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NFL bag ban: Women find solutions to banned-purse problem

Beth Saacks at a New Orleans Saints preseason game.  The dentist and entrepreneur has invented a product to help women work around the NFL’s gameday purse ban.
Source: Beth Saacks
Beth Saacks at a New Orleans Saints preseason game. The dentist and entrepreneur has invented a product to help women work around the NFL’s gameday purse ban.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Notice it's the mother, not the father. Nothing may be more of a necessity to a woman than her purse, but this year the NFL has banned all backpacks, as well as purses larger than the size of a hand.

It's a safety measure, and it is also supposed to reduce the time it takes to go through security checks at football games. Any bag larger than the size of a hand must be made of a clear material, but no woman wants people seeing the innards of her purse. I earlier blogged about a very funny protest campaign called "My Purse, My Choice."

Some fans are furious. Others see an economic opportunity. And several "mothers of invention" have emerged to create solutions.

Aunt Fleaux to the rescue

"As a 25-year NFL season ticket holder, I feel this purse ban is beyond ridiculous," said Beth Saacks, a die-hard New Orleans Saints fan. Saacks is a dentist. Her friend, Rachael Couvillion, is an appraiser for a mortgage company. Neither has any retail or manufacturing experience, but they are Americans, by golly, and if there's money to be made, Americans figure out how to make it!

The two women put their heads together and created Aunt Fleaux's Gameday Packs, selling hand-sized purses big enough to carry a few items while maintaining privacy. Most importantly, they hide any feminine products—hence the name, "Aunt Fleaux."

Before you wince uncomfortably, realize that probably one in four women at a football game is, you know, needing feminine products. Saacks and Couvillion developed the concept and created prototypes specifically for Saints fans bearing the team logo with the tagline, "I Bleed Black and Gold." They decided to expand the idea to include bags for LSU fans with purple and gold.

Next came a Facebook page and Twitter account, and the two women ordered a thousand bags manufactured, pricing them from $9.99 to $14.99.

"We sold several hundred in our first week," Saacks said. "We likely would have sold more if women could understand that an approved purse does not have to be clear." Again, only bags larger than the size of a hand need to be transparent.

Other entrepreneurs are promoting their products as solutions to the NFL bag ban. Sholdit sells scarves with pockets in them. "Gets You Into Any Stadium" is the new headline on the company's website. "Not only will this solve the handbag-ban dilemma facing women this football season, it will also keep them warm on chilly game days!" said Sholdit's Jenna Watson.

The Shark Tank blog has come up with a list of "NFL Bag Ban Game-Changers." One includes an invention called the Scottevest. The vest lets you carry all kinds of personal items in pockets, and you can even control your iPod through the outer material.

Farewell, Saints bling purse

Aunt Fleaux’s Gameday Packs, New Orleans Saints version
Source: Beth Saacks
Aunt Fleaux’s Gameday Packs, New Orleans Saints version

Coming up with a solution to the bag ban may be easier than cooling the anger of female fans. Hell hath no fury like a purseless woman scorned.

"I normally carry a pricey NFL-stamped Saints bling purse and have for years!" said Aunt Fleaux's Beth Saacks. Not anymore, and before she created her own product, Saacks had to improvise at Saints' preseason games. "I decided to stuff my necessary items in my pockets and went into the game. Of course, my lipstick went through the wash in my white jeans. I should send Roger Goodell the bill for the jeans and the lipstick."

Saacks is hoping to expand Aunt Fleaux's to more teams, but not to all. "We are fully prepared to market them to the whole NFL, except our enemies, the Atlanta Falcons, as I promised my teenage son I would not."

Yes, even in America, there are some things more important than the profit motive.

—By CNBC's Jane Wells; Follow her on Twitter: @janewells

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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