What are the qualities that you look for in a backpack? Durable, resilient, stylish, plenty of room to hold the things precious to us, and adaptability for different climates. It was these concepts that formed the foundation for Fenrici backpacks in 2018, creating a line of apparel and luggage benefitting and capturing the spirit of rare pediatric disease, meant to “carry us through difficult times.”
“We serve but we also benefit from the community. The resilience these families show are great examples for our kids and kids everywhere.”
Michael Zhang was the Vice President of ecommerce at a large company and founder of his own startup early on in his career. As a business professional, getting involved with rare disease seemed far from his projected career path.
It wasn’t until he and his wife, who is a pediatric oncologist, started interacting with the families and patients affected by cancer and rare disease that Mike decided he wanted to create a business to support these communities. “We wanted to find a cause we really feel passionate about” said Michael “and after meeting so many kids and families, and the thing that really stuck with us was how resilient they all are.”
Wanting to inspire the kind of resilience he and his wife experienced with other rare families and patients in their 8 and 11 year old sons, Mike started Fenrici Brands. The name “Fenrici” hails from melding the names of both boys, which Mike says is because “we want them to grow up and be resilient people and contribute to the world in a really positive way. Supporting pediatric disease is a cause that we can feel good about, even if the business itself doesn’t do well.”
Fenrici donates 5% of product sales to rare disease education through Global Genes and routinely donates backpacks and laptops to rare disease organizations in need. Mike muses “it’s unique for an apparel company to connect themselves to these kinds of causes. But as we know, while rare disease is rare, together it’s this huge group of people that we can benefit.” To further emphasize their core value of resilience, Fenrici names each product after a “key character of resilience,” and includes messages of inspiration inside each product.
Because Fenrici’s busy season often centers around back-to-school sales, COVID-19 has influenced how and what the organization focuses on. “Since a lot of kids are no longer going back to school, we’ve definitely had to pivot,” says Mike. “We want to continue supporting and empowering families in this uncertain time however we can.” For this reason, Fenrici is now looking towards other products, like masks, apparel, and touchless door openers, to launch on both their website and their Amazon storefront to support kids with rare diseases during their transition to online learning.
From generous donations to organizations in need, to prioritizing values in young children, the concept of Fenrici Backpacks is not only close to the heart of Michael and his family, but also is able to touch organizations and families around the world. Mike says “we are so proud to be able to support these organizations as our business continues to grow. Through our network and capabilities, we are able to share these stories and partner with others to encourage other people to learn more about rare diseases. Especially right now, resilience is so important. To be inspired by the stories, joys, and triumphs from these families is truly our goal.”