Mark Twain said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
On any given day, Josh Linde ’07 knows he was born to create love, joy, and opportunities for others. He’s doing exactly that today. As a dedicated family man. As a successful social entrepreneur. And as a cofounder of Ethnotek Bags, a socially responsible company that builds high-quality laptop and travel bags that feature ethically sourced handmade textiles.
Linde will tell you that although the process of uncovering his vocation took twists and turns, it’s Augsburg College that deserves the credit for giving him the skills and practice to unearth where his gifts and talents meet the world’s needs.
“My whole education at Augsburg could be subtitled, ‘Vocation.’ I learned to be meditative. Directional. I learned to write and reflect and repeat that practice many times,” Linde said. “This reflection and practice has informed every decision I’ve made since being at the College.”
And he isn’t kidding.
Linde feels tremendous pressure to make Ethnotek Bags a stable venture. Families and villages across the globe—in Ghana, Guam, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam—depend upon the company for a living and to help maintain their cultures.
His ability to question deeply and reflect laid the foundation for what has become the nontraditional business practices that put the company’s global partners in the driver’s seat and that give Linde the assurance he’s living out his vocation to create opportunities for others.
“We ask our partners what their time is worth and then we pay that price. We don’t negotiate lower prices, and we aren’t looking to reduce those costs,” Linde said.
The company offers its partners a generous delivery time of 90 days, a bonus for on-time delivery, and a premium for early delivery. The extended delivery window is important for the company’s partners, many of whom work out-of-doors and can encounter significant weather-related work delays.
But for Linde, it makes Ethnotek Bags’ approach all the more rewarding. In the end, each bag made and sold by the company is an individual and complex story with the power to maintain cultures and change lives for the company’s suppliers and customers.
“Our bags have three layers of existence—utility, beauty, and as a living story,” Linde said. “When you own one of our bags, people ask about and reach out to touch the bag. Each bag creates a connection to and meaningful conversation about the people who made it.”