State of Inspiration
Meet STATE founders Jacqueline and Scot Tatelman, the Brooklyn-based husband-and-wife duo who together with celebrities such as Beyoncé and Jessica Alba are changing the lives of children around the US…
Brooklyn-based husband-and-wife duo Jacqueline and Scot Tatelman are two of the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet. Eight years ago, they started a non-profit summer camp for hundreds of children growing up in Brooklyn’s most underfunded, violent neighborhoods. It changed their lives and because of this, they’re determined to change the lives of others. “We started seeing an unfortunate theme of the kids coming to and from camp with their stuff in trash bags. It tore us up,” explains Scot. It also inspired them to launch STATE, a brand which started as a collection of backpacks and has since expanded into other back-to-school accessories.
You’ll instantly recognise a STATE pack – they’re cool, punchy and covetable, but there’s far more to a STATE pack than how it looks. For every STATE bag purchased, they hand-deliver a backpack filled with “essential tools for success” to an American child in need. And that’s not all: “We wanted to take the one-for-one model, but do it in a way that would be about more than just material handouts, but also positive role models and messaging to get these kids understanding that they truly could beat the odds that are often stacked against them. So in essence, we’re a backpack brand that isn’t selling backpacks… we’re selling GiveBackPacks!”
The work these two do is the kind of stuff that brings you to tears. Their passion and commitment to bettering the lives of others will move you. They run STATE bag drop events where their team of “PackMen” and “PackWomen” lead motivational rallies that leave participating kids with a positive spirit and belief in themselves as well as a brand new STATE backpack. “I cry at every bag drop. I am constantly moved by what we do. It never gets old to see the kids soften, become nothing more than kids – dancing, singing, literally jumping with joy,” says Jacq. “So often they’re forced to be the adult in the family, to take care of a younger sibling, sometimes parents or grandparents. Watching them dance makes me feel like we’re slowing down their speed of life… allowing them to play and be silly and if even for a few hours their life was easy and so much fun. Also watching the one or two kids at every drop immediately take all their things out of whatever bag they had been carrying that was falling apart and put it all in their STATE bag, then throw it on their back with intense pride. It all gets me…”
Since they launched, there have been countless milestones for the brand. They’ve donated over 30,000 fully-stocked backpacks to children across the US. The entire Jolie-Pitt clan has worn their backpacks. They’ve partnered with celebrities such as Beyoncé and Jessica Alba. We could go on. “It makes me feel like the work we’re doing is resonating, and that if we keep at it – hustling like we are, that it will make a difference, and we’ll truly impact the lives of eventually MILLIONS of American kids who really really need it,” says Jacq. “We want to own the backpack category. We want to be the go-to resource for your off-duty cool bag. If you wear a backpack you will wear STATE, and if you don’t wear a backpack… once you see what we’re up to you will!”.
Scot and Jacq are also parents themselves and juggle growing STATE with raising their two children Ayla, 4, and Ozzie, 2. There have been many memorable moments, which they’ll laugh about for years to come. Moments such as when their second child Ozzie happened to arrive on the same day that they launched their STATE X Beyoncé partnership. “I’ll never forget posting a picture of a one hour old Ozzie in my arms announcing him to the world, and then four hours later, posting the Beyoncé press release saying, “This is now officially the biggest day of my life”,” recalls Scot. Adds Jacq: “Scot and I were fielding grandparents and calls with Beyoncé’s team as if it were a regular Tuesday.”
On parenting, they’re both refreshingly honest about the highs and lows. “When the tantrums come, or the whining about why a particular outfit just isn’t right, I’ve found the only out for myself and them is laughter. Ozzie could be having a full-on meltdown, but when I pick him up and pretend to walk into a wall… he loses it with laughter. And so do I,” says Scot. Adds Jacq: “I’m on a constant search for balance. I take it all day-by-day. Sometimes I just let my phone ring and ring until after I put the kids to bed, and other days I just can’t ignore the work. I do try to be completely present with my kids when I’m with them. I listen to them with my full attention, I look into their eyes when they talk to me, I dance with them and swing them upside down until we fall into hysterics, buuuut then I get up and check my phone.”
