Friday, May 8, 2009

DUMBO-Based Dynomighty Produces Recyclable Wallets, Goes Viral on YouTube

Here’s the situation: you need a new wallet, but it’s the recession. You don’t want to spend too much on it and you want it to last. What would you think of one that’s water resistant, tear resistant, lighter than water and expandable? Oh, and did I mention it’s only 15 dollars?

Impossible? Not for DUMBO-based company Dynomighty Design. They’ve been making the “mighty wallet” since 2005. Designed by Dynomighty founder Terrence Kelleman (pictured above left, with Tim Knock), the wallets are constructed from a single sheet of Tyvek (the same material as Express Mail envelopes) that is folded and glued in two places.

Kelleman didn’t start out designing wallets. A fine arts major, he worked at the MoMA and was inspired to create jewelry out of magnets. He sold his first bracelet at the MoMA design store in 2002 and has since expanded his jewelry line to include more bracelets, necklaces and rings.

He expanded his product line because “I had been fascinated by Tyvek,” he said. “I’d seen it used in some creative ways but not really as a robust product itself... it’s such a thin material, its eco-friendly, recyclable, super-strong, lightweight and super thin.”

So he began folding an express mail envelope, which took about a week, he said. “I was using my creative processes, which is diving head in and not letting go until I find a solution,” Kelleman explained. “The first wallet was more or less an accident.”

Since that time the wallet has been redesigned. “There’s no stitching, it’s folded and glued in two points on the inside,” Kelleman said. “It gives the wallet a lot of flexibility, so you can start out with a wallet that’s thin, but if you fill it with a lot of materials it can be as big as you need.”

One is made to look like an express mail envelope, one looked like a folded up piece of notebook paper, one looks like a folded up subway map and another has the first 3,000 digits of pi printed on it, which Kelleman calls “geek chic.”

Along with the wallets, Dynomighty also produces Tyvek luggage tags and totes.

... But How Do You Recycle It?

A common misconception of the mighty wallet is that it’s made of recycled materials, said Tim Knock, Dynomighty director of sales and marketing. It is actually the wallet that’s recyclable, he clarified.

“Most people don’t know it’s recyclable, or if they do they don’t know how to recycle it,” explained Kelleman. “One of our initiatives this summer is to focus on increasing awareness not only here in New York... to corporations who receive express mail envelopes, to say, ‘We are now a receiving center [for Tyvek].’

Dynomighty sends the used Tyvek back to the DuPont, the company that manufactures the material.

“We started it for our own products,” he added. “Our new initiative is to start doing more outreach.”

The goal for Kelleman is to eventually make the mighty wallets out of recycled Tyvek, possibly scraps and pieces left over. Those scraps would then be “reprocessed and turned into other product... giving it a second life,” he said.

Viral Marketing in a Down Economy

What’s unique about Dynomighty, Kelleman said, is that they have never taken a loan and don’t have investors. This means no advertising, so he has found creative ways to get the word out about his products.

When Kelleman made the first magnetic bracelet, he posted a video of it on YouTube. He made it himself, with his digital video camera, and as of today it has garnered two million hits, said Knock.

Since then Kelleman has posted many more videos of his products on YouTube, introducing them to viewers or showing viewers how they work.

“I’ve actually made a video on YouTube where I’ve showed people how to take their old express mail envelopes and convert them into wallets,” Kelleman said. “To demonstrate how strong these wallets are, we actually put two holes through the bottom and the top of one — Tim [Knock] hung from it in our warehouse... and it didn’t break. It’s on YouTube.”

And it’s not only Kelleman who is posting videos about mighty wallets; there are others from people who have purchased a mighty wallet. He saw one that’s “a nine-minute long video about someone receiving his mighty wallet and saying goodbye to his old wallet.”

The viral phenomenon that is the mighty wallet happens on other web sites, too. Knock said that someone posted about their wallet on the kidrobot web site (a store in SoHo), and “next thing you know, there’s two and a half to three pages of blogging about the mighty wallet. On another company’s website.”

Knock said that this summer, Dynomighty is looking to hire an intern to blog and tweet about the products and the company, allowing them to stay in touch with their customer.

“It’s not being corporate and behind the scenes, this is an item that’s a respectable price,” he explained. “People are realizing that. What can you buy for 15 dollars anymore?”

In this economy, Kelleman says his use of viral marketing coupled with the lack of investors has made Dynomighty strong. In fact, they’ve grown in the past year.

“It’s made us a lot better as a company — more resilient, more frugal, smarter about all of our decisions,” he said. “We’re not a big company. Every time we need to make a decision, we pull all our resources together.”

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