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!

Comments (0)


Mark Your Calendar

    Oct. 17, 2014

    2014 Award Winner and Audience Choice Winner announced.

    See past Award Winners
    Nov. 7, 2014

    Join Martha at the American Made Summit kickoff cocktail party.

    Buy Tickets Now
    Nov. 8, 2014

    Don’t miss our networking event and maker lecture series in New York City.

    Buy Tickets Now
    Nov. 15 - 16, 2014

    Shop for holiday gifts at the Martha Stewart American Made Pavilion.

    Learn More

More Finalists

  • 2014 Audience Choice Winner
    Self taught metal artist opened up a gallery on bridge-less low country island 13+ years ago to specialize in handcrafting coastal sculptures.
    Crafts, Recycled, Upcycled, Vintage Crafts
  • 2014 Food Finalist
    Handcrafted in the heart of Music City, Olive & Sinclair is proud to be the paramount bean-to-bar chocolate maker in the South.
    Food, Sweets & Baked Goods
  • 2014 Style Finalist

    HIPP & kirk

    Lauren Milroy
    HIPP & kirk is a beach inspired lifestyle company based in California. All of our colorful canvas bags are designed and made in San Francisco.
    Style, Accessories
  • 2014 Design Finalist


    Annabel Inganni
    Wolfum is a line of innovative, vibrant, heirloom quality homegoods that fulfill the need for a sustainable, design driven lifestyle.
    Design, Furniture & Home Accessories