Business Finds New Life For Old Banners

By Neal St. Anthony
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Relan” is part of the growing “reuse, repair and rental” movement in Minnesota. The economic sector has grown rapidly in recent years to nearly $10 billion in sales. The company gets vinyl banners and signs from businesses for free. Workers then clean, cut and refabricate the materials into products such as bags, coolers, cardholders and even surfboard covers.

MINNEAPOLIS

Della Simpson and Kari Brizius are a mother-daughter duo who long dreamed of building a business around their passion for the environment and health.

Brizius, 38, graduated from West Point in environmental engineering and then spent eight years in the Army, including a tour in Iraq.

She was working for a North Carolina-based modular-building company when she and Simpson started thinking about joining forces. Simpson was selling equipment to the food service industry. Neither was thrilled with her day job.

And in 2011, they took a deep breath and bought a near-dormant company that made a few products out of discarded vinyl banners.

“We wanted to do something in business that was good stewardship of our planet and that also fed our soul,” Simpson said. “The only way we get out of this mess of garbage and unsustainable, consumptive living is to do something that’s part of the circular economy.”

The new owners of Relan (relangreen.com) invested an unspecified six-figure sum and went without salaries for three years.

They changed the old Relan business model and slowly started to attract clients.

This year, Relan, which is based outside the Twin Cities and contracts with corporations for old vinyl banners and turns them into a variety of products, will produce positive cash flow on about $250,000 in revenue. Next year, the owners predict a doubling of sales based on new and repeat orders. In addition to the owners and another employee, the growing company employs more than a dozen contract sewers from St. Paul.

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