A local designer has gotten the nod of approval from the queen of craft and design, Martha Stewart, in a national contest and needs community support now more than ever.
DeAnna Reposa of Corona del Mar is one of 100 finalists for Martha Stewart’s American Made contest, a competition for “creative entrepreneurs who are making products that are innovative, inspiring and beautiful.”
Reposa’s business, Simple Peace, sells reusable shopping bags that are made in Orange County from recycled, organic or sustainable fabrics, like recyclable cotton or sustainable hemp.
“I think Martha Stewart is amazing… What she has been able to do throughout her life,” is incredible, Reposa said. “Just that she recognized what I’ve done is already a big accomplishment.”
Being a finalist gives Reposa some reassurance that she is on the right track and some encouragement to keep going.
Martha Stewart and editors from her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, narrowed down the finalists from nearly 2,000 nominees. They then chose 10 winners and are now allowing the public to vote for the 11th winner online at americanmade.marthastewart.com.
There are only 10 finalists from California and Reposa is the only one from Orange County.
The other California entries include three from San Francisco, two from both Long Beach and Los Angeles, and one each from Santa Clarita and San Rafael.
In comparison, there are 16 from New York, and eight of those are from Brooklyn.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 888 votes for Simple Peace, landing Reposa in 16th place so far. The current leader, The Bee Man Candle Company from Canastota, N.Y., has 2,850.
“I definitely need a boost of daily votes,” Reposa said.
Simple Peace supporters can vote once a day, every day, until Sept. 24.
Reposa entered the contest after a friend emailed her and encouraged her to enter in early August.
“I didn’t think it was possible (to even get this far) when I signed up,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
The contest is meant to honor “rising stars in a new generation of small-business owners” and the winner’s “work will share the quality, beauty, inspiration, possibility, and creativity embodied by Martha.”
The winner will receive $10,000 to further his or her business, which could help greatly, Reposa said.
“But, bigger than that, the winner will be featured in Martha Stewart Living,” Reposa explained, “which is huge.”
On top of all that, the winner will also get to attend and be honored at the American Made four-day, hands-on workshop event in New York City.
The prize would really help jump start Simple Peace.
Reposa’s business has stayed fairly constant since she started in 2007. She hasn’t been able to make that jump to expand, and do things like buy in bulk or start marketing. She has kept orders small and manageable, only keeping in stock what she knows she is going to sell.
“I‘ve kind of always just plodded along,” she said. “I’d like to really go for it.”
This is a big deal to Reposa, who isn’t much of a salesperson and isn’t the type to advertise herself or her brand. She’s proud to have been recognized and have her bags recognized. She’s also glad to have Orange County included in the contest.
She would also like to offer more colors, since only the natural, canvas color is available now.
Reposa started the business a few years ago when the trend to use reusable bags was really starting to take off. She wanted to get rid of her plastic bag habit, she said., so she stared trying out the reusable bags. She bought almost every bag on the market, she said, and she didn’t like a single one. Some of them were just recycled plastic, so they weren’t any better than plastic bags, some had logos on them and they were all different sizes, and almost all of them were flimsy.
“I felt that going green did not have to involve compromising quality or style,” she wrote on her American Made page.
So she made her own. She also designed the Suburban Shopping System, four bags with a car carrier.
“It’s easier to use than schlepping around a bunch of different sized bags that are flimsy,” Reposa said. The carrier system keeps them all together in a nice, neat and practical package, she added.
People commented and asked about her bags and soon enough she made some for her close friends and family members. It didn’t take long after that for her to start selling them.
Simple Peace bags are high quality, unlike most other reusable bags on the market that are flimsy and poor quality. Reposa uses organic fabrics and sustainable materials.
The bags are also sewn together locally, she said, in Santa Ana. The thick, canvas bags are also machine washable and will last a long time.
Some of the materials commonly used in other bags aren’t good for the environment and aren’t biodegradable, she said. So while the idea is positive, they aren’t really much better than plastic bags.
“It’s great they are using reusable bags, it’s a step in the right direction,” she said. “This is just a better step.”
Simple Peace aims to create stylish and environmentally-friendly bags, while also striving to be socially and environmentally responsible.
“We use local whenever possible. Our bags are ethically made using fair wage labor. All of our marketing materials, product tags and office supplies are printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink. We reuse boxes and shred junk mail for filling. We are certified by Green America as a company that is good for people and good for the planet. We are a 10% solution business, which means we give a percentage of our profits to charity, volunteer our time, and are dedicated to the green movement,” Reposa’s website states.
She thought of the name Simple Peace by trying to “incorporate my wish for the health of the planet, the well being of my family and…peace,” she wrote on her page.
In high school, when she attended Sunday mass with her boyfriend, she loved the time when each person would turn to their neighbor and wish them peace by the simple of exchange of “Peace be with you,“ and in reply, “and also with you.”
“What a beautiful tradition – wishing your neighbor peace whether they were strangers, friends or relatives,” she wrote. “Each day we become more aware of the effects our actions have on the environment. Make a difference. Peace be with you.”
For more information, visit simplepeace.com.
To vote, visit americanmade.marthastewart.com.