Laura Davis of Newton Supply Co. has only been in business for a few years but she caught the attention and visited with President Obama because of her work with Open Arms in Austin. We got the details on that exciting invitation and her path so far and plans for the future.
What were you doing before you started Newton Supply Co.?
I finished grad school (MFA in Furniture Design) and got a job as a designer at a large national retailer, then moved to a smaller firm where I could oversee projects from start to finish and work directly with factories. I think it was that involvement in every step of the process - including the production - that motivated me to do my own thing.
What led you to start your business?
Several years ago, I began sewing bags from leftover upholstery scraps in my spare time, and eventually that led to some local craft shows. I quit my job and started working as a freelance designer, still working on mass-produced pieces for large companies, but found myself more drawn to being a maker. After I realized this could be my full-time thing, I rebranded and started Newton.
Tell us about your partnership with Open Arms?
Working with Open Arms has been the best thing to happen to my business! I needed outside manufacturing help, but really struggled with the idea of outsourcing and wanted to find the right fit - and still have involvement in the production side of things. It just seemed to click right away with them, and we’ve grown our partnership from production of a few items, to almost all of our bags. I’m able to remain involved in the whole process and get to know the women making our products, which is amazing.
Has a president ever mentioned Newton Supply Co.?
Hmm, funny you should ask! Yes, actually… this past September I was invited to participate in a roundtable meeting with President Obama, as well as several CEO’s, to discuss how the corporate sector can provide assistance to refugees. In his speech to the press, he mentioned how we are growing our partnership with Open Arms - it was pretty surreal! Since almost all of the companies at the meeting were huge corporations, they invited me to represent small business owners, and I spoke about refugee employment and assistance after resettling in the US. (And I got to sit between President Obama and George Clooney!)
You're packing your bag for a weekend getaway, what are three essential items?
I’m not sure that I have essential items, but more of an essential packing method - I like to be as prepared and organized as possible, but take as little as I can. Usually I end up taking our overnighter with a few smaller pouches inside to stay organized, and try to avoid having to carry liquids to make airport security easier. Benjamin Soap Co’s lotion bars are definitely a travel staple in that regard!
Where's your favorite weekend getaway?
I’d say either West Texas or New Orleans…total opposites in many regards, but both near and dear to my heart.
Besides bags, what else do you make?
Since our Texas print is so popular, we starting offering it on drinkware and pillows as well.
What locally-made products do you use?
Our waxed canvas is hand-waxed in Houston, and our supplier is actually moving to Austin later this year! We also work with local printers (Elgin and San Antonio) to screen print the fabric for our Texas bags.
What is one of your favorite gifts to give?
I love gifting a pouch or bag filled with goodies, whether it’s a cosmetic bag filled with locally-crafted soaps and candles, or a market tote filled with local special food items (Barton Table and Great Bean are some of my go-to’s.) Many of my friends and family are spread across the country, so giving something local gives me a way to show off Austin.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making bags (and more)?
I think I will always feel the need to create, whether it is bags, furniture, textiles etc - but if I had to do something entirely different, I’d love to study applied animal behavior.