Addicted Inspirations: Rama Wieland from YNOT

This week we find ourselves inspired by Rama Wieland from Toronto-based bag company YNOT.
YNOT was founded in 2009 with an aim to design and manufacture fashionable and functional bike gear, something that was lacking in the cycling industry. Soon enough, the brand expanded their offering beyond bike gear into an extensive line of products for the world’s chic carrying needs. Backpacks, duffles, slings, camera accessories are now sold in YNOT’s Toronto store and online, in a variety of colors and cool fabrics. And when I say the world, I mean it: these guys have gone global. YNOT is now sold in 30 countries. Despite this explosion, YNOT stays true to one key pillar: to make everything locally, sustainably and ethically. No matter where it ends up, every YNOT product is still made in their 10,000 square foot production facility, located in The Junction neighborhood of Toronto.
While all YNOT products may be produced locally, Rama himself is the exception. He was born in Fremantle, Western Australia, and grew up in a tiny surf town called Denmark on the most southerly tip. Rama described Denmark as one of the most remote places on the planet; beautiful but with a slow life pace. Being anything but slow, Rama knew his high energy self would thrive in a big city. After living in London, England for some time, he connected with a friend who was moving back to Toronto, and Rama saw his chance. Despite not knowing much about the city, he was ready for a change and took the plunge. 5 years later, he’s never looked back. Says Rama “I’m with this big multicultural city!” And this big city is happy to have him.
Mark and I connected with Rama when he reached out to us to feature YNOT bags in Addicted, as part of his role as Director of Sales for the company. We’ve now got four bags between the two of us, proving how truly addictive these products are. Two backpacks, one duffle and their brand new camera sling bag The Megapixel; we love our YNOT bags just as much as we love Rama’s and YNOT’s story.
Innovative, ambitious but above all ethical and conscious, we truly are inspired by Rama and YNOT. Learn more below!

How did you get involved with the work you currently do?

I was working in the cycling industry when I first met Tony and the team from YNOT. At the time they were making cycling accessories and bags in Toronto and looking to expand their reach. I joined the team in 2014 to help rebrand the company and move from being known as a cycling brand to an active lifestyle/fashion/carry brand. At the same time, I took over as the Director of Sales for YNOT.

What are the biggest challenges/setbacks you’ve had to face?

As with many start-ups, there are challenges daily! YNOT owns and operates a 10,000 square foot production facility in Toronto–one of the most expensive cities in North America. We pay living Canadian wages and have big overheads so there are always struggles when it comes to growth. We recently invested in an enormous laser cutter that’s streamlined our design, production and sample making. This equipment is hugely expensive and it is always a gamble.

All of YNOT’s competitors outsource their manufacturing so they don’t deal with the same issues. In the US there are huge factories that make white label anything, you just send them the ideas. This doesn’t exist in Canada so we had to start from scratch to make our own factory. However, this also gives us a huge competitive advantage. We have complete control over our production and we can test and scale quickly. We don’t need to forecast inventory for upcoming seasons months or years in advance. We can take a product from a napkin sketch to a production run in days!

For example, TED, you know the TED Talks company, recently placed a custom bag order for their speaker summit. We were able to custom design and turn around almost 1,000 backpacks in 2.5 weeks. This is where owning our local production is a huge advantage for YNOT.

What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?

I don’t want to harp on about local production and being a start-up – but every day is a big success, ha-ha.

I am really proud of where we have got YNOT in the last 2 years. We have grown exponentially!  From a small brand known for cycling gear to a establishing a position in the athletic-fashion crossover market. I spent a lot of last years traveling throughout North America and Europe and we are now listed in some of our favorite retailers around the world. You can now find YNOT in 30 countries and we are establishing new retailers daily.

On a personal note. On a whim, i packed up and moved to Toronto when I was 21. I had no family and only one friend in the city so I had to really hustle hard to make a life for myself here. Every day that I am not a junkie is a win! haha.

Who inspires you?

That’s a tough one, there are a bunch. One that comes to mind immediately is Peter Enright and Phil Wood & Co. They are an American cycling component manufacturer, making everything in their production facility in San Jose, California. I was lucky enough to meet Peter Enright, the current owner, in Germany last year and spend a few days chatting about the history and innovation behind them. In the early 90’s Peter took over the company from Phil Wood. As an avid cyclist, Peter had been introduced to Phil in the early days by a friend and had purchased some of his first components. So when Phil was looking to retire and sell the business he called Peter. Peter had spent years traveling around the world starting up nuclear power plants; developing bio-medical devices; teaching in the engineering department at San Jose State University, and running very successful engineering consulting business. These years on the road away from family was tough and when his children were born he wanted to be closer to home. So in 1991 Peter and some fellow investors bought Phil Wood & Co. Peter brought a fresh energy to the company, designing many systems that are now standards in the industry. In the 90’s and 2000’s when everyone else was moving production overseas Peter and the team at Phil Wood & Co. where investing in creating a state of the art production facility that would match their quality expectations.

This unwavering commitment to making the best product possible and be able to stay true to their brand whilst continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game is an inspiration. Peter is a true innovator. His gentle and humble approach whilst leading and pushing a hugely successful business is incredible and something I’ll strive towards.

If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?

Coming from the South West coast of Australia I grew up in the ocean. All my free time revolved around it, my hobbies and then my first jobs as a teenager. With this connection, I am passionate about its conservation and preservation. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society  is a non-profit, marine conservation organization. Sea Shepherd uses direct action tactics to protect marine life pushing the boundaries, often taking the risks that other organizations don’t to stop illegal fishing, whaling, and environmental exploitation.

Every year as I donate to them as a Christmas present to myself and I would love to get some more people on board!

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Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Addicted Magazine. Her myriad of addictions include music, fashion, travel, technology, boxing and trying to make the world a better place. Nadia is also a feminist, an animal lover, and a neverending dreamer. Keep up with her on social media through @thenadiae.
Nadia Elkharadly