We caught up with the dynamic duo to find out more about life in New York, their future plans for STATE, parenting and what this inspiring husband-and-wife team does for fun…
Talk us through a typical day in your life…
Jacq: We’re pretty routine based in our house. Scot gets up at 5:30 to hit the gym, and our two year old wakes up shortly after to start making trouble. After I get both kids up, dressed, and snacked, Scot takes them out for a walk with the dog so I can cook breakfast and pack them up for camp. Once he gets home, it’s my turn at the gym. I workout, shower, get dressed, and start the workday. Once my feet hit the threshold of the office I’m in it. Nose to the grindstone all day. Since we’re such a small team we are involved in most aspects of the business, which means tons of meetings, conference calls, and intense strategy/BD discussions. No two days are the same, and there is a constant stream of new opportunities – which is incredible. Scot and I like to get home to eat with the kids, so we try to leave the office at 6 to make it home just in time to attempt dinner. Once everyone is “fed” we head upstairs for showers and bedtime rituals. We usually trade off bedtime with the kids so we both have the one on one time with each of them. After we put the kids away we usually either jump on the couch to work or chat – which is then followed by Scot standing over me while I’m deep in a Snapchat hole begging me to come to bed. There’s a little goodnight kiss and straight to sleep.
Scot: The day starts early and we attempt to end it early… but it rarely happens. Alarm goes off at 5:32 am, and I’m in the gym by 5:45. This is the one hour of my day that I’m totally on my own and uninterrupted. Aside from the hour of day, I love it. Back to the apartment at 7am where both kids are typically VERY up. Grab a snack, water, our dog, Pokey and we’re out the door. Go for a 25-30 minute walk around the neighborhood and grab Jacq a coffee at Cafe 11231, at which point, both kids are on foot, half naked, happily screaming and weaving through people just trying to peacefully start their day and get to the train. Back for breakfast that Jacq’s made while we’re gone, and controlled chaos ensues until around 8:30 when Ayla and I are off to school. On the F train to the office in Soho, and walking in around 9:15. The day is full tilt until we leave the office at around 6 to get home to the kids. Controlled chaos yet again → shower time → bedtime. Jacq and I swap kids each night with book reading and the nightly ritual. We try to just hang on the couch after that where Jacq drops her legs on me, implying that she wants “rubbies” and then we hit the sack (hard!) at around 10pm.
What was returning to work like after having your children?
Jacq: Honestly, when you have your own business there is very little “return to work”. With my first I had a product meeting in my living room five days after she was born, and with Ozzie we were taking calls three hours after. Actually, to be totally transparent – our press release for the Beyoncé collab hit the wire just hours after Ozzie was born.
Scot: When Ayla was born, STATE was really young so it didn’t feel that crazy, but the time around Ozzie’s arrival was next level nuts. We had just partnered with Beyoncé for a back to school activation, which was obviously enormous for us. The next three weeks took me to Charlotte, Baltimore, DC, Philly and Newark for bag drop events with Beyoncé’s team… and sprinkled in there was running our non-profit overnight camp, Camp POWER. It was by far the most stressful, yet exciting time in our lives, but that’s when working with your wife is the best. She understood why I couldn’t be around, because she was living it, too. If we weren’t working together and I was leaving for all those events after the birth of our second child? Oh man… I don’t even want to think about how that would have gone over!
How to do find balance for your career and your family?
Scot: This is probably my biggest stress in life right now. My dad ran a business my entire childhood, but always found a way to be extremely present. I want the same, but I also want STATE to be as successful as we know it can be. It’s a challenge, but Jacq and I are bent on making it work, and finding that balance. We work incredibly hard during the day, after hours, or early morning so we can find that quality time and be 100% mentally and physically present. It’s also the culture we’re building amongst our team. They know that family takes precedence over everything, so when they see us hustling to get home to have dinner with our kids, they know we’ll understand if they need to skip out for something family related. We love our families, and we’re trying to build one amongst our team.
How do you treat yourself to some ‘me’ time?
