Alec picked up the phone with his “naive optimism” and started making calls. “I guess I’ve never been afraid of getting told no,” he said. His fearlessness led him to a load of success – quite literally, a truckload of billboards being delivered to his door. This was the beginning of Rareform.
Whether the motivation was to become “greener” or simply to create, Alec Avedissian found a way to do both after adventuring to South and Central America following the financial crisis in 2008, which had left him jobless. During his time in El Salvador, Alec noticed locals using old billboards as roofing material. Fascinated by the idea, he filed it away until he could really make something of it.
Back in the States, Alec purchased a single billboard online for a steep $100. He cut it up and pieced it together with the help of his local auto upholstery expert – the only person he could think of with a sewing machine. The process showed him that there wouldn’t be a sustainable business if he couldn’t control the supply, and that’s when he picked up the phone.
Operations scaled from one man and one billboard to a 40-foot truckload of billboards and an attic space above a boxing gym in Santa Monica. Six months after launch and surf bags in hand, Alec and his brother Aric attended the Surf Expo in Orlando. “It was really our first time showing off the product and our booth was full the entire time.” That’s where they realized they could turn this side hustle into something big.
The brothers built partnerships with manufacturers in the Ventura area, which they quickly outgrew. Today Rareform is operating out of a warehouse in Agoura Hills, California with 14 employees and six international manufacturers.
There are over 300,000 billboards in the US and the average ad campaign lasts about 4 to 8 weeks. Even if math isn’t your strong suit, it’s safe to say there is a ridiculous amount of seemingly useless material heading to the landfill – and that’s just in advertising!
Rareform acquires billboards domestically, cuts them to size in the warehouse and then ships them to their manufacturers to complete production. Then the manufacturers return the finished product to the Rareform warehouse where each piece is photographed, posted to the site and customer orders are fulfilled. “If we wanted to make it easy, we wouldn’t use recycled material,” Alec said.
Each Rareform product is perfectly unique – just like their patrons. “We only show 50 products at a time or else it becomes too overwhelming for our customers,” Communications Director, Kara Morin said as she sifted through the immense variety of Rareform patterns. When no two products are the same, this business runs the risk of ‘purchase paralysis.’
When the business took off in 2014, Rareform was running 70% retail and 30% online. Today, it’s the exact opposite. Online, shoppers can choose from surf bags, four different types of backpacks (soon to be five), duffels, wallets, laptop sleeves, the list goes on…I can feel like paralysis setting in.
On a final note Alec expressed, “The mission of our brand is to inspire people – to be bold and creative with design. We want to create something with a story and hope it stands the test of time.”