By Erin McCarty
Most people don’t think of what happens to vinyl when it gets thrown away. But Angelo Talamayan isn’t most people. The University of Alberta accounting grad was in an exchange program for school in Europe of 2009 when he became intrigued with how vinyl was used as tarp covers for trucks. “Vinyl takes 70 years to decompose; it stands the test of time,” says Talamayan. “I thought – what else could I do with it?”
This moment inspired the concept for what has become his company, Ruze: a sustainable product line of laptop bags, sleeves, and pencil case-sized pouches, all made from recycled vinyl. The company name is based on the words reuse and ruse. “We wanted a name that captured the essence of our product – using a material that people considered to be trash and making it into something functional,” explains Talamayan.
At the end of 2009 when Talamayan graduated, he turned down several offers for accounting positions because he was more interested in entrepeneurship. So, he put his efforts into trying to get Ruze off the ground. He admits he always wanted to start his own business, but he wasn’t sure how it would pan out. “I always thought I was just this crazy person who didn’t want to do accounting for a living, but I had some ideas that I wanted to bring to life,” he says.
He decided to recruit some help. Talamayan met his business partner, Nathan McQuay, while they both attended U of A. Together they looked at the biggest first question to tackle – where do you get used vinyl? Talamayan set out on a hunt for manufacturers, but he wasn’t getting the results he was looking for. “At that point it was mid-2010, and I was feeling really discouraged about the whole thing. So I decided I was going to travel.”
He traveled to South America, and then on to his native country, the Phillipines. During this time, he says the creative juices were reinvigorated, and he set about contacting manufacturers. “It sounds cheesy, but I was looking for a way to give back to my country, and I was happy to involve people I knew in the process.”
He recruited two people – one of his best friends from high school, and a business woman who was very involved in the community – and production began as he headed back to Canada. Talamayan ran the whole operation via Skype.
“It was a real challenge,” he says. “We went through about seven or eight prototypes, all of which I saw through a webcam. But we finally achieved some products we were happy with.”
Ruze products are made from all sorts of vinyl products – event billboards, ad campaigns, posters, and beyond. Thus, all the products are 100 per cent unique because of the way the vinyl is cut.
The production run produced 350 laptop sleeves, 100 laptop bags, and 400 pencil case pouches. From there, McQuay used business connections to contact retailers in the province, and this past Christmas; Ruze made it to the shelves of three retailers in Alberta – Lucid Lifestyle in Edmonton, Eleven: Eleven Boutique in Calgary, and Angela’s Attic in Bragg Creek.
“Christmas sales were strong and went far better than we expected,” says Talamayan. “We spent so much time creating the product that sales and promotion were done through word of mouth more than anything else. We are now shifting our focus to how we can market our products better.
Talamayan says there has been interest from stores in Vancouver and he would love to eventually expand to a larger market. That starts with some new products this year. “We have a final prototype for a backpack now, and we are working on a yoga strap, a gym bag, and, hopefully, an iPad cover,” he says.
While he works full-time as a business development and recruiting manager, Ruze remains Talamayan’s creative outlet. “I really love doing this. I love getting up at 3 a.m. and logging into Skype. Ruze is where my creative energy goes.”
McQuay says he loves being part of the company because he really believes in the product. “I think more people are becoming environmentally conscious, so it feels good to give them a clean product made by reusing this material.”
Check out Ruze on Facebook or on Twitter @RUZE_Fashion.