This week, Emirates Man speaks to James Rodgers, President at Sterling Pacific, a premium suitcase brand, known for crafting some of the best travel bags for high durability.

Welcome to the Emirates Man weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businessmen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

These Sterling Pacific travel cases are engineered to last. Crafted with precision, the full aluminum travel cases cater to the demanding needs of frequent flyers and pilots as they are designed from reinforced 5000 series aluminum and die-cast A383 aluminum.

To delve into his journey, Rodgers shares how the brand has evolved since its launch.

What was your favourite subject at school?

There’s sometimes a cognitive dissonance between what you learn and what you do in practice. When business and career courses were introduced in later years at school, I found them extremely engaging. These classes taught me to think differently about pulling individual skills together and applying them in real-life situations. They bridged the gap between theory and practice, showing me there is an art to execution. These were the moments, I realised there was more than one way to solve a problem and use what I had learned to make strategic decisions. This shift in perspective was profound and really sparked my interest in business, setting the first steps for my future career.


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What was your first job?

My first job was with the French-Canadian designer Rudsak. Working there first taught me the importance of legendary Customer service, quality craftsmanship, and product knowledge. It was where I first developed my attention-to-detail in these separate disciplines. These early experiences were crucial in shaping my work ethic and helped me begin understanding the different dimensions of high-end product development.

What brought you to America?

I moved to the USA from Canada to help scale up the Sterling Pacific brand and to take advantage of the incredible opportunities it offers for business and product innovation. Like Dubai, the diverse market and entrepreneurial spirit here provide a strong foundation for the growth and development of a luxury brand. Being in the USA allows us to directly interact with our core audience of pilots and frequent fliers, who demand high-quality, durable luggage that can withstand constant travel. We understand their needs for reliability, durability, and elegance. By being based here, we can better engage with this audience, gather valuable feedback, and ensure our products meet their exact requirements.

Sterling Pacific

What inspired you to enter the travel industry and work at Sterling Pacific?

Having spent nearly a decade now working with the same group in private equity focused e-commerce, my journey with Sterling Pacific represents a convergence of passion and opportunity. We decided to create a true all-aluminum luggage. This passion project began as an effort to address our own travel needs; we couldn’t find anything on the market that was a true all-aluminum design.

Most “aluminum” models still had plastic components—whether in the trolley housing, corners, or locks. Sterling Pacific embodies two pillars that deeply resonate with me: travel and an unwavering commitment to crafting the best precision-driven products. Serving some of the most aspirational Customers—extreme frequent fliers, pilots, or in some cases both—is incredibly inspiring. At Sterling Pacific, we maintain a consistent focus on delivering excellence, allowing our products and service to our Customers to speak on our behalf. Our dedication to Customer obsession is at the heart of everything we do.

Talk us through the concept.

No expense spared, specification-driven aluminum luggage for pilots and frequent flyers.

What are the key elements of your role?

As part of a small, collaborative team, we wear multiple hats daily. My role involves overseeing and nurturing our wholesale accounts and corporate clients, ensuring we not only meet but exceed their expectations. Collaborating closely with our media team, I strategically help position our brand across different forms of media. Every day, we actively analyze Customer feedback to continuously refine our products and service, especially as we produce our cases in batches, allowing for iterative design improvements over time. Our design meetings are driven by this invaluable feedback, enabling our customers to guide our direction. These sessions can extend for hours as we meticulously craft every detail—from our main patented design features down to the choice of materials and smallest stitches or single rivet placements on our bags.

Talk us through your daily routine.

My day typically starts early with a walk on one of my under-desk treadmills at the office or at home, during which I conduct a thorough review of ongoing projects and engage in team or client meetings as needed. I prioritize staying updated on overnight developments from our teams in Hong Kong and Europe before taking a brief fitness break, which helps sustain my energy throughout the day. At Sterling Pacific, we prioritize a healthy and active lifestyle, with team members participating in activities like marathon running, yoga, and weightlifting.

