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Moms Who Rock: Deb Johns, CEO of SCOUT

Deb Johns - The Creative Mom and Mind Behind SCOUT Deb Johns - The Creative Mom and Mind Behind SCOUT

As the song goes, "She Works Hard for the Money." Now, Donna Summer may have been singing about a freewheeling single gal there, but the sentiment is doubly true when that gal answers to “Mommy”.

Working moms have evolved from the lines of cheesy, chart-topping 80s pop tunes to head up some of the most successful businesses on the planet, all while managing to make sure boo-boos are still kissed and holiday traditions remain intact.  How do we do it?  Myriad ways, naturally...but organization is a key common denominator.  To keep all the tools of their trades together and close to hand, the smart working mom employs a SCOUT, of course.

Ingeniously designed, insanely durable and downright fashionable, SCOUT bags make the scene on the shoulders of savvy and stylish moms from the pool to the carpool, grocery stores to gyms, beaches, and even boardrooms. We recently had the chance to chat with Deb Johns, Co-Founder and mom of four, who sits in the pilot's seat of the juggernaut that is SCOUT by Bungalow. She gave us a peek into the genius behind the brand, the family she designs it around and her philosophy on style.   

Inspired by a chic Helmut Lang carryall spotted at store in Milan, the first SCOUT bag was made from Deb’s realization that women and families around the world wanted a tote bag that perfectly blended fashion and function; and, if it came at a better price than its high-fashion counterpart, the bag would likely sell out.

She was right.

For so many, SCOUT bags are more than a conveyance for personal belongings, they are an obsession. Why do you think that is?

They solve an equation, allowing the person who uses them to get use from them while still expressing their fashion sense. We work hard to make sure that our products fit a need, deliver great bang for your buck and make you happy.

Yo Deb” -SCOUT’s blog- is like the fashion equivalent of a cupcake. The perfect bite of decadent indulgence, without overdoing it. Do you write all of it? Where does the inspiration come from?

It’s the “meat” of our fashion side. Four times a week we get to prove we really know our fashion stuff, that we aren’t just following trends, we have a pulse on helping set them. I don’t write all of it, even though I have years of experience in the fashion business . What’s cool is I’m surrounded by a team of young, brilliant, savvy, and fashion-forward folks. They contribute to “Yo Deb,” helping form the collective voice of the blog.


Naming the baby. SCOUT bags have the best names ever. What is your process for this?

Two times a year the whole team gathers and we have a, “Naming Day”. Everyone just tosses out ideas. It’s a creative process, but yes… it’s fun. We look for names that fit the look of the bag, have a nod to Pop Culture, and are interesting. (Interviewer's note: “Oh Buck It” and “Pocket Rocket”... Best. Names. Ever.)

What one item can Deb Johns not do without?

Patricia Underwood headband. After having three boys in three years, then a daughter, I needed something that simplified my life and my look. I added to that a Prada fanny pack for the gear. The logic behind that was, “Really, who is going to come up to your waist and steal something from you?” Plus, it’s the ultimate hands-free option. They’ve both become my signature pieces. In fact, I had a girl at one of my kid’s schools come up and tell me, “Nobody can rock a headband and a fanny pack like you can.” They filled a need when the kids were small, and still do. Useful quality never goes out of style.  

What one thing do you insist somebody other than you always do?

Throw things out. I’m a Pack Rat, I can’t bring myself to get rid of things. It’s served me well though, all the shoes and clothes you see in our catalog photos are either mine, or belonged to someone in our family.

So many companies talk a good talk about giving back, but for you it is very real, and very personal. Can you share a bit about Go Bo Fund?

At age 11, our son Bo was diagnosed with B Cell Lymphoma. It’s tough to see your child go through something like this. We knew though that in certain respects we were lucky. Other kids going through this, with parents who didn’t have the means, couldn’t to be there every night with their child. Some lived further away and couldn’t stay, others had jobs that they had to go to in order to sustain their household. We witnessed so much need. We asked the hospital if there was was something to help them. There really wasn’t. We also saw that, even beyond his illness, our little guy was missing his life, lacking in joyful moments that children imbody.

We wanted to help and to instantly empower Bo to get his joy back. So we wrote a letter and sent it out to 12,000 people, friends, family, etc, asking them to donate funds to help these other families. And the money rolled in, with each new donation Bo would get so excited, it really gave him back that spark. In the end, that generosity amounted to between  $50,000 - 60,000.

The Go Bo Fund has now raised nearly half a million dollars and provides financial assistance to families to help bridge the gap between what health care insurance covers, and what it does not. Which is a lot! It’s helps provide everything from groceries, rent and in-home care, to tutors and in the sad event that battle is lost, has stepped in to help cover funeral costs.

Bo, now a Senior at Lehigh University,  writes about his own story at 10 Years of Going.

Lay some wisdom on those aspiring entrepreneurs out there. What is your best piece of business advice?

Embrace what you are and who you are. Now move on to something more important. Everything else will follow that, because authenticity translates in items, friends, and philosophy. There aren’t that many new ideas out there. But if you see a SCOUT bag and you know it.. it’s because we’ve stuck true to who we are, we are authentic.

You’ll be celebrating SCOUT’s 10th birthday this year. Looking back what would you say now about the journey?  

You’ve come a long way baby. When I left New York and moved to the DC area I used to call it the, “Anti Fashion Capital of America”. That’s changed so much. Fashion lives just about everywhere now, and SCOUT has found a home because we solve the equation - fashion, function and affordable- for not just this area, but the new lifestyle. We’ve become a more mobile and nomadic people, the need to keep the style in our lifestyle has evolved with us. SCOUT will continue to innovate and grow with our community and our customers.


With a force like Deb behind the logo, is it any wonder that SCOUT is one amazing product and brand? We think not. Come check it out for yourself, we’ve got a deal for you.


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