The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday May 28th

This fall, it's all in the bag

Junior helped to design satchel

When first-year students enter the University in the fall, they face an array of decisions. More specifically, they face an array of costs, including, but not limited to, dorm supplies, computers, meal plans, notebooks, books - and, naturally, a bag into which said supplies may be put. Until now, university bookstores nationwide have offered similar products to help students lug around their supplies. Experts say leather-bound black computer bags, backpacks and decorative but not very functional messenger bags rank among the most popular of purchases. So when Penelope Manasco, former executive at GlaxoSmithKline and owner of startup company Penelope, asked her neighbor - University junior Rachael Ostrowski - to help her create an affordable, functional and stylish computer case for female students, Ostrowski jumped at the opportunity to help make students' purchasing decisions a little easier and a little more fun. A business major, Ostrowski hit the streets when working on a design. She interviewed students at parties, in classes and around campus and asked them their opinion of the prototype bags that Manasco had given her. "The bag has transformed tremendously," said Ostrowski, 20. "(Manasco) basically took my feedback and changed the pockets around, changed some zippers and made the bag wider so students could fit their books in there, as well as their laptops. "She had me go with one model and then changed things and had me go with the next model." Those prototypes eventually became the Go Girl Laptop Messenger Bag, which comes in various bright colors and also can be monogrammed or sequined to make them more personal. Manasco, whose college-aged son, Travis, encouraged her to target a college market with her company, found her neighbor a perfect fit for her role as market researcher. "I knew she was a business major and a go-getter," Manasco explained. "And she was very excited to do it." The research taught Manasco exactly what she needed to know about the college market, from the average laptop size to students' color preferences. "It was such a great experience because we learned that (what the college women wanted) was completely different than the business women," Manasco said. "They all wanted style, and they all wanted function, but there were definite changes made for the Go Girl bags." The final product includes a spot for pens, an iPod and a water bottle, as well as a waterproof inside pocket for a 15-inch laptop and sufficient room for books. Ostrowski said she thinks it will prove popular for co-eds all over the country. "I think (Manasco) did a really good job with the style, using different fabrics and different designs," she said. "It's fashionable and is not your typical over-the-shoulder computer bag." Both Manasco and Ostrowski mentioned that the biggest seller thus far is the polka-dot design, a specific request by women with whom Ostrowski spoke. For the future, Manasco is thinking big. "We are going to be getting distribution through electronic retailers," she said. "We'd like to get into the travel magazines and, for the Go Girl bag, a bigger collegiate market." This season, Go Girl bags will be offered at UNC, the University of Virginia and N.C. State. One design, Ostrowski mentioned, includes the Wolfpack logo as the design on the inside liner - a feature that, she thinks, will prove popular. Manasco agrees. "We hope, in two years, everybody knows about Go Girls - and they're carrying one." Contact the Features Editor at


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