Co-founder, Lug

Ami and Jason Richter with Lug products

A phone call from an editor at Oprah Winfrey’s magazine was the last thing Ami Richter (BA ’01, Recreation & Leisure Studies) expected to receive. Yet one Monday morning in 2006, after less than a year in business, the travel accessory entrepreneur picked up her office phone to learn that one of her company’s products, the trendy yet functional Puddle Jumper bag, had caught the eye of Oprah and was going to be featured in an upcoming issue of O Magazine.

While Richter (nee Davie) was initially surprised to have made the exclusive O List, an honour that practically guaranteed skyrocketing product sales, she knew that nothing like her travel accessories were currently on the market. Tired of the “black and boring” products populating the travel accessory market, Richter and her future husband, Jason, founded Lug to address what they saw as an overlooked demographic: women between the ages of 28 and 60 with a sense of style and a passion for travel.

“We really thought there was a void in the marketplace, so we started exploring ideas about how we could bring colour and some fun into an industry that is typically filled with black,” explained Richter. When Lug launched in August 2005 with the tag line “live life in colour,” “we just had luggage belts, luggage tags, and travel wallets,” Richter said.

But by January of the following year, the company had ventured into lifestyle products and bags, including the now famous Puddle Jumper. Fast-forward seven years and three more O List appearances and Richter has securely established Lug as a brand of choice among female jet-setters.

Despite having no formal fashion training, Richter and her husband design all of the products themselves from their Markham, Ont. headquarters. “We always think intuitively about what people want,” she said of the process. “Personally, I think of the things I need to get me from point A to point B.” And these styles are always evolving. “Even if we have a best-seller, we are always redesigning and making tweaks so the styles can accommodate changes in technology and the needs of travellers,” she explained.

As the styles continue to evolve, so does the brand. A partnership with Frommer’s and new line of children’s travel accessories means that Richter is busier than ever. “It’s been a really fun ride for us,” she said, “and as long as that spark and that passion is there for us to keep growing, we will.”

Text: Christine Bezruki

University of Waterloo