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Vaya Bags

American Made Since 2005

Tia Meilinger

Queens, New York
Vaya Bags makes handmade bike messenger bags and accessories out of recycled bike tubes, scrap sailboat awnings and old banners.

Tell us about your business.

I started Vaya Bags in 2005 just after graduating from college with a degree in environmental science. As a cyclist, I needed a sturdy, waterproof bag. Instead of buying one, I decided to make myself one. I learned how to sew from my dad who was a leather craftsman for 45 years. He made one-of-a-kind pieces of art using leather that he found in a dumpster outside of a leather factory. With the influence of my parents and my passion for the environment it was only natural that I looked for scrap or recycled material to make my bags. Sure enough I too found out that many companies threw away perfectly good materials that I could use. I formed relationships with local sailboat awning factories, collecting their scraps, as well as with local bike shops which threw away tons of bike tubes. Vaya bags are made using these scraps, recycled bike tubes and old banners. As we grow we strive to keep our business environmentally friendly, locally made and a positive part of our community.

What makes your business stand out?

For most companies, making money is the main goal, but at Vaya bags our environmental and social responsibilities come first. Using new materials would be better for our bottom line, but we insist on using as much recycled and scrap material as we can to make sure we do our part for the environment. We could also easily have our bags made overseas, but we keep everything handmade locally paying all of our employees a decent living wage. Vaya Bags is also unique because we customize products to fit the needs of our customers. We feel that it is rewarding to both us and our customers to connect in person. You don't often meet the makers of your belongings, but with Vaya Bags you can meet all of the people involved. Customers can even come into the shop and see the bags being made.

What's the best business advice you've received?

Believe in yourself. You have the ability to live your dreams!

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