Vintage sail upcycle company Ahoy Bags has been nominated for Small Business BC Awards in two categories: Best Immigrant Entrepreneur and Best Innovation.
Ahoy Bags by Ucluelet-based Nelly and Jens Heyduck made the cut alongside three Tofino businesses this year: Tofino Kombucha, Blue Crush Concierge and Surf Sister. West Coasters are encouraged to head to smallbusinessbc.ca to vote them into the next round by March 8.
“This is the first time we are part of these awards. It’s great to be recognized after having done this since 2012. I think everybody deserves an award this year. We have all been making it through COVID and everybody hanging in there and doing their best in these crazy times,” said Jens.
The Heyduck’s immigrated to Canada from Germany in 2009. They both have art backgrounds; Nelly has a Masters in Product Design and Jens has a lifetime of formal education in art restoration and conservation.
“We’ve been around the block a little bit. At this point I don’t see us as an immigrant anymore, but more part of this community,” Jens notes. “I think it’s just nice to have this recognition for the product that we create rather than the fact that we are immigrants.”
Ahoy Bags was created out of love for the environment and the place the husband and wife business team both call home.
“Every other year, Ucluelet is a leg in the Van Isle 360 Yacht race and the harbour fills up with a floating forest of masts and colorful racing sails. But what happens to these sails when they get retired? We started building connections within the sailor/sail maker community and discovered that old sails are either confined to the basements or getting discharged into the landfill, whenever a sail is beyond repair through a sailmaker,” Jens said.
He went on to say that key industry partners in the south-island region reported their landfill waste reduced by 70 per cent.
“It’s not necessarily the easy thing to do, the easy thing to do would be to buy new material and send it to an overseas plant and have it produced there. To us, sustainability is really about leaving as little of an environmental impact as possible, but also sustainability means to employ the community by having local partners and freelancers that are also involved in the production,” he continued.
Nelly said one of the key goals with Ahoy Bags was to develop a timeless design.
“What I really love on the Ahoy Bags is as each sail is really one-of-a-kind, we really have to look at each sail and decide what to do. Our goal is always to upcycle as much as we can on the sail, this means every bag is one-of-a-kind,” she said.
Jens hopes Ahoy Bag customers will walk away with not only a unique piece of the Pacific, but with an elevated level of environmental consciousness as well.
“By them taking these home, they take a part of environmental sensitivity with them. It’s instilling a little bit of a mindset to be conscious of what you buy,” he said, adding that he is excited to see big companies like Patagonia embracