University of Detroit Mercy Alumni Profile

It’s In the bag for law school alumna.

Annette Ferber ‘91 has transitioned through multiple careers, each one building on education, life experience and marketplace needs. The youngest of three children born to successful entrepreneurs, she is no stranger to start-ups. Her parents, emigrants from Poland, founded HoMedics in Commerce, Mich., which sells health accessories and other products in 60 countries.

At University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Ferber was in the top 10 of her class. She liked having access to her professors, taking challenging courses and making new friends. She served as editor-in-chief of UDM’s Law Review and worked as an intern for (the late) Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Stacey.

After graduating from law school, she learned criminal defense law from mentor David Groner, who presently serves as a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge. In 1993, she opened a law practice in Southfield and added two partners: her sister, Shari Ferber Kaufman ’88, and real estate lawyer Marsha Deitch.

Just as Ferber was getting the practice off the ground, a difficult pregnancy required her to stay in bed for several months. The next year, pregnant with her second child, Ferber decided not to juggle the demands of a law practice with raising a family, so she closed the practice, and for the next 15 years, stayed home with her four children.

As a busy mom, her second start-up, in 2010, was serendipitous. She was trying to be a “green” consumer, but didn’t like using the flimsy fabric and plastic bags sold by grocery stores.

“My kids would be stepping all over the bags in the car or I would forget to bring them into the grocery store,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why isn’t there a set of collapsible bags all in one pouch that are ready to use when you need them?”

Determined to make her own, she sketched out a design. Her first prototype was made from paper and staples, before she bought her first sewing machine and succeeded in making a set of expandable fabric bags that were functional, fashionable and durable.

Being a lawyer, she patented the design of the four-bag set that folded down into a 13” x 7” pouch. The set included a bag with compartments for breakable items, an insulated bag for refrigerated items, a large bag for regular groceries and an expandable bag for bulk items, such as paper towels, etc. The bags caught the eye of other shoppers, who asked, “Where did you get those bags?”

Ferber not only took the bags to the grocery store, she literally took them to market, naming them, “Sacs of Life,” to represent lifestyle and sustainability. To keep the bags affordable, she located a manufacturer in China, where she traveled to visit open markets to select the perfect fabrics and hardware.

She showcased the products on the TV shopping channel QVC. “We had to demonstrate the value and many features of the Insulator four-piece set in a seven to nine-minute segment,” said Ferber.

It was an instant hit with QVC viewers, with sales of $13,000 a minute. Based on that success, Ferber expanded her line and designed 10 to 12 innovative shopping and travel sets,
as well as everyday cross-body bags. Her line of bags was chosen to premier in Costco’s highly selective Road Shows, where they sold 75-120 bags each day. This exposure to a massive customer base sparked sales and brand awareness.

“Doing demos is what sells the bags,” Ferber said. “People need to understand the value and the features of how they unfold and their different uses. We have videos that show that on our website and at retail stores.”

Company representatives are now selling directly to retailers throughout the United States. The company has four full-time employees with offices and a warehouse located in Commerce Township, Mich. Sacs of Life is now positioned for growth and Ferber would like to bring more jobs to Michigan.

“My experience in law school has provided me with an education that seems to apply to every aspect of the business world and so much more,” she added. “Attending UDM Law opened my eyes to the realities of life.”

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