It's in the Bag (ped)

Bagpeds can be used at home or commercial offices and in third spaces, including coffee shops, libraries, lobbies and airports.

So now you’re a nomadic worker who lives out of a laptop bag. The bag contains your office — your computer, your files, your contacts. Sound familiar? Many workers live out of laptop bags, but have the same problem: Figuring out what to do with them when they get to work, wherever that might be.

Viable, a Grand Rapids product development company with roots in the office furniture industry, is focusing on one very small, but very important niche — office accessories, starting with what the company calls "bagpeds."

Bagpeds are aptly named. The small stands keep your computer bag off the ground and elevated enough that you don’t have to bend over so far to reach inside. The bagpeds also allow for a little bit of extra storage — a spot for your iPhone, car keys and other small items that you might want to get out of your bag or pocket.

Viable is marketing the products directly to consumers with a new brand and website: Workiture. As a brand, Workiture will create and sell products designed for today’s mobile knowledge workers and to support them in the places where work and life come together.

Workiture’s flagship products for home and office are the El and Flip bag ped- estals, work tools that provide a place for people to store their briefcases or workbags off the floor. El has been ergonomically designed to make it easy to access files and laptops for people who frequently work out of their bags. Flip provides bag storage and switches upside-down to provide visitor seating.

Both products are manufactured in West Michigan of 1/8-inch cold-rolled steel and are power-coated. The El bagped is available in 4 colors: black, white, silver and bronze. Flip bagpeds are available in white. El bagpeds can be accessorized with a fabric shelf to hold keys, wallets, phones and other personal items. Customers can choose from 18 different shelf fabrics. El fabric shelves are also sold separately so cus- tomers can switch fabrics over time.

"It's a classic inventor's tale: I wanted to solve a problem I had for years. I got so tired of tripping over my bag on the floor," said Scott Sikkema, product designer and company owner. "And I wanted a place to put my bag so I could easily access files while I was working. I went to my workshop and built a pedes- tal. So many people requested one after coming into my office that we decided to bring them to market."

Bagpeds can be used at home or commercial offices and in third spaces, including coffee shops, libraries, lobbies and airports. El bagped retails for $199 with shelf, $169 without. Flip bagped retails for $299. Both are available for purchase immediately at Sikkema is developing another bagped made out of molded plywood that will come in at a lower price point. Though the products are being sold directly to the consumer, volume discounts are available by contacting Workiture directly.

Sikkema said the direct-to-consumer model is an experiment, of sorts. "It is kind of a consumerish product, though I think it is a commercial contract category as well," he said. "Nobody was ready for it two years ago when we first built it, so we want to see how consumers will react. I definitely think there will be a contract channel as well. There really isn't a category in either place. We are trying to hit both, con- tract and direct to consumer."

Sikkema said he is also working on other designs in this category for other companies that will market them under their own brand. "I think there are other ways to deal with your bag in the office," he said. "Our biggest challenge is that this isn't a category yet. We had to come up with the word bagped."

Viable is co-owned by Grand Rapids- based Via Design and Sikkema, the for- mer co-owner and president of Sweet- water Products, a company he sold to izzy+. The ideas come from Sikkema, Via Design and its principals, Valerie Schmieder and Brian Barkwell. Via Design is a commercial and residential design firm with clients in West Michi- gan and around the world.

Via Design was established in 1989. The company's commercial projects include: mixed use developments; retail and product showrooms; restaurant and hospitality facilities; professional offices and institutional campuses; and multiple unit housing. Its residential projects vary in range from the plan- ning for highly customized estates to the renovation of a single room. The company believes in a holistic approach to the design process. All aspects of the built environment, interior and exterior, are integrated and equally important, resulting in a creation that reflects its client's vision.

As a design firm, Via often finds a need for products that simply don't exist. That's where Viable comes in. Sikkema has the engineering and manu- facturing expertise. His passion lies in creating simple products that help people work. "I am all about making smart worker products and product accessories," he said. "And even beyond that, any type of product that will be helpful to the new mobile type of work. When it comes to bagpeds, there are not many solutions out there on this issue. A lot of people just put the bag on the floor and can't get into it."

A bagped is the type of products that workers can't do without once they have one. Sikkema said many people get one for the office and find they want one for their home as well. "When you have one, you will love it," he said.

Workiture products work great in coffee shops, restaurants, conference rooms and offices. They also work well in corporate waiting areas, giving ven- dors a place to set their bags. Sikkema has even sold them for use in high-end restrooms.

Additional new products are planned for the Workiture website in 2012.