"My name is Martina and I am the owner of Swift Industries. And I am also the janitor and the bookkeeper. And I am a sewer. I am the person who runs errands and drops off deliveries... along with everyone that I work with."
This begins the story (as told on www.builtbyswift.com) of how Martina Brimmer and her husband Jason turned their passion for bicycle touring and admiration for high quality handcrafts into a successful small business making bicycle panniers and touring bags. Swift Industries is a four-person, Seattle-based company that designs and manufactures the bags from "the very first snip to the very last bolt."
Martina was a member of San Francisco Waldorf High School's first graduating class of 2001. After high school she attended Humboldt State, then took a break to spend a year traveling. While in Costa Rica, she worked on a rural farm, and helped community groups in Philadelphia convert neighborhoods into edible landscapes.
She returned to her studies at Prescott College in Arizona, where she majored in environmental studies with a focus in agroecology. The small classes and school's focus on the environment and social justice were a good fit, and Martina graduated with a job working for a professor on agrobiodiversity in the Bolivian Andes.
In 2007, Martina and her husband moved to Seattle to be near his family. In this transition, she submitted her art portfolio of textile and fine arts and landed a sewing job at a messenger bag company. In the position, she learned industrial sewing and how to work with the tools, machinery, and designs required to make durable bags. As her skill grew, Martina began experimenting with bags that would be best suited for bicycle touring, an interest that grew after a month-long, life-changing bicycle trip from Seattle to San Francisco.
With a hands-on education in the messenger bag trade industry and a first-hand understanding of the bicycle community, Martina applied for a business license for Swift Industries and set up shop at her home. To support herself in the interim, she took a position as the after-school program director at the Seattle Waldorf School, leaving mornings free for Swift.
Martina and her husband grew the company slowly but surely, using a grassroots, word-of-mouth marketing strategy. According to Martina, the success of this approach speaks to the tight-knit bicycle community that has connected her to customers from all over the country. Swift Industries now carries a line of seventeen classic and functional bicycling bags, all of which are made by hand in bespoke colors. Some bag models were the result of Martina's direct need during touring, others from specific customer requests.
Swift Industries is now an integral part of the Seattle cycling community. The company of four, all avid bicyclers, are dedicated to in-house production and sustainability. The shared interest in the bicycling culture and the product lead to an incredibly supportive, collaborative, and creative work culture.
In her relatively newfound management role, Martina says, "I feel connected and proud of people working for us. I've found that the position of an employer is in some ways also a caretaker. Having an employee is an investment, and I want them to have financial security and a creative work environment."
And how about the impact her Waldorf experience has made? As a Waldorf student, and daughter of Dagmar Eisele, one of the SFWS kindergarten teachers, Martina has always enjoyed the practical arts. Her education, she says, has also helped her become an entrepreneur: "I troubleshoot both analytically and creatively," she notes. "I also have faith that if I put myself to the puzzle, I will land where I need to."
Check out Swift Industries at www.builtbyswift.com!