Born in Dorms: Pax Backpacks Supports Disadvantaged Students

3 Day Startup explores the journey of student entrepreneurs from all over the world in the ongoing blog series Born in Dorms. Universities are ripe for more innovation: the combination of bright students, open information, and more accessible tech creates an environment where student companies can flourish better than ever before. These highly motivated and driven students share their successes, failures, and everything in between as they navigate the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship in their local communities. Read more about each student’s unique perspective on building a viable company in and around campus.

final_logo-02Joe Morrison is a senior undergraduate student studying Religion at Davidson College. He also founded Pax Backpacks, a line of American made backpacks. Pax donates 22 percent of its profits to after school programming for disadvantaged and low income students. The bags are made of 1000 Denier Cordura™ Nylon, lined with genuine oxford cloth, and finished with YKK brass zippers. They are designed for exceptional durability with an understated and classic style.

Morrison started the startup just three months ago. “I had a one page business plan and an excel spreadsheet with phone numbers from about thirty apparel manufacturers in the Southeast,” says Morrison. Today, Pax Backpacks has developed a custom line of daypacks with a manufacturer in Greenville, North Carolina, launched a website, and is now pre-selling their first round of bags through IndieGoGo. His goal was to raise $3,000 through the crowdfunding site and the company surpassed their goal in just two days. Morrison says the next step is to fill their first orders by October and focus on collecting feedback from early adopters and refining the product design. They hope to start ramping up marketing and expanding their product offerings as they learn more from their customers this upcoming year.

Joe Morrison, Founder of Pax Backpacks

Joe Morrison, Founder of Pax Backpacks

“I consider Pax a social venture, but I think the future of entrepreneurship, especially student entrepreneurship, is in sustainable business,” says Morrison. Not only does Morrison want to build a startup with comfortable profit margins, but he also wants sustainable, social, and environmental impact to be the core mission of Pax’s business. “We donate 22 percent of our profits to help marginalized students because 22 percent of children in the United States live under the Federal poverty level,” he says.

Davidson College and the North Carolina community have offered Morrison an incredible support system. Morrison was one of the first two students selected to participate in the Davidson College Venture Lab, a pilot startup incubator that provides mentorship and resources to student entrepreneurs and founders. The program runs for 11 weeks from early June to mid-August and provides student teams with grants of $3,500 and office space. Besides the access to multiple resources and networks through the incubator program, Morrison also receives support from a fellow Davidson graduate, who has been instrumental in helping Morrison focus on testing assumptions and prioritizing tasks.

Morrison acknowledges that balancing a profitable social business is more difficult, but that it is incredibly exciting too. “Great entrepreneurs do something terrifying every week. I am constantly cold calling people far too important to be taking my calls, pitching in front of total strangers, and introducing myself to speakers at conferences and workshops,” he says. “If you aren’t making yourself feel uncomfortable every day, you aren’t doing the necessary work to progress your business.”

About 3 Day Startup

3 Day Startup (3DS) teaches entrepreneurial skills to university students in an extreme hands-on environment. In addition to supporting budding entrepreneurs, 3DS programs cultivate entrepreneurial communities that contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship ecosystems in the regions surrounding these university programs. This proven program provides students the tools they need to start successful companies. To date, more than 41 companies have come out of 3DS to collectively raise $14.5 million in investor capital and more than a dozen have been accepted to prestigious incubators and accelerators such as Y Combinator and TechStars.

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