Guests at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards may not have gotten to meet fellow attendee Nupur Parekh Flynn, but they left with a special gift from her anyway.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m just soaking it in,” said Flynn, the Baltimore-raised inventor of Bagceit, a clever invention that’s been included in the swag bags for the Grammys and the upcoming Academy Awards. With it, the veteran marketer and philanthropist hopes to save first the pricey purses of Hollywood’s glitterati and then the world.
The pithy name is a bougie play on what the item literally is: a seat for your bag to rest safely without having to place it directly on the ground. “We spelled it ‘ceit,’ which makes it a little French and reminds you of ‘conceit,’ like being conceited about your stuff. It’s a small, simple, elegant and portable solution to bag protection,” she said.
With the price of designer bags ranging from hundreds of dollars to the equivalent of a Honda Civic, it’s a no-brainer to want to save your investment from dirt, spilled drinks and guacamole. Putting it under the table is not only bad for your bag’s looks but, according to superstition, is bad for your bank account. “‘Bag on the floor, money out the door,’” Flynn said, repeating the old adage. I personally try to remember that when I’m out and about — and I don’t, which may be why I’m not rich.
What to do with your bag is a common problem for those of us who carry one every time we leave the house. You can sit it on the table or the bar, but it takes up space. You could bring one of those portable hooks, but using them “depends on the table. They can be either too thick or too thin. You don’t want to hang it on the back of the chair, because someone could snatch it from behind. And what if it doesn’t have a strap?” Flynn said.
It was so frustrating that she started asking for extra napkins to rest her bag on the floor, before realizing the solution was something more stylish. It’s one of those things that’s so simple that Flynn was convinced someone must have invented it already. But they hadn’t. So she did.
“Next thing you know, I’m at my kitchen table working on it. You want something bad enough, you create it yourself,” she said. Since she’d never invented anything before, she sought out people who had and found Kevin and Joshua Barnes, the father-son team that owns Harbor Designs & Manufacturing.
“I said, ‘I know what I want this to look like, but I don’t know how to do any of this. Can you help me?’ Seven prototypes later, here we are,” Flynn said. The result is a foldable plastic seat with “antimicrobial additives” and metal legs that weighs less than a pound and comes in a vegan leather case. She’s proud to have brought her vision to life with local people, including Harbor Designs and a team of marketers. “I wanted it to be a Baltimore story. I’m a Baltimore girl.”
The Bagceit has already logged time among the famous, seen onstage at last summer’s “Hip Hop 50 Live” celebration at Yankee Stadium and in the audience of the Kennedy Center, where Flynn’s friend DJ Kool Herc, credited as the father of hip-hop, was honored.
The next obvious place to go was Hollywood so she could get one Bagceit in the hands of celebrities “who could talk about how they love it and found it useful,” she said. “I rolled up my sleeves and got on the internet to figure things out, getting to know people who could recommend who to go to. And, through blessings and luck and hard work, you can get things done.”
Hard work is something Flynn’s used to. A graduate of St. Paul’s School for Girls and McDaniel College in Westminster, she worked for the Clinton administration as part of the United States Agency for International Development, for the law firm DLA Piper and for Brown Capital Management before retiring in 2019.
“My career is important to me, but what’s even more important was the personal, the philanthropy,” said Flynn, who, with her husband, Guy, is a part of several boards, including LifeBridge Health’s and the Baltimore Museum of Art’s, and the United Way of Central Maryland’s 100th anniversary committee. “I’m always appreciating ways of giving back to the community in which you live. That’s who I am.”
While Flynn is not an international celebrity like the ones receiving her invention, she did get an unexpected bit of spotlight when she (clad in an Orioles shirt) and Guy were on the Instagram and TikTok channel Meet Cutes NYC, where random couples are asked how they met. Flynn, who splits time between Charm City and New York, is initially visibly skeptical in the video, as any Baltimorean would be if “some guy comes across the street on his bicycle and says, ‘Hi, I want to know about your story.’ You can see my expression, like ‘Who’s you? Do you mind?’ But I got a little softer. I’m happy to share that story.”
She said she didn’t give the encounter much thought and she and Guy went about their business. “The next thing you know, I’m getting text messages galore. ‘You guys are on Meet Cute!’ Folks came out of the woodwork. It was adorable.”
While Flynn isn’t seeking fame for herself, she sees great things for her invention, which she hopes becomes the next must-have item. “I’m so grateful that Bagceit is out there, doing her thing, showing off,” she said. “It’s an ongoing labor of love.”
This article has been updated to correct the name of the company Flynn worked with on her invention, what cities she splits her time between and the year she retired.