When Ossining’s Sharon Rowe started her reusable bag business Eco-Bags, she never imagined she would have such an outside impact on so many people — or pen a book detailing how she was able to do so. “After 26 years in business with awards, positive press, and even a product feature on Oprah, I realized what really struck a chord with people boiled down to this: How I created a business to fit my life; to do good and do well vs. going big or bust,” shares Rowe, who adds that she “created a business to make a positive cultural shift and a good living without killing myself doing it.”
Rowe fomented Eco-Bags in the late 80s when the word “green” still only concerned color. “This was in 1989 and no one was talking about plastic waste or trash or measuring micro plastics in the oceans or our food,” says Rowe. “My husband, Blake — a pianist and composer — and I sat down at the kitchen table and decided this could be a business. Blake named the business and the brand, while feeding our son, Julian. It was the first time ‘eco’ plus any other word was created.”
After years of growth, Rowe hoped to impart some of her wisdom to entrepreneurs craving a similar balance of work and life. Her book, The Magic of Tiny Business: You Don’t Have to Go Big to Make a Big Impact, which hits shelves next month, details a step-by-step process of turning a concept into a profitable small business. For Rowe, the book is much more than a simple how-to guide.
“My biggest goal for the book is that it leads to a movement, an entry point for would-be entrepreneurs and creatives to dive in and get started, to build something of value. I see the book as ‘business within reach’ — a bridge to the world of business for good. I would be thrilled if it took off like the reusable-bag movement I started nearly three decades ago. I’d be happy to travel around the US and the globe speaking on the ‘tiny’ business mindset and I have a particular interest in working with girls and women who need better access to education,” Rowe says.
And when it came to actually penning the book, Rowe’s business experience proved invaluable. “I used my narrative with more than 28 years of making mistakes, building, and creating success,” says Rowe who, from the start, had a unique approach when compared with the average entrepreneur. “I set out with priorities that were different than the usual business models known to me when I began,” she explains. “I set out to prioritize my personal time and profit, along with making eco-progressive and sustainable, responsible, business decisions. Simply put, I built a business on my own terms to fit my life.”
Her role as a female business leader also provided Rowe with a unique perspective that makes the book both more approachable and more useful. “I was surprised to see how few books written by women entrepreneurs are bestsellers, how few of those go beyond inspirational content of ‘be confident’ and how few of those actually built a profitable business on their own terms,” she says. “My book gives the reader the ‘how-to’ steps — tools and guidance to build a business along with my narrative. Inspiration is great but patience, persistence, and discipline is what makes a business profitable.”