saddlebags or satchels, that help customers with the clear bag policy and can be used for more than one occasion. She is melting pop bottles into beads and creating keychains, which should be out this month. She also sells waxed canvas pouches that measure 6.25 inches x 4.5 inches, again stadium regulation, that attach to, and detach from, the clear bags. They add color to the bag and allow the user to keep cash, credit cards, and other items secure.

“Honestly I love it,” Wassinger said. “I find myself prepping to go to a concert, or recently, a Husker football game. I know I have to use this clear bag, and get all my stuff together, and still go through the portals. With Abby’s bag, I know I will make it through.”


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This article was printed in the December 2019/January 2020 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Abby Gross