Westchester County's Most Accomplished Women Entrepreneurs

Meet 28 of the county's most successful, move innovative, most respected business women.

(page 11 of 26)

Bag Lady
Sharon Rowe

Founder and CEO, Eco-Bags Products, Inc.
Back in the ’80s, when “paper or plastic” were your only options at the checkout, Sharon Rowe realized there was a better way. A friend gifted her with one of the lightweight, expandable totes that Europeans use for their shopping, and Rowe swiftly became a convert herself. When other friends began admiring her reusable bag, Rowe, a veteran sales executive, wondered whether she could bring a version of it stateside. “I sat down

at the kitchen table with my husband, Blake, and said, ‘I think we have a business. What should we call this?’” Rowe recalls. “We blurted out ‘ECOBAGS’ at the same time, and then Blake, being a songwriter, quickly added, we’re going to be ‘cleaning up the planet one bag at a time.’”
The Rowes, who live in Ossining, founded Eco-Bags Products Inc., in 1989 in Manhattan and moved the company to Dobbs Ferry in 1992, and later to Ossining. The bags sold out in four hours at a soft launch at the 20th Earth Day festivities in Manhattan in 1990. The company grew steadily but the bags’ success reached new heights in 2007, when Oprah Winfrey introduced Rowe’s products on her show. The company’s sales jumped 300 percent over the previous year. “We carefully introduced and built a brand before it tipped,” Rowe says. “A lot of people consider ECOBAGS the pioneer brand of the reusable bag market.” With five employees, the company now sells tens of thousands of bags annually. “Our profits are up, and prospects for growth very strong,” says Rowe, whose bags are made of a combination of recycled and organic materials.
In 2008, Rowe was honored by the Business Council of Westchester as Entrepreneur of the Year. “We see the ECOBAGS brand as more than a bag company,“ she notes. “It’s a lifestyle concept that has always engaged and promoted sustainable choices, from the manufacturing process—fair wage and trade—to the low-impact way we run our business. Having an office in Westchester is consistent with the low-impact mission of our brand, and it’s easy. Everyone in our office works within a ten-mile radius—most within three miles—so it’s easy to run errands, do school-related things, etcetera. There’s virtually no commuting time, and therefore little—or in my case, zero—car expense.”

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