ATTLEBORO — A city resident and purveyor of handcrafted hemp backpacks is heading to Nepal on Wednesday to film a documentary that will tell the story of the factory where the backpacks are made.
The documentary will also talk about the culture of Nepal, its economic dependence on tourism — especially to the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest — and the impact his business has in Kathmandu, where the factory is located.
Jack Flynn, 23, a 2016 graduate of Attleboro High School, said he will take some video equipment with him and then hire a crew in Nepal to help with the documentary.
He graduated from Babson College, known for its entrepreneurial courses, in 2020.
He got into the business of selling hemp backpacks during his freshman year at Babson.
Freshmen year is when groups of students work together to make a business plan in the first semester and then carry it out in the second semester.
A young woman from Nepal suggested they sell backpacks made in her hometown of Kathmandu and that’s what they did.
Typically, many of the backpacks were sold at small street stands, but that has now expanded to international sales.
The exact content of the documentary is not yet known, but Flynn has set the general parameters.
“I going to do a film about the Nepalese culture and follow the story about making our backpacks,” he said.
Asterisk is mainly known for its manufacture of “wool dryer balls” which are used as fabric softeners and anti-static devices in dryers.
Today Flynn is the only one of the original group at Babson still pursuing the sales enterprise and is aiming to build it into a thriving business.
Last year he sold about 3,600 of the colorfully designed hemp backpacks through his website.
Flynn said hemp is used as cotton replacement. While more coarse, it’s good for making items like backpacks.
“It’s far more durable and incredibly strong,” he said.
And all those 3,600 backpacks he sold moved through his parents’ home, where he still lives, and then to customers throughout the U.S.
He said many trips were made to the local post office.
That part of his effort has ended, however.
Flynn said he’s established a “fulfillment center”in Virginia and where the backpacks arrive from Nepal and are shipped to customers.
And he has two “virtual assistants” in the Philippines.
He said the Nepalese economy is struggling, but factories like Asterisk and businesses like his can help it.
Flynn said he works 60-70 hours a week and is willing to eat ramen noodles all year if that’s what it takes to increase sales to 10,000 backpacks this year.
He said about 75 percent of Asterisk employees are female and the company offers “more than livable wages,” a free lunch every day, scholarships and financial literacy courses.
“Part of the documentary will show some of the hardships they have in Nepal and how we can help by buying backpacks,” he said. “When someone purchases a backpack it makes a positive impact on the world.”