PakRat Story

Everyone thought we were nuts moving back in with our parents at 23 and 25 years old to start a crazy business venture. They didn’t even know the half of it. Here’s how it all began…

PakRat Co-Owners Rachel and Elissa

PakRat Co-Owners Rachel {left} and Elissa {right}

From Pickpocketing to Production

Elissa graduated college without having secured a job so she did what any broke, unemployed college graduate would do – travel for 5 months in Europe, Central America and Mexico until she completely ran out of money (literally had $3 left in her bank account when she came home). With a budget of $20 a day every penny counts and it seemed like everyone she met during her trip had been robbed at least one time along the way. Our parents insisted she bring a money belt on her trip but she refused to wear it (NOT cute). She decided she would take her chances in the name of fashion.

When Elissa finally made her way home she couldn’t wait to share all of her adventures with her best friend/older sister Rachel. We were unpacking over a bottle of wine and found the untouched money belt crinkled up and rolled into a ball at the very bottom of the bag. Elissa told all of the stories of how her friends were robbed:

  • Her college roommate getting her purse slashed at Día de los Muertos (day of the dead) in Guatemala and everything stolen
  • Chicken buses (what they call the local buses in Guatemala because people bring their chickens on board) being robbed at gunpoint during the night and having passports, wallets and money stolen
  • Falling asleep at the train/bus station and waking up with their bags missing
  • Going under a tunnel on the train so it’s dark for 15 seconds then when its light again your purse is unzipped and everything is gone

Even with all of that – it still wasn’t enough to make Elissa want to wear the money belt. There HAD to be a better solution that doesn’t 1) sacrifice your cute outfit and 2) scream I’M A TOURIST…COME ROB ME! We looked everywhere for something that would do the trick and couldn’t find anything. We decided we had to make our own.

Elissa at Day of the Dead

Elissa {right} and her roommate {left} at Día de los Muertos (day of the dead) in Guatemala

PakRat is Born

Rachel dug up the old sewing machine from the basement and 8 hours, 5 Band-Aids and 2 pots of coffee later the hand-sewn prototype, which would eventually become PakRat, was born. Elissa started wearing her new “welcome home” gift to the gym, bars, concerts, literally everywhere and made Rachel jealous. Everywhere Rachel looked, she found another use for her sister’s cool new accessory. She HAD to have one. So it was back to the sewing machine.

Designed after our favorite (and VERY flattering) foldover leggings, we couldn’t wear our (soon to be) PakRats enough. People would stop us and ask “what is that thing” and “where did you get that”. Soon our friends started putting in their orders and we knew we were onto something amazing.  

Our dad is a serial entrepreneur, so it was in our blood. Rachel started her first company when she was 8 years old. She started a rollerblading class teaching Elissa and her friends how to rollerblade on our very long, curvy driveway. She was paid in nail polish and lip gloss – an 8 year old’s dream. Her next business started in college – creating hand-made fashion headbands. She went around with samples of headbands to every boutique in Bloomington, IN where she went to school, and one of the hottest boutiques in Bloomington picked them up.  

After returning from her adventures abroad, Elissa was still unemployed, recovering from culture shock and slowly adjusting to life in the real world and Rachel had just quit her corporate job and moved back to Chicago. We both moved back in with our parents and decided we had to figure out a way to start this business. Our dad manufactures electronics and jumped at the chance to hire us to assemble his products in the warehouse. By day we were assembling consumer electronics and learning about running a small business and by night we were sewing, designing, and testing our product.

Having both studied Journalism at Indiana University, we had no idea where to start in manufacturing and designing apparel. So we did what any recent college graduates would do – hit the books. We devoured books on the apparel industry, commercial sewing, watched countless YouTube tutorials, and began our crash course in apparel design and manufacturing. 30 prototypes and countless revisions later, we finally had our design down and were ready to find a factory to produce our product. We toured and interviewed over a dozen factories, in search of the perfect partner for our startup. We finally thought we found it – in the Midwest only an 8 hour drive from Chicago. It was important for us to manufacture in the U.S. so we could better understand the process and maintain the highest quality for our product.

Down But Not Out

Ultimately, our “perfect” factory turned out to be a nightmare with no supervision or process control which resulted in thousands of poor quality products that we refused to put our name on. Although this delayed our launch and caused us to miss our first holiday selling season, we refused to settle and compromise our quality. So we rented a truck, drove 8 hours to our soon to be ex-factory, collected the rest of our material including over 900 pounds of fabric and drove 8 hours back home (our mom had shots of tequila waiting for us when we finally made it back). After regrouping, we started the search for a new factory in the morning. Looking back, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise since we found a local high-end, high-quality factory in Chicago and couldn’t be happier.

The Launch

After a year of development and overcoming countless challenges, we’re now ready to share our product with the world and help everyone solve the problem we solved for ourselves – how to carry all of your essentials and look GREAT doing it! We want to help our customers live an active lifestyle, whether it’s running a marathon, going on a walk, or traveling the world. Our goal is to continue to innovate and grow our company with unique, creative, cool products that encourage a healthy, active lifestyle and allow you to look and feel great! We’re just getting started on our entrepreneurial adventure so stay tuned!

 Rachel {left} and Elissa {right} during our ‘Made in USA’ photo shoot


-Rachel and Elissa

Sisters, Inventors, and Co-Founders of PakRat