Surfboard Bags from Billboards
A startup selling surfboard bags created from old billboards is perhaps the latest social enterprise to use recycled material in products.
Called Rareform, the Ventura County, Cal., company was founded recently by Alec Avedissian and two fellow surfers, Ryan Judy and Sho Rust. How Avedessian came up with the idea is quite a story. When he graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara in 2008 with a degree in economics and business, Avedessian decided to work for a fishing cooperative in El Salvador helping fishermen sell their catches. He lived and worked in a poor community and he noticed many residents used material from old billboards for roofing, because it was waterproof and mildew proof. And he started pondering the question: Was there a product he could make using the same material back home?
When he returned to LA after a year, he realized there were billboards everywhere. And then it clicked. A lifelong surfer he says he started surfing when he was a kid he saw the material would provide the makings of the rayban perfect surfboard bag. Plus, because they would be made from different billboards, each would feature its own, unique design, So, he started calling up billboard companies, asking if he could have their used material. He found a lot of takers.
Then came the process of figuring out to take 14 by 48 foot billboards, wash them, and turn them into bags. Avedissian’s first attempt at finding a manufacturer was to approach a car upholsterer; the finished product, he says, wasn’t what he wanted. He went back to looking for manufacturers and, at the same time, figuring out how to improve the prototype. To that end, he added a zipper to the tip, for easier removal of surfboards, for example. “We wanted to make it eco friendly and a superior product,” he says. It took about a year to find the right manufacturer and, in fact, he ended up finding two in Ventura County.
Avedissian had worked full time as a market analyst for a renewable energy company, spending weekends and evenings on his business idea. About five months ago, he left to devote himself to his startup and, about two months ago, officially launched it. According to Avedissian, he’s about to start working with a distributor in Australia. Sales, in fact, have been so good, he’s been able to change his financing plans. The startup was going to sign on some angel investors but it looks like “we don’t need to take anybody’s money,” he says.
Ultimately, Avedissian figures that aiming at surfers has a few benefits. For one thing, many of his comrades, he says, are very aware of environme rayban ntal issues. Plus, surfers tend to set styles in fashion. If he rayban can get them to adopt his product, then that c rayban ould start a wave of adoption elsewhere. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Surfboard bags, also, are the first step. He plans to make other products, like a backpack and tote bag already in the works. “Our goal is to make creative products that sustain the environment,” he says.
Rareform certainly isn’t the only social enterprise selling products made from recycled material. One of the best known may be Terracycle, which got its start selling fertilizer from worm poop and now has all sorts of backpacks and the like created from recycled juice pouches and other used stuff. Uncommon Goods includes in its online catalog a lot of products made from recycled material.
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