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Man-PACK inventor turns to local help

Gabriel Tweedie, left, and his younger sister, Reagan, wear Kid-PACKs. The bags include interchangeable Velcro patches that will be assembled and packaged by workers from Shen-Paco Industries and Blue Ridge Opportunities. Photo courtesy of Aaron Tweedie. (Buy photo)

By Ryan Cornell

When Aaron Tweedie read an article in the Northern Virginia Daily last month about Shen-Paco Industries losing one of its largest employment contractors, he decided to take action.

Located in Quicksburg, Shen-Paco provides jobs to those with disabilities who are unable to find employment elsewhere. The agency recently lost its job contract for hanger sorting.

Tweedie, a Front Royal entrepreneur who created the Man-PACK messenger bag last year, wanted to help. He decided that his next product, the Kid-PACK, would use labor sourced from Shen-Paco as well as Blue Ridge Opportunities, a similar agency in Front Royal.

"Both of them are very excited and I was just like so excited," he said. "This is such a blessing they're on board.

"Hopefully this is a revenue-generating thing for them if this takes off."

He launched a campaign for the Kid-PACK through the online crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter.com, on Thursday. The new sling-style bag is large enough to carry binders and Trapper Keepers, he said, but small enough to fit comfortably on elementary school children.

"There's been a lot of talk about how bad book bags are for kids' backs," Tweedie said. "Part of that is because they have to wear full-size book bags."

Inspired by the Velcro morale patches worn by military special forces, he decided to incorporate fun interchangeable patches onto his bags with designs such as a smiley face and a skull and crossbones.

Tweedie said the jobs created for workers at Shen-Paco and Blue Ridge Opportunities include assembling these precut adhesive Velcro patches and packaging them with the Kid-PACKs.

He said the bags will be made in the U.S., out of a textile factory in Tennessee that opened in March.

In December, Tweedie quit his job at Randolph-Macon Academy and launched himself into working on the bags full-time. He estimated that he's sold about 2,500 bags since debuting the Man-PACK last spring.

He said 5 percent of the proceeds from the sales of the Kid-PACK will be donated to the Shenandoah Area Council Boy Scouts of America.

"I think it's important if you're doing business and you take and you take and you take and you're not giving anything back, and when you can help someone and partner with someone, you should do it," he said. "There's no reason you can't do good while doing business."

The Kid-PACK kickstarter.com campaign runs through May 31. Pricing for the bag begins at $42.

For more information, visit his website at kid-pack.com.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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