Dixie Powers Visits Women in Business

The natural entrepreneurial instincts of Dixie Powers guided her as the founder and former president of Baggallini Inc. Her work ethic, ingenuity, and perceptive vision of an untapped market for organized bags and accessories fostered a company that eventually grew from $1.2 million in gross income in 2003 to over $18 million in 2010.

On April 10th, 2012, Dixie presented her story to the Women in Business club. Originally from Salem, Oregon, Dixie certainly does have a life story From Bags to Riches, the name of her autobiography-in-process by Kerry Tymchuk. She comes from a conservative family where her and her sister’s first job involved picking strawberries and beans until the age of 16 when they began working in the canneries. Dixie’s hard-working character derived from her childhood. She said that, “We grew up with a work ethic, we had to.” She spoke fondly of her father as a role model and self-made man who started a women’s shoe and clothing store as well as dabbled in real estate and the stock market.

After high school, Dixie’s father hoped she would pursue an academic path and attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Dixie had always found school to be uninspiring and admitted to skipping twenty-two days of school her senior year. After graduation, she attended a college that eventually funneled into what is now considered Portland State University. To her father’s dismay, she discontinued her enrollment during her second term and found herself needing to pay room and board at her parents’ house in Salem.

Dixie acquired a job answering phone calls for her uncle as an alternative to working in the canneries again. She tolerated this job until one day when she received a phone call from her friend Carol, who worked as a flight attendant at United Airlines. Carol suggested Dixie pursue a job as a flight attendant. Unfortunately, United Airlines was at full capacity. Three days later, Carol called Dixie again with a job opening at Delta Airlines. She quickly discovered that the requirements of a flight attendant included no husband or kids, hair pulled back, no jewelry larger than a nickel, and weigh ins. Essentially, “Young, thin, and cute. And we were all three!”

Starting at the age of nineteen and for the next thirty years of her life, Dixie became a flight attendant. At one point or another, she was based in Miami, Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta, and many more cities. Dixie was in Boston, her favorite base, for thirteen years and now returns every summer. In Boston she began to develop her innate real estate skills by renting and buying a variety of properties like her father, who sadly would never see her professional successes.

Soon after, she fell in love with and married her husband, a banker, and had a son and a daughter. Their family eventually transferred to Portland, Oregon, where Dixie was based with Delta Airlines. Her flights journeyed to countries like Japan, Korea, Thailand, and China.  On her days off while in these countries, Dixie explored the street markets where she would find designer brands names such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Nike, and Ralph Lauren. She and her fellow flight attendants would frequently return home with a variety of goods for friends and family. She often flew with flight attendant Ann Simmons from Dallas who would buy Chanel earrings for $5 and return home to sell them for $50. Dixie, however, became fascinated with bronze figurines and began selling them to friends, neighbors, and local businesses. Dixie guaranteed that it is, “impossible to go to Asia and not want to become an entrepreneur.”

One day while browsing the street markets of Seoul, Dixie discovered a coin pouch. She immediately recognized a need for the accessory as a flight attendant in order to keep each currency isolated. Dixie found a manufacturer and subsequently began to identify and design a wide variety of products that flight attendants desired such as travel and tote bags as well as twistable, travel-sized razors. Dixie and Ann experienced rapid achievement by selling their products to junior flight attendants at other bases to sell to their colleagues. Together Dixie and Ann successfully launched their company Baggallini Inc.

As Baggallini continued expanding, the duo developed a line of vividly colored children’s travel bags that revolutionized the appearance of all products at trade shows. They then franchised the company to encourage growth and eventually Norm Thompson and The Container Store began carrying their products. In February 2001, Dixie retired as CEO of the company and sold baggallini for $40 million.

Her professional accomplishments came full circle two years ago when her sister presented her with a gift. Dixie received a license plate holder for the Wharton School of Business, which she now affectionately drives around with in memory and pride of her father.

While verbally illustrating her stories and physically presenting products to the club, Dixie’s passion and enthusiasm overpowered her initial shy exterior. The membership was able to take away the invaluable advice that work ethic combined with diligence provides limitless accomplishments.  Thank you, Dixie, for speaking with Women in Business!

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.