Building a Sustainable Brand
Lee Flanagan has entrepreneurship in her blood. Growing up, the talk around the dinner table was the family medical manufacturing business that had been started by her grandparents; her grandfather was an engineer and designed the machinery while her grandmother ran the business. Lee’s parents were the next generation to run the business and family vacations were arranged around sales trips with Lee and her sister waiting in the car while their parents were inside with customers. Once Lee graduated from Georgetown University armed with a degree in Economics, it was her turn to run that business, which manufactured surgical needles, and now it was Lee who traveled the world to meet with customers.
From grandmother to mother to daughter, Lee would be the third generation to run and own this company. The lessons she learned from her mother and grandmother- hard work, resilience and, most importantly, the self-confidence to be a great businesswoman in a male-dominated industry- were invaluable. Lee was able to build on the successes of those previous generations and eventually executed a successful sale to a larger manufacturing conglomerate.
The Idea of Pure Sage is Born
Lee spent the next decade raising her family, serving on numerous philanthropic boards and eventually pursuing a Masters of Public Administration degree at Columbia University. It was there that Lee focused on Social Entrepreneurship, where the idea that a company could be financially successful while also having a positive environmental impact appealed to both her ingrained business sense and her commitment to environmentalism. Lee was initially introduced to the reusable bag market as an Angel Investor for a female owned and operated company and, in the long days of the pandemic, Lee’s research discovered that there were limited options in the high-fashion, high-quality reusable bag space.
Pure Sage was born. The mission was simple: design, manufacture, and sell beautiful bags that would feel great and inspire consumers who are trying to live more sustainably but who do not want to give up their sense of style. Lee’s first order of business was finding beautiful patterns for her fabric and luckily lived close to NYC’s garment district and its graphic designers. She decided on two maiden collections, Indigo and Pink. The Indigo collection was inspired by Lee’s love of all things blue and white and the modern patterns she has in her own home. The Pink collection was inspired by Lee’s adult daughter whose favorite color was pink, but who wanted and loved the modern and stylish patterns.
Channeling her grandmother and mother, Lee was able to team up with an incredible female entrepreneur in Jordan who owns and operates the company that manufactures the bags. Staying true to Pure Sage’s values, all of the bags are made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester (rPET), which requires 50% less energy to produce than virgin polyester and, in the process, diverts plastic bottles destined for our landfills and oceans. Additionally, Lee contributes a portion of the Pure Sage profits to supporting female entrepreneurship in under-resourced communities, a cause to which she is personally committed.
A self described “numbers girl” and a lover of all things math, Lee is enjoying the process (highs and lows and many days in-between) of starting her own business and cannot believe how far it has grown in 9 months. It is not difficult to see a future where single-use plastic and paper bags no longer exist. In fact, many communities have already taken this step. Lee believes that Pure Sage products are a part of that future, where each of us can take steps each day to live mindfully and sustainably.
Pure Sage has been featured on Good Morning America and The View.