When Lake Wylie resident Tracey Luebbers designed a beach bag that also can help keep beverages chilled, she thought she’d sell them in boutiques and resorts, but never much more than that.
Then she got a call from the producers of Steve Harvey’s new show “Funderdome.” They wanted to spotlight her bag, called The Swankey, on the show. The result was a cash prize and a chance to meet Steve Harvey.
Luebbers said the idea for the Swankey came to her in 2011 as she was sitting by the pool with a friend. Luebbers watched her friend, who enjoyed box wine, struggle with keeping the wine cool and having it easily accessible.
“At the time there wasn't a way to transport and chill bagged beverages,” Luebbers said. “I thought to myself ‘that would be fantastic if you had a beach bag or a boat bag that also cooled and transported bagged beverages.’”
When she came home that afternoon, she searched the internet but didn’t find anything like what she was looking for.
“That’s where it all started, solving a problem.” Luebbers said.
She applied and got the patent and the trademark in 2015.
“My husband and I are empty nesters and I was looking for the next chapter of my life,” Luebbers said.
Her purpose, Luebbers said, was to cut down on the gear women have to carry to the beach.
“The Swanky did double duty. It was a fully functioning tote bag and a cooler all in one,” she said.
The Swankey includes a spout that lets users easily dispense, store, and serve beverages . The bag also allows for storage of drinks in a small pocket above the dispenser.
“It’s a more classy way to carry box wine,” Luebbers said.
She said she came up with the name for her bag by imagining people on their way to the pool.
“I kept saying over and over, ‘grab the (blank),’ and trying different names and I don’t know why, Swankey just stuck,” she said.
The Swankey is made by American Discovery Textile Manufacturing in Missouri, which is run solely by women, according to the website.
“When I first started this whole thing, being a woman in a manufacturing world was so difficult. I felt more comfortable working with them.” Luebbers said. “That’s the thing I’m most proud of, that we are made in the USA.”
The story of The Swankey is what attracted producers from Steve Harvey’s new show, Luebbers said. According to the show’s website, “Funderdome is a seed funding competition reality series” in which two entrepreneurs compete in front of a live audience to get their products funded.
Producers, Luebbers said “found me online and had read the story on my website and really liked it.”
They called her last August and flew her out to Los Angeles to film the show.
“I had a great experience, it was scary, of course, and it was just surreal to even be there,” Luebbers said.
She won $20,000 in that June 25 episode.
“I was very surprised that I won, the look on my face when I won was real, I was so surprised,” she said.
Then, last May, producers from The Steve Harvey Show called and asked Luebbers to help promote the new show.
“That was a huge honor, I was the only contestant out of 78 who they invited to help (Steve) introduce his new show. That was a great experience, to be chosen by him and his staff to help him promote ‘Funderdome,’ that was an amazing honor.”
Even more exciting, Lubbers said, was meeting Harvey.
“He’s exactly like you think he would be, he’s a wonderful person, makes you feel comfortable. I’m only 4-foot-10 so he looked like a giant. He’s larger than life, he’s extremely warm and a real down to earth person. I’ll never forget it.”