Interview with Natalie Freed of MSL Bags

Interviews  |  May 25, 2022


Natalie Freed is a stay-at-home mom turned eco entrepreneur and founder of MSL Bags. They are hands down the best grocery shopping bags for the eco-minded person, in my opinion, and are being launched via Kickstarter right now. I asked Natalie about her transition from stay-at-home mom with a passion for sharing delicious vegan recipes (check out her Corn and Potato Chowder on p. 150 and her Sweet Potato Spelt Biscuits on p. 157 of The Vegucated Family Table) to eco-entrepreneur.


Marisa: Vegans always love to hear stories of how others decided to make the leap to veganism. Do you mind sharing your story?

Natalie: Yes! I bet there are others who will relate too!

I became vegetarian when I was 12. We had always had a lot of animals. Horses, chickens, rabbits, birds, mice, hamsters, and of course the usual dogs and cats. We were that house. If there was an injured or in-need animal, my mom would get the call.

One evening, my mom was cooking pork chops for dinner, and there was blood bubbling up on top of them, and I thought… nope.

It was at that moment that I started my transition to a becoming a very cheese heavy vegetarian.

And junk food. There was a lot of junk food.

Somewhere along the line, I regressed, and added fish back into my diet.  It wasn’t until I was 36 years old that I decided to try going fully vegan.

It was a friend (who consequently, is still not vegan) that said ‘Hey, do you want to go vegan for a month?’

Not long before this, my grandfather had passed away from esophageal cancer, and both my mom and my grandma had gone vegan.

Honestly it felt like this moment had been a long time coming, and I was excited to have a reason, and a partner, to see if I could do it.

I talk more about that whole experience in the latest post on my personal blog .

It was 10 years ago, and I haven’t looked back.


Marisa: So sorry to hear about your grandfather. It’s amazing that your mom and grandma went vegan before you! When we first met online you were a stay-at home mom with a beautiful blog, My Source Life, and some mouth-watering vegan recipes, including two go-to’s in our cookbook. I made the sweet potato biscuits as part of our Christmas dinner this year–a big hit with everyone. But now you’ve pivoted from food and health to launching an exciting new sustainable product and brand. What prompted the move?

Natalie: I’m so glad you all loved them! I really liked the combination of the sweetness from the sweet potato, and the nuttiness of the spelt flour.

To be 100% honest, the reason I pivoted away from a focus on vegan food is that I didn’t feel like I had a strong enough perspective.

I went to a health supportive culinary school, so my recipes focus on using healthier ingredients like whole wheat flour, and alternative sweeteners like whole cane sugar and maple syrup.

But I am no stranger to processed vegan products, and other vegan junk foods! And I like them! As a person attempting to live a healthy life, I do limit them in my general diet, but they are definitely invited to my party.

It felt like I couldn’t get behind any specific angle or perspective, because I was kind of an ‘all- inclusive’ vegan eater.

So, I decided to just keep my separate Instagram page How ToVegan. Partially because not all my friends want to hear about my new vegan finds all the time, but mainly because I could share the real stuff I really like, and not have an agenda behind my post except for the fact that I want to share with vegan friends.

Marisa: MSL Bags are my favorites for going shopping. I love how they fold up beautifully for storage and provide structure on the bottom so that I can easily transport boxed goods and more, and they don’t end up in a jumble in my bag. Was that intentional?

Natalie: 1000%!!

I am a full-on stay-at-home mom. Grocery shopping has been a staple of my domain for more than 15 years. I know grocery shopping.

While the floppy style of bags were always my favorite because of their versatility, they just don’t work well at the grocery store, for the reason you mentioned…the collapsing-in of all your groceries on top of each other.

I think anyone who has used one of these kinds of bags for groceries has had this experience.

But the ones that worked well at the store were always ugly and branded, made from new plastic material, and not washable!

So, it was really out of my own desire to have bags that could maintain the versatility of a floppy, but performed better at the grocery store.

Now they are MY favorite bags to take grocery shopping too.

Marisa: I love how you identified a hole in the market and just filled it. How did you choose your colors and materials? Do you plan to add more colors?

Natalie: I started out by choosing the fabric.

I wanted it to be sustainable, so I did a deep dive into the market to see what was available. It also needed to be strong, but lightweight. What I ended up choosing was a 100% recycled nylon.

Luckily the fabric came in lots of colors. So, I reached out to my audience and did a survey. The colors that were chosen were the ones with the highest scores.

It’s kind of amazing because I love the colors so much, but initially I had been going in a completely different direction as far as color choices. I’m so glad I asked what they wanted because this palate is my favorite, and is already inspiring some fun color collections for me.

What I really would like to expand on however are prints. The issue with that right now is that the printing minimums are pretty high. As a start-up brand, I just don’t have the capital to expand there yet.

However, there is one print that is within reach for me right now-Tie Dye! I did one sample and it has quickly become a fan favorite.

On my Kickstarter, the Indigo tie dye is actually a ‘stretch-goal’ meaning, it won’t get unlocked unless the campaign reaches $14,000.

And I really hope it does, because I want some more tie dye bags too!


Marisa: Oh, I love the tie dye! I hope you hit the $14k mark! What has been the biggest challenges in this process so far?

Natalie: One of the biggest challenges for me has been that I’ve had to figure out what I’m doing every step of the way.

From product design and manufacturing, to sourcing talent to help me build a Kickstarter campaign- complete with video and graphics, to social media promotion and marketing.

Having big goals forces you to ‘just figure it out’ sometimes. And while it is often educational and enriching, it can also be time consuming and confusing.

I rest on the idea that if I work hard, and do my personal best, then what is meant for me will come. I work to focus on my gratitude and perspective and find the joy within my pursuits, because I know that the alternative will only leave me at the end of my life with regrets over the time I spent fretting, and not enjoying all the beauty that was offered me

Easier said than done somedays, but that’s the goal.

During this Kickstarter, that has looked like a new morning routine for me.  I wake up early and make lunches, then have 20 minutes of quiet time for myself while I drink my tea, followed by a 15- minute guided meditation, journaling, and a 20-minute workout.

This sets up my body and mind to deal with the stress each day of trying to raise thousands of dollars!


Marisa: I love how you created this healthy time for yourself to be ready for anything. What’s been just downright fun thus far in the process?

Natalie: Great question! I hadn’t really thought about that part.


I think when the first round of samples finally came in, and I loved them. That was a pretty fun moment.

The whole process from idea to product is a pretty lengthy one, especially if you are learning it all from scratch as you go.

From getting your pattern made, to choosing and ordering sample fabric, to finding a manufacturer, to finally getting those samples back, is a long road. And there are other steps to be taken before after and during those ones!

For me, finally seeing all the pieces come together, was like completing a puzzle. So satisfying.


Marisa: So satisfying after all that time. How can we best support you and your business right now?

Natalie: Of course, pledging to my Kickstarter Campaign is the first way!

But I also need exposure. The more eyes on my campaign, the better chance I have of bringing The Floppy to life.

Sharing to your social media or with anyone you might think is interested in a product like this helps me spread the word.

Big picture, I think the only way for sustainable brands to become more accepted is if they are:

  • easily available
  • can compete in style
  • can compete in price

The only way to achieve these goals is to start supporting brands that are working towards those objectives as well, and help to make sustainable products and practices more mainstream.

I’d also love to see you on our Instagram or Facebook, where this conversation is always going on.

All the best to Natalie and her campaign!




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