John Okungbaiye 

High Spirit Bags

John Okungbaiye, 26 from Hackney, East London, grew up finding life a daily struggle but together was determined to better his life. He was the only boy in his class who knew how to use a sewing machine and textiles were his thing. The vibrancy of the cultures, colours and patterns that surrounded him as a child wove themselves into his imagination and fuelled a passion for art and textiles. John pursued this through his studies and work, but it wasn’t until he visited New York with his older brother, Joshua, that he spotted a niche.

High Spirit Bags

"When we went to New York, we noticed people carrying their back packs across their chests and tummies so that people couldn’t pick-pocket them. I thought if you simply relocated the zip, it would help prevent loss and pick-pocketing in big cities.”

John and his brother, who have always been close, decided to go into business together; they gave up their jobs, patented their idea and got to work.

“I knew a local London tanner who could supply and make my designs, so we made prototypes and got pop-up stalls at Spitalfields and Westfields. We manned the stalls ourselves and spoke to everyone who visited. It helped us gain real feedback into the kinds of things people did and didn’t like, who our target audience was, and what would sell.”

John was confident about the creative side of the business, but wanted to get a better understanding of how to structure a successful business; and for this, he sought help from The Prince’s Trust.

“I can’t put a price on the help The Prince’s Trust have given me. It’s been epic. They taught me everything from cash flow and tax to marketing and SEO; they’re always there when you need them, they’ve helped me to build good relationships with buyers, and they’ve made me feel so much more enlightened about the technicalities of running a business.”

John and Joshua set up High Spirit Bags; crafted in London using exotic looking leathers and interesting colourways – all inspired by the vibrant East End - these stylish, award-winning bags help prevent pick-pocketing through their innovative zip-relocated design, and have won a number of celebrity fans, including Sir Richard Branson. Stocked at a number of retailers throughout the UK, John and Joshua intend to keep growing their business, and eventually hope to open a tannery and workshop of their own. John also hopes to set up his own charity to help inspire and guide other young entrepreneurs to make a success of their ideas.

Shop High Spirit Bags here >

Thousands of young people like John have been empowered with the skills and self-belief to turn their ideas into reality, thanks to the amazing support of Delta Air Lines. Over the past three years Delta Air Lines have gone above and beyond to take our partnership to the next level and drive new projects to change thousands of young lives. One of these fantastic projects is supporting young entrepreneurs stock their items on our Tomorrow’s Store platform and on behalf of the young businesses we work with, we are enormously grateful for Delta Air Lines’ fantastic support.  Read more about our partnership here.

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