Vanport Outfitters produces handmade bags and luggage in Portland, Oregon, using natural materials from the highest quality local distributors and the sturdiest construction practices possible. Founded in 2009, the company is the creation of Nicholas Everett, who has worked with canvas since childhood, and has practiced custom design work for nearly two decades. Nick’s history is in custom canvas and furnishings for sailboats and motor yachts. The family business, Hayden Island Canvas, owned by his father Greg, is Portland’s premier custom marine canvas shop.
Nick Everett, President of Vanport Outfitters
In early 2011, Vanport Outfitters received its first commercial overseas order from Japan. That is when they started working the Trade Information Center at the U.S. Commercial Service, which assisted them throughout the export process. The company decided to focus on their export potential and actively pursue other markets, and in doing so, relied on assistance provided by the Trade Information Center, including market research, trade counseling, and assistance with export regulations. “Our mission is to provide quality U.S.-made products, and from the beginning have known that in other markets, American artisanal goods are sought-after,” said Thomas Craig, Business Manager at Vanport Outfitters.
Some challenges Vanport needed assistance with included building brand awareness and finding quality contacts overseas to do business with. To address these issues, Vanport used U.S. Commercial Service business matchmaking services. “As a small company, few have heard of us, and are already selling competing products from better known firms. We find that we have to work hard to demonstrate that we’re serious about our craft. We really enjoyed working with the U.S. Commercial Service and found that the services provided helped make selling our goods outside the country easy, and we are continuing to build our brand awareness,” said Craig.
Handmade bags by Vanport Outfitters
Vanport Outfitters has received additional orders from ten different countries, and is planning to export into East Asia, Oceania, Europe, and Canada. The company believes their bags have high potential in Asia and Europe, as their success continues to grow in North America.
“We know that there is a potentially large market both in the U.S. and around the world,” says Craig. We definitely plan on looking abroad more aggressively in the future, particularly to Japan.”
Vanport is also planning to launch a belt line soon. “We’re going to be offering really great hand-made leather products that people will enjoy. Not only will this be going beyond the bag for us, it’ll be showing that we really have the talent in house to make the highest quality soft goods,” said Craig.