cb sacks

We had the opportunity to interview Designer and Founder, Kara Greenblott, of CB Sacks, a new Eco Chic company on Styleshack.com.  Read about this socially conscious cool company and of course the amazing lady who started it all! Kara Greenblatt ~ Founder of CB Sacks!

KG{SS}: Can you give us a brief background on your career… and of course,  how the company was established?  

{KG}: This is my first foray into the world of handbags and fashion. My background is in humanitarian assistance; in particular public health, nutrition and food security.I did my Masters Degree back in ’93 at Colombia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. From there I went straight to Africa, and later Southeast Asia, where I worked in countries that were either in crisis or recently emerging from crisis; including Angola and Sierra 1377572_740352145981332_156762836_n1Leone in the mid ‘90s, with short stints in Bosnia and Haiti in between. Then Eritrea and Zimbabwe and in ’99 I spent 3 years in East Timor (formerly part of Indonesia) before finishing up my final three years overseas in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Since my time in southern Africa, I’ve mostly worked on issues related to HIV, food security and nutrition. Since 2006, I’ve been based here in my home-state of Vermont, but as a consultant, I travel back to Africa when necessary.When I moved back to the US in 2006, I got to know the work of a local non-profit called Food 4 Farmers. They work with coffee-farming communities in Latin America, helping them develop strategies to over-come chronic seasonal hunger. Given my background, they asked me to join their board, and from there I began to delve into the world of specialty coffee.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 9.57.11 AMAt some stage I saw some of the burlap sacks that roasters (here in Vermont) receive the green (pre-roasted) beans in. They bore the markings of the coops and countries that they originated from. Some of them were absolutely stunning and I couldn’t believe that they were thrown out after use. I did some research and discovered that lots of hobbyists use them to make things with, but I didn’t see anyone doing a kind of forward fashion piece, like my bags. I spent about a year researching, developing a prototype with a local designer, and testing out different styles. The result is the CB Sacks tote and clutch line, which I’m very proud of!

{SS}: Inspiration behind the name CB Sacks? 

CB Sacks stands for ‘coffee bean’ sacks. That’s what every one of our products is made from.Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.11.50 AM

{SS}: Inspiration behind the premiere collection? 

{KG}: We have two styles: the basic and deluxe. The difference is two-fold: 1) the leather handle in the deluxe is double stitched and ‘finished’ on both sides, with brass rivets that give it a more sophisticated look. The basic style is raw leather on the back so it has a more rustic feel that I personally love. 

2) The basic is also an open tote, whereas the deluxe has a magnetic snap closure and a zippered pocket inside.They both come in a large and small. Our clutch is also a big seller. Its got a leather wristlet and it can be used for cosmetics; as a change purse or wallet; or as an all-in-

Our limited edition totes are the coolest thing ever. These totes made from sacks that are truly unique. Like our Bali bags (I’ve only been able to find

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.19.41 AM4); and our Indonesian Red Eagle bag (also only 4); and we’re getting ready to unveil the hand-painted El Salvador bag, which I only have one of.  The designs on these are beautiful – and completely original. We have not altered or added anything to the printed bag that came from the country of origin.

{SS}: Can you share the CB Sacks Social Mission? 

{KG}: When I talk to people about CB Sacks I describe it as a business with a social mission. And there are 3 parts to that mission:

  • 1. Reclaiming the discarded: We reclaim and up-cycle burlap coffee sacks transforming them into beautiful, stylish, rugged products. The burlaps come from coffee roasters around the state of Vermont and each tote and clutch is individually crafted and completely unique.
  • 2. Connecting us with humanity: We create beautifully designed products with the totemic potential of connecting human beings across the globe. Each sack has stenciled markings and colorful emblems indicating their country of origin, and the farms and coffee cooperatives that harvested the beans, reminding us of the individuals on the other end of each cup of coffee that you drink. We also post daily on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, sharing information about coffee farming families, communities and coops, as well as other topics related to fair trade, up cycling, corporate social responsibility, etc…
  • 3. Redistributing the benefits: We invest 5% of the sales revenues (that’s revenues, not just profits) from every CB Sacks product in Food 4 Farmers, a Vermont-based non-profit that works with coffee farmers in developing countries to help them achieve improved food and nutrition security for their families. Food 4 Farmers does fantastic work and I’m proud to be associated with them. http://food4farmers.org/guatemal

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 9.27.36 AM{SS}:  Which pieces from your collection, are YOUR absolute favorite?  

