In 2018, at the age of 25, Ali Kaminetsky founded Modern Picnic. Her goal? She wanted to provide working women with a chic and sustainable alternative to the traditional lunchbox.
Ali had just graduated from college and moved into the city to start her job as an assistant buyer in the retail industry. She brought her lunch to work every day, as it was much faster, healthier, and cheaper (especially as a recent grad on a budget) way to have lunch. She quickly realized that she didn’t have a chic or functional way to bring her food in. Carrying lunch in a paper, plastic, or old shopping bag wasn’t “cute” – and more importantly, it wasn’t sustainable or functional either.
It was clear that the outdated lunchbox needed a makeover. And from there, the idea to start Modern Picnic was born.
Our Interview with Modern Picnic Founder, Ali Kaminetsky
Why are you passionate about Modern Picnic?
Modern Picnic is the first to market, high-end lunchbox. We set out to reinvent the traditional lunchbox that we all know (and hate) and create something that women would be proud to carry. Women should be able to look good, do good, and feel good at the same time.
However, aside from our products, what really makes me most passionate about Modern Picnic is our community. Our ambassador program definitely excites me the most, and something we will continue to grow.
What has been your biggest challenge in launching the brand?
My biggest challenge was figuring out how actually to start Modern Picnic. At 22 years old, I had this light-bulb moment where I had this vision, and I had this idea to create a chic lunch bag for women. But at 22 years old, I had absolutely no idea where to start, how to execute and turn that idea into a reality. I was coming with little-to-no professional career experience. I had no hard skill sets, and no connections in the retail industry (needless to say my doctor dad and lawyer mom did not quite 100% get the idea of a high-end lunchbox). I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and figuring it out.
Can you talk a bit about your design process? How do you decide what goes into production?
I first started by taking all of my different food containers, and I tried to figure out that perfect size. All food containers are different shapes and sizes, but I needed to figure out a size container that was the norm.
I would also observe what everyone in my office was carrying their lunch in, and what containers they were using. From there, I started taking all of my bags I owned, and figuring out what I liked about them and what I didn’t like about them from all different standpoints – aesthetics, functionality, practicality, size, etc.
Once I had a better idea of what I wanted to do, I started working with a design engineer to help me hone out the details and create a tech pack, which is basically a blueprint of your bag. Once that was done, we received a live sample, and after some tweaks, it was ready to go into production.
You commit to using organic fabrics and ethical manufacturing. Can you speak a bit on how you tackled sourcing and found a resource that fits in with the values of the company?
We now work with a couple of different fantastic manufacturers from around the world, all of which are pivotal in helping bring the MP vision to life.
We also recently started working with an amazing woman overseas who owns her factory, which I absolutely love and admire, especially in such a male-dominated industry as manufacturing is.
It’s never been a more challenging environment to operate a business in. What advice would you offer other business owners for how to navigate these next few months?
It has definitely been challenging, and I am trying to figure it all out, just like everyone else. One thing I have decided to do is work on things I can control. For example, I used this time to give my website a much-needed facelift, implement new programs that roll out in the next couple of months, and improve our current processes.
Making these small improvements to MP, during this time, has helped me feel more in control of the situation, and more productive. I have also leaned into our brand ambassadors to get their input on what they want to see, how MP can support them, and any other advice they had for us.
How do you practice self-care and balance your personal and professional life?
Balance is so important. I always make time to see my friends and family.
Sometimes you have to have to know when you have had enough for a day and need a break. My favorite pre-COVID self-care activity was going to work out classes in NYC.
If you could go back and give yourself three pieces of advice when you first started Modern Picnic – what would you tell yourself?
- Pay attention to the legalities of starting your business – how the company is formed, for us it was an LLC. These decisions will be very important as you need to make business decisions down the line.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – take everything as a learning experience.
- Don’t be so intimidated by the things you do not know.
What single word, saying, or motivational quote do you identify most with?
Believe in yourself, work hard, and never be afraid to do what you love.
What’s next for you and the brand?
We will continue to expand on our existing product line. We have the most amazing newness coming soon, which you will have to wait and see to find out!