STAY VOCAL's mission is to encourage people to reuse and to make themselves heard. So in the true STAY VOCAL tradition, we thought it would be best if Alex told you the story behind the company himself. --Kemper Herron
STAY VOCAL is a products and information company centered around the practice of reusing materials. But it wasn't always that way.
In 2003, I started the company (originally called VOCAL) as a positive-minded skateboard and apparel company, as a result of working with numerous non-profit organizations, political punk bands, and wanting to continue on in the skateboard world without injuring myself as much.
I came up with the original name of "VOCAL" because I was disenchanted by people who complain about how bad things are and never actually do anything about it. It would be a company that encouraged people to use their voice to make some positive change in the world.
Strangely enough, the first piece of merchandise that I ever created was not a skateboard, but rather a ReUse t-shirt. These were used shirts that I cleaned, treated, and put new logo prints on.
I had been selling merchandise for bands for three years at that point, and it was blowing my mind how many new t-shirts were being manufactured all the time. And I wondered how many times those shirts actually got worn before ending up in a thrift store or sent off to a rag company. After researching facts on textiles and textile waste, I realized that this was something that I not only wanted to do, but felt I needed to do.
Over the next four years, I did some extensive touring with the band Anti-Flag as their merchandise manager. While I continued to make ReUse t-shirts, I began venturing off and working on other ideas for positive change as well: adoptions, animal rights, human rights, etc. And during this time, many of the bands we toured with became interested in STAY VOCAL and many joint projects ensued. Some examples are the Anti-Flag Skateboard deck, Darkest Hour T-Shirt, and Bent Left Travel Mug.
But in all that time, there was one major problem. When anyone asked me what STAY VOCAL was, I could not answer them in one sentence. I tended to go off on a rant about all of the different socially conscious ideas that the company was involved in. And it was also quite confusing as to whether or not STAY VOCAL was a non-profit.
This past spring, after a bit of a mental breakdown and talking with my personal discussion group (friends, family members, and business cohorts), it was obvious that ReUse was the most important aspect of STAY VOCAL. So as of the end of March 2008, SV officially became a reuse products and information company. The other ideas are not gone; they just fall under the ReUse umbrella. We encourage addressing all manner of ideas that can have a positive impact on our Earth.
After first making the decision to go strictly reuse, I was a bit nervous about how things would change, especially with the many bands that had helped mold STAY VOCAL to be what it was. But fortunately, the bands have been extremely supportive and are more involved than ever.
When I began making reusable shopping bags, Strike Anywhere, Darkest Hour, and Mike Park (owner of Asian Man Records) were all for having their own. We have also begun providing ReUse t-shirts as tour merchandise for bands like The A.K.A.s and Bent Left. Other bands like Big D and The Kids Table, Sakes Alive!!, and Resolution 242 are new bands in our community, and ReUse has become an important idea to them as well.
Switching to a strictly reuse products and information company was a tough decision, but with the reception that it's received, I know it was the right idea. And hey, I can even say what I do in one sentence now!Alex Eaves is the owner and founder of STAY VOCAL, a reuse products company based in Norwell, MA. His roots are in skateboarding, traveling with musicians, and working with non-profit organizations. Alex was the May 2008 winner of IdeaBlob's monthly contest for the best small business idea.