Four years ago, and two weeks before my wedding, Aric and I decided to say goodbye to our careers in corporate America and take the plunge as entrepreneurs. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best timing, but let’s be honest: “timing” for a big leap of faith is never great.
It started while we were backpacking through South America and saw old billboard vinyl being used as roofing. Blown away by the material’s versatility and durability (not to mention uniqueness and style), we jumped head first into the crazy idea of taking billboards and repurposing them into one-of-a-kind products.
We knew nothing about manufacturing or retail. We did not even know what we were going to call our new business. We just knew unique billboards were all around us, and if we could turn those billboards into bags, we could make a cool product under a brand that was doing good.
We started brainstorming business names and finally wrote down two words that described the products we wanted to make. Each bag would be unique — or “Rare” — and each billboard would take on a new — you guessed it — “form.” We hopped onto Godaddy.com and bought Rareform.com from someone in the Midwest for $2,000. (Thanks Robert!) Yes, that is how it started: with us maxing out our Capital One cards to follow our dream.
We now had a name, a website, and a product, but were missing a critical piece of our business: billboards. Although Aric and I like to tell everyone we climb up at night and steal them, unfortunately that isn’t the case. We called executives at multi-billion dollar advertising companies and asked them to team up with two brothers who had a crazy idea. Before we knew it, 40-foot truckload of billboards were headed our way. Where should the billboards be delivered? Aric and I were living in LA, and didn’t have a warehouse or anywhere to store them, so we gave the truck driver our parents’ address without telling them. Our parents weren’t happy about it (Sorry Mom!).
We took our first billboard to an auto upholstery manufacturer and had him sew up a surfbag. It looked amazing! We showed it to some friends, and everyone was stoked. We then hit the tradeshow circuit and sold the idea of Rareform. Enough people said yes, taking a chance on us, not because of where we were, but because of where we were going.
After that, we hustled. We worked out of an attic in Santa Monica above a boxing gym (that’s the truth) and drove two hours every few weeks to one of our partners’ warehouses to cut billboard material. We also went on the road and hit the phones, trying to sell bags.
We began to grow, and in June 2015 we moved into our own office and warehouse 40 minutes outside of Santa Monica. We expanded internationally to Japan, Europe, Korea, Israel, Canada, and other countries. We brought on Walker, Kara, Alex, Noberto, and others.
Aside from employees and interns, we had a great support group outside the business. We could not have gotten to where we are today without Brian, Tony, Kenny, Mike, Ryan, Blake, Jackie, Tara, and Mom and Dad.
Aric and I now realize how much work and sacrifice it takes to start a brand, but it was you guys that kept us growing and evolving. We now partner with the World Surf League and have worked with Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson, with even bigger things this coming year (maybe Target, maybe Coca Cola ... alright maybe both).
On our four-year anniversary, we promise we will continue to stay true to what made us start this business: a commitment to durable, unique, stylish, and sustainable products we would buy ourselves.
Thanks to everyone, and here’s to another great year!
Alec & Aric Avedissian
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