This commitment to wellness fosters high energy and full engagement among our team, essential for handling long days and occasional late nights to meet deadlines. The remainder of my morning is dedicated to overseeing our wholesale accounts, reviewing media deadlines, and contributing to discussions on design and product development. I actively collaborate with our partners and clients to gather feedback and explore new opportunities, both inbound and outbound. However, each day presents its own unique challenges; for instance, last week, I personally drove a delivery truck to UPS to expedite a large rush order for a corporate client in need of personalized bags under a tight deadline. Such experiences keep things dynamic, it’s cliche but there’s truly never a dull moment.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

For anyone aspiring to create the best products possible, my advice is straightforward yet crucial: prioritize quality and precision in everything you do. Understand your market by engaging directly with your Customers as much as possible and remain focused in your commitment to your brand values. Building relationships with partners and Customers alike is essential for creating perennial brands. Embrace feedback—both positive and constructive—as a powerful driver of continuous improvement. Remember, constructive criticism often yields greater insights than compliments alone. Immerse yourself fully in every aspect of your product or service, from design and development to effective marketing and dedicated Customer service. These industries are fiercely competitive; survival demands dedication and hard work. Embrace this challenge, for it is the greatest gift of all—the work itself is the reward.


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Tell us more about the pieces.

Available in 2 or 4 wheel variants – Sterling Pacific manufactures using 5000 series aluminum, reinforced with 5052 aluminum corners, providing strong durability. The cases also feature Impact Bearing Ridges on the front and back of the case (United States Patent and Trademark Office, US-D988723-S), and full-grain Italian aniline leather handles, sourced from a tannery based in the Italian region of Veneto. Our focus on frequent flyers, pilots, and aluminum luggage enthusiasts ensures that every product is meticulously designed to meet real-world travel needs.

Based on feedback from our pilot clientele, we recently introduced a new colorway, “Jet Black.” This addition caters specifically to pilots who require a black bag to adhere to dress codes during duty. The small team worked tirelessly to design and engineer the perfect aluminum luggage, with no expense spared. The Team is obsessed with attention to detail and has tailored every aspect of the product offering to meet the needs of this core clientele of frequent flyers, pilots, and aluminum luggage enthusiasts.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Rather than offering direct advice, I draw inspiration from two quotes that resonate deeply with our approach at Sterling Pacific. “We see our Customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the Customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos and “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” – Warren Buffett. We embrace the concept of extreme ownership and striving to leave every Customer and partner in a better place than we found them.

Laura Savage, our Head of Customer Support, embodies this philosophy with her ability to steer customer interactions like a skilled conductor navigating a train. She transforms potential challenges into memorable experiences, turning what could be a derailment into a journey of true delight. Don’t take our word for it—visit our reviews page and search for “Customer Service.” I think you’ll find at least 7 mentions of experiences shared in the first page alone. This feedback underscores our commitment to excellence and our continuous effort to exceed expectations.

And what is the worst?

One of the worst pieces of advice I’ve encountered is the notion that the romance or passion for what we do diminishes over time. This sentiment suggests a resignation to complacency, which I violently oppose. I firmly believe that the romance and passion we hold for life can deepen with time, as it continuously refines through our endeavors—whether in our work, our relationships, or our own personal growth.

What’s the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?

One of the greatest challenges we’ve encountered at Sterling Pacific was scaling our operations to meet exceptionally high demand for our products. We worked tirelessly to increase production while upholding stringent quality standards. Compounding this challenge, our Team navigated through not one but two global shipping crises. Through the leadership of our Head of Production, Francesco Rubino, and his team, we successfully overcame these challenges without compromising on any single commitment to end consumers, wholesale partners, or corporate clients. Looking forward, we remain maniacally committed in upholding these standards for the next century of business ahead.

What’s your future for the brand?

Looking ahead, Sterling Pacific is well-positioned for growth in the aluminum luggage market. We recently expanded our product line to include models with 2 and now 4 wheels, focusing on designs that blend elegance with superior functionality, while upholding our commitment to precision design. Our primary goal continues to be enhancing the travel experience for pilots, frequent fliers, and aluminum luggage enthusiasts worldwide. We are actively expanding our global partnerships. Our products have gained prominence at locations such as Printemps on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and are performing exceptionally well in the United States, with strong sales at retailers like Shinobi Menswear in Newport Beach and Las Vegas.

Currently, our products are available in nearly 50 stores worldwide, strategically positioned across key markets. While our direct-to-consumer business in the Emirates is growing, we are eager to establish meaningful partnerships in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Sharjah, and other Emirati cities cities to further establish our presence in the beautiful region. Customer feedback plays a pivotal role in our ongoing product development, ensuring each piece meets the highest standards of quality and performance. As we continue to expand, our core values of integrity, innovation, and putting the Customer at the center of what we do will remain strong to our mission.

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