We spoke with Rachel Ostroy, founder of neat-os. Her line of reusables are a great alternative to single use plastic baggies. We found out what time this momtrepreneur gets to bed, what she likes to draw on her baggies, and the one thing you definitely should NOT put in neat-os.
What are neat-os?
They are simple, easy and fun reusable food storage bags. They are bags made with function in mind above all else, and, although one day it might be a brand of other household items, right now it’s the alternative to plastic.
Why do we need neat-os in our lives?
It’s time to break our disposables habit. No more plastic bags! The other big reason is to reduce our food waste. Neat-os helps us keep our food fresh longer. Too often we buy produce, then we get busy, forget to use it and have to throw it away because it went bad. Who wants to waste money and food? But, if you put your produce in a gallon size neat-os bag, which you can bring directly to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, and then throw it in the fridge, you will gain a week to two weeks of life for that head of lettuce, herbs, or whatever. I always feel like I’m making this part up it’s so great, but, really, give it a try!
Why are you making neat-os in the USA?
When I started neat-os, it was during one of the highest unemployment rates in recent history in the US. The thought of being able to create jobs in my community seemed like a no-brainer. It’s funny, factory owners in LA, suggested I make the bags in China. I actually had more contacts to make the bags overseas than I could find where I live. Everyone said it would be a third the price, but it kind of defeats the purpose of making a green product if you are going to then create shipping emissions in the process. I also think business comes down to relationships. I want to be able to see and talk to the people making my bags, get to know them. There are so many reasons…
Why should we choose neat-os over the other reusable bags?
Firstly, because they can be used for so many things. I like to say they can be used for anything, but soup. There are many things that distinguish neat-os bags from the other bags, and my company and the other companies. The bags are easy to wash, you can see inside them, and they DON’T use Velcro. Sorry, food background, Velcro and food don’t go. Neat-os is also a member of 1% for the Planet, and is very involved in green education. I created the bags for the consumer, but I created the company to make change.
Do you find it challenging to be your own boss?
Yes! I’m the one driving everything. If I don’t push to get it done, it doesn’t get done. It’s also isolating at times, especially since most interaction is done on the computer. I miss the buzz and people energy of working in restaurants. However, I love the flexibility. Today, I get to go to my son’s school and watch his class in a singing performance!
Neat-os bags are customizable. What’s drawn on yours?
The very first bag I decorated has cupcakes on it, four different ones. I still use it to hold my check book. Now I have drawings on them for labeling, like, one with an onion for my onions, one with leaves for my greens, and one with bread for my bagels and such.
My kids love to draw on them. They have one’s they’ve decorated in a Halloween theme, one’s for Earth Day, one’s where they have covered the entire canvas surface in rainbow stripes. It’s really fun when we give out a bunch at a birthday party and see what all the kids draw on them!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve zipped in a neat-os?
Hmmm…the Harry Potter Lego figurines.
What’s your favourite workout or exercise?
I like to walk. I live in LA where I drive everywhere, so I long to get up close and personal with nature, my neighborhood, anything. I also love dancing with my kids, we have some crazy kitchen dance parties!
What time do you go to bed?
I’ve been really busy lately, so it’s been pretty late, after midnight sometimes 2 am. I work when my kids are at school, then take a couple hours off in the afternoons to be with them, and then go back to work after they go to bed. When you have your own business, especially one that has an online element, work never closes. Every once and a while it catches up with me and I force myself to be in bed by 10, but that rarely lasts for more than a couple days.
What scares you?
Sometimes the future. Everything we hear is so daunting and negative these days. But because of neat-os, I get the chance to meet a lot of incredible people who are working to make positive change for the environment, for the economy, and open dialogue. It gives me so much hope and makes the future less scary. (I am thrilled to have met YOU, Rachel for that exact same reason! ^LB)
What was it like the first time you saw a stranger using your product?
What I imagine a singer feels like the first time they hear their song on the radio.