Jacq: That’s another thing I struggle with. I try to ask for it. I tell Scot I’m going to need a mani, pedi, 20 minute foot massage, plus back rub on Friday afternoon and I really don’t want to be bothered – ha! Sometimes that works and sometimes it’s just not possible. I do get some me time here and there, but the truth is that at this time in life with the business and the kids there isn’t much time for relaxation. My workouts are for me, and I’m totally on top of my highlights and waxes – isn’t that what’s most important?!
Scot: I play softball once a week with a great group of people. It’s fun, hilarious and competitive. All the components of a perfect night away from the grind.
What is one piece of advice your mother or father gave you that has really resonated in your life?
Jacq: My dad always used to say: “It’s not where you are now, its where you end up that matters.” I was a late bloomer in life, and had a tough time in my younger years, being bullied, giving it right back, being overweight, lonely, and overall just uncomfortable living in my own skin. I knew in my heart I was going to get on the right path and find my way… I always believed in who I was in my soul. Where I am, what I’m doing, and who I am – is where I was always supposed to “end up”.
Scot: Dad: “Do what you love, and love who you do it with.” Check and check!. Mom: “You have a mouth…use it!”. I think about this advice all the time as a business owner. We wouldn’t have gotten half the things we aimed for if we never opened our mouths and asked. Simple, but effective.
Any advice for your children?
Jacq: “You do you.” I want my kids to feel comfortable in their bodies, be free to be whoever or whatever they want, explore, make mistakes, love hard, laugh loud, take risks, make their own adventures… and…. always be smart and be safe, please.
Scot: It’s nice to be nice. Again, so simple but so true. I’m really proud of the fact that my old teachers, camp counsellors and parents of friends tell me that I was the kid who just found a way to be nice to everyone. I’d love for my kids to be the ones that sit with the child who feels left out. Who look at a person with disabilities and thinks, “what can I do to make him/her feel like everyone else?”. That’s not something that’s necessarily taught – I’m hoping it’s a value that they see in Jacq and I and instinctively carry it on for whoever may need help, is in need or could just use a friend.
What do you find most difficult about being a parent?
Jacq: Finding patience. I’m so tired most of the time. Life is so draining and when they’re hyper at bedtime or having a tantrum over the way I cut their banana – I lose my mind. What I try to do is either react as if someone else is watching, which usually calms me down, or I take 10 seconds to breathe through it before I speak. I also try to think of how they will describe me as a mommy if someone asked, and it would crush me if they said “My mommy always tells us to “STOP IT”.”
Scot: A year ago, I would’ve said the different stages that come and go… but we’ve gone through so many of them by now, I can kind of wait them out until the next one swings through (although I wish the “I want daddy!” stages lasted longer). Recently, it’s been keeping my patience. I’ve worked with kids my whole life and prided myself on rarely losing my patience, but as life has gotten more demanding and challenging, it’s grown tougher to just let things roll.
What do you love about being a parent?
Jacq: I love my kids so much it’s painful, and everything about being a mom is the greatest blessing. I love watching them grow, seeing their brains work through little challenges, being in the middle of their wrestling on the rug, dancing with them. I stare at them when they’re sitting still (usually watching a show) and marvel over the idea that this little being is part of me, grew in my belly, and I kiss and smell their skin every chance I get. Being called “mama” makes my heart explode every single time.
Scot: Sometimes I’ll be on the train and just wander off thinking about the fact that there are two tiny people walking the streets of Brooklyn who call me “Daddy.” It’s so wild, and it’ll never ever get old!
How would you describe your style of parenting?
Jacq: My style is: “Relaxed Nervous” and Scots is “Laughter is the best medicine”
What learnings have you taken away from parenthood?
Jacq: It’s so hard to raise good human beings and there is no easy path to do that. It’s work, but it’s a labor of true love.
Scot: I’ve learned just how incredible my parents were and continue to be. Experiencing it yourself opens your eyes to just how challenging and never-ending the role is. My parents never took a day off, and raised the bar incredibly high… which I’m so appreciative of, and it drives me every day.
Can you tell us about some of the celebrity partnerships you’ve worked on?