{KG}: My bag (the one I carry everywhere) is the basic, large Guatemala bag. I love the rustic feel to the camel-colored leather, and the print on the bag is a really typical coffee sack print – giant stenciled letters, with the words ‘Guatemala’ ‘100 % Organic’ and ‘Fair Trade’.

{SS}:  Noticed you have a "wine tote" – very cool, what other styles do you see the brand expanding with?

{KG}: Yes! That was my dad’s idea. And within an hour of posting the first ones on our website, someone in Nebraska bought three! I was skeptical about the idea, but apparently people really like them.  They make great gifts or just carriers when you are bringing a bottle of wine to a dinner party.  Next will be an I-PAD case. We’ve had a lot of requests for that. And then I want to work on a messenger bag and a backpack. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.11.01 AMNow onto your personal style…. 

{SS}: In regards to your personal style, do you have a signature look or accessory?

{KG}: Well, as good friend once said, “Living in Vermont has virtually sucked the fashion sense right out of me”. We are pretty casual here in the Green Mountain state. I try to keep an element of retro-chic in my attire (from my 7 years of living in NYC). I like fuzzy stuff on my sweaters, I still wear way too much black, and (of Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 10.18.48 AMcourse) I LOVE leather. Of course my daily studio attire has become corduroys and long-sleeve t-shirts. I’m usually covered with burlap by the end of the day so it doesn’t really matter what I wear!   

{SS}: Who or What inspires your style?  Favorite Style Icon? 

{KG}: I love Frye Company. Their boots and leather bags are just stunning.As for Style Icon, I follow Cindi Leive (Editor in Chief of Glamour Magazine) on social media. I love her style, her character and her addiction to coffee.Cynthia-Leive Another source of "style inspiration"  is the Sundance Catalog. I always fall in love with something in theirScreen Shot 2015-02-04 at 10.26.19 AM catalog. And I love that they support local artisans, and have a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices.


{SS}: What is your Style Archetype?boho

{SS}: Pinterest or Instagram (or both?)

{KG}: Definitely BOTH! I’d say I’m more into Instagram on a daily basis, but when I have a chunk of time, it’s fun to hang out on pinterest, create a new board, or just collect cool coffee quotes. We do a (daily) morning coffee 10805747_799527366775338_3258629604356034786_nquote on facebook and twitter and Pinterest is generally where we find our material. Check out our boards on pinterest

{SS}: Favorite “local” boutique in your area?

rnQmawaAeDeP4n{KG}: I love Marilyn's here in Downtown Burlington.

{SS}: Favorite local restaurant?

{KG}: I’m really lucky that I live in the immigrant section of Burlington called the Old North End. We have refugees and immigrants from Africa, Southeast Asia, and many other regions of the world here. My favorite restaurant is called Pho Hong.4agG1jOJqHmeZ4 They are a 5 minute walk from my house and always packed. Yummy eats for about $10 a meal. You can’t beat it!

{SS}: What is your secret to work/life balance? 

{KG}: I don’t have one at the moment! CB Sacks has been all-consuming since I got it started about a year ago. I hope things calm down (for me) as I bring on help in the coming year. Growth and change are always exciting.

{SS}: What would you tell your 23 year old self? {KG}:

“Trust yourself. Don’t let the others deter you from the path your heart is taking you on. Don’t second guess what feels right. Follow your inner voice.”It took me a long time to learn this. I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence when I was younger. 

{SS}: Words to live by? Or Favorite Quote?

{KG}: I don’t consider myself religious, but I definitely have a spiritual life.  With that in mind, my favorite words are the serenity prayer:serenity

I say it to myself throughout the day whenever I starting doubting myself. It brings back my faith.