Working Together in Seattle
All 47 of us here at TOM BIHN — design, manufacturing, shipping, customer service, photography, web team — work in the same 16,000 square foot location. We collaborate, problem-solve and innovate in ways that are only made possible by sharing the same space. We think this results in a better bag for you, and it’s more fun for us too.
Photo: We took half a day off from our usual work to become CPR/First Aid Certified.
How We Began
When Tom was 10 years old, he asked his parents for help in getting the equipment he wanted for hiking and camping. They suggested two options: get an after-school job and earn money to buy it, or "just figure out how to make it yourself." Tom chose the second option. His grandmother had an old Singer home sewing machine which his brother Dan helped get running; Tom's mom taught him how to sew and his dad provided the foundations of the necessary engineering.
And the rest is history: Tom has spent the last 40 years designing and making backpacks, travel bags, and briefcases.
Photo: Tom sewing in his garage workshop, circa 1983.
You're as much part of this as we are. I mean, think about it: the fact that you buy our bags allows us to exist as a company. And that you use our bags and provide constructive feedback on how they either work or don’t work for you helps us to build a better bag. We literally couldn't be doing what we do without you. Thank you.
Our Own Way
Here's a few things to know about us and how we work:
Our company is big enough that we can do cool things like develop our own fabrics while small enough that it still feels like we’re one big family. Our capacity is limited and we don't have plans to significantly increase it. That means that you can expect many of our bags to be In-Stock while other bags are In Production. Read more about that here.
Our creativity is what drives us — and we make space for it. Doing stuff like working on new designs, developing new materials, improving existing internal procedures, programming our own software, updating the website, taking new photos — we do it ourselves because A) we’re kinda control freaks and B) we love our work.
We think experience counts. Tom has spent over four decades designing and making bags. In his early days, he often repaired bags made by other manufacturers. That’s a whole lotta learning over many years about what works — and what doesn’t — when it comes to bag design and fabrication. We use that experience to make a bag that will better serve you.
Back in 2013, we wrote down some aspects of our company philosophy and made it into a book. Some of the people we work with asked us to make a public version and in 2016, we did.
Here's an excerpt:
"Coworkers, boss, manager, customer, delivery person and anyone else you deal with during your work day: imagine yourself in one of their positions and try to see things from their perspective. Gain some understanding of what it looks like on the other side of things. And, hey, don’t just imagine it: if you wonder something, ask. Being curious is a wonderful thing to be: it frees you from the burden of thinking you know everything! Ask Bob our UPS driver: “How’s the holiday season busyness going so far for you?” or, ask him if it works better for him if we stack boxes “this way” versus “that way.” Most folks will be pleasantly surprised by how you're paying attention."
Read more: Our Company Philosophy
Cody: Bag Expert
Lucy: Assistant Shipping Lead
Lucy loves playing soccer, digging holes, and chasing her cat around the house.
Fiona: Happy Hiker
Fiona is now almost 1-1/2 years old! She loves playing tug, swimming and going on hikes.
Pebbles: Always Happy!
Pebbles comes to work with Aracelia every day.
Luming: Sewing Crew
Luming's ideal evening: movies and homemade cookies.
Mike: Customer Service+Shipping Manager
Mike loves to cook and play outside as much as possible.
Kat: Bag Expert
Kat loves cats, musicals, zombies and most nerdy pursuits of happiness.
Fong: Sewing Floor Manager
Tom says Fong is one of the smartest people he's ever met.
Ben: Materials Manager
History major. Builds his own motorcycles. Was a Naval Aircrewman.
Ling likes to cook traditional recipes and fruit dishes.
Son: Sewing Machine Mechanic
Son can fix anything.
Rudi's idea of the perfect Sunday: reading the newspaper and gardening.
Irma: Fabric Cutter
Irma likes to take vacations (we miss her quite a bit) and listen to Mexican music.
Aravelia: Quality Assurance Lead
Velia's favorite movie is Alice in Wonderland.
Ying: Sub-Assembly Prep
Ying loves to spend time with her family and grandchildren. And she loves watching tv!
Abdul likes soccer. In fact, he plays it every weekend.
Maria's favorite tv show is Sábado gigante
Edelmira: Sub-Assembly Prep
Edelmira prefers Mexican music above all other kinds.
Chun is an expert on Seattle's best Dim sum restaurants.
Wing's passion is music.
Zhong's favorite color is pink.
Lulu: Quality Assurance
Lulu's favorite movie is The Lion King.
Thuy loves to travel, near and far.
Yanhua loves listening to Chinese music.
Kim: Office Overlord
Kim believes in karma and random acts of kindness.
Kasper is a 2-1/2 year old Irish Wolfhound mix going on six months.
Tao is an accomplished knitter. To relax, she cooks, specializing in amazing seafood dishes.
Yeah, you! You're part of our crew, too.
Tim: Warehouse Lead
Although Tim lives in the city, he'd someday like to live on a small farm.
June: Production Emeritus
June retired as Production Manager here at TOM BIHN in 2013. She's a legend here and still comes back to visit sometimes.
Di likes to spend time with her grandchildren. And go shopping!
Andrea: Quality Assurance
Andrea loves to dance (to Spanish music!) and plays volleyball.
Kieu likes to go on urban walks. The secret to her good health? Eating lots of vegetables from her own garden.
Ichiro is a happy and vocal Lab/Husky mix. He's most at home hiking in the mountains but is pretty ok with hanging out at the factory.
Tam loves to watch soccer, travel, and listen to a wide variety of music.
Honguyen bakes amazing things. Amongst her specialties: cupcakes.
Darcy Gray: Chief Creative Officer and CEO
Most unusual hobby: hiking at night.
Lisa: Sewing Floor Manager
Lisa likes traveling to other countries and working in her garden.
Canh is masterful at making delicious Phở. We're trying to get her to share her recipe with us!
Nik: Director of Operations, Designer
Kitties and robots.
Dau loves traveling to and throughout Vietnam.
Matt: Shipping Lead
Matt moved back to Seattle after 5 years in Southern California. Matt is cold all of the time.
If Sheng's not at work, she's probably playing tennis or doing Karaoke.
Mo-Fong is an adventurous traveler and especially likes to visit countries she's never been to before.
Tom Bihn: President, Founder, Designer
Tom's favorite book is Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean, and he plays the accordion.
Yin Mei: Seamstress
Mei likes to play Candy Crush. She's an accomplished cook and her specialties are baked chicken and cakes.
Candi plays the piano beautifully.
When she's not sewing at work, Luu loves to sew her own projects at home. She's also an excellent cook.
Matthew: Documentation Lead
Matthew loves games of all sorts. When he's not out exploring the city (and sometimes while he is) you can usually find him playing a game of some sort.
Araceli: Fabric Inspector/Spreader
When she's not at work, Araceli likes to sing, dance, and play the guitar.