Scot: We’ve had some phenomenal partnerships and celeb fans since we launched. Whether it be spotting the entire Jolie-Pitt clan wearing our first collection of bags, working with Beyoncé and her team, teaming up with Jessica Alba for an epic bag drop event in LA for over 1,000 people, and coming together with Roc Nation artists and athletes this summer in partnership with President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, we are so honored by the fact that high level people and brands have taken to both our mission and products.
What’s it like working together?
Jacq: I’m the creative director – I work on our product and oversee the creative aspects of all things for the brand and Scot handles the whole give back world, and marketing. Working together has its ups and downs. Some days I want to punch him out, and others I cant stop thinking about how proud I am of him… of us. What we’ve built together as a team. Scot is my bestest friend, my soulmate, and an angel on earth – the fact that we can both share the love and passion we have for STATE is incredible. For the rest of our lives we’ll have this adventure to talk about!
Scot: It’s awesome… most days. We’ve quickly learned that for us to be a healthy married and working couple, we’d need to divvy up the daily roles and responsibilities. The good news is that Jacq’s world of product development and design couldn’t be further from my wheelhouse, so I steer clear. Very clear. Although she dips into my world of the marketing and the give back side of the company quite a bit, I love it. She’s so insanely talented and smart on so many levels. I love getting her input on things, or her creative vision of an idea I’m flushing out. Unless it’s completely different than what I was envisioning… then I’ll just pretend to listen and deal with the fact that I’ll have to hear about it in the bathroom while brushing our teeth later that night!
What are your future plans for STATE?
Scot: We are primed to be a household name in the not too distant future. Our product is spot on. Our mission is getting stronger as we’re finding additional ways to give more bags while evolving the way that we deliver them to local kids in need. And our team is 100% committed and their collective eyes are on the prize. We’re ready for the big stage!
Can you tell us about the new collection of bags?
Scot: We’ve had some phenomenal partnerships since we launched. Right now we’re predominately backpacks and plan to stay that way for the near future. Our latest collection for kids is filled with vibrant color combos, playful fabrics, and adorable prints. We’ve also added some small accessories like lunch boxes and pencil cases to be sure your minis have the essentials for back to school. In the adult world we have used sophisticated new materials to elevate our core assortment, and added some new silhouettes for a more feminine style. We’re extremely proud of our current offering, but also very excited for Holiday and Spring as it’s our first season with our crazy talented Design Director so there’s a ton of newness and product that’s just cool, fun, and fashion.
What has been the most moving and memorable part of helping underprivileged children?
Scot: We’re living in a really confusing, anger-filled time for kids where it probably feels like everyone has an ulterior motive or agenda. I always get choked up walking around Camp POWER or at a bag drop, feeling like we’ve been able to break through that noise for so many kids just by being authentic and real. We’ve been able to prove that we have no agenda other than to simply spread love. I take so much pride in that, and cherish the relationships we’ve built with so many kids, and educators in these communities.
What’s your favorite weekend family activity?
Jacq: I love seeing our kids enjoy our home. We have a beautiful backyard and seeing them run through the half broken sprinkler like they’re at an epic water park makes me so happy. I also love mornings in Prospect Park… especially in the Fall.
Scot: Taking the kids and Pokey to Prospect Park before the leash laws kick in at 9 am. It’s dog and kid heaven 12 months a year.
Favorite family holiday destination?
Jacq: Nosara, Costa Rica. Heaven on earth.
Scot: Martha’s Vineyard. Been going since I was 6 years old, and I can’t wait for my kids to bring theirs one day. Now, I’m crying…
Where are your go-to places with your children in NY?
Jacq: Brooklyn children’s museum, Museum of Natural History, Prospect Park, West side highway near Tribeca/battery park.
Scot: We’re kind of homebodies, but when we venture out, we love going to Jacob Riis Beach in the summer, Red Hook ball fields, and our best friends’ roof deck in Cobble Hill.
Describe your children in three words each…
Jacq: AYLA: strong, empathetic, angel. OZZIE: beast, hilarious, trouble (& sweet)
Scot: Ayla: Brilliant. Hilarious. Empathetic. Ozzie: Hugger. Fast. Pizza-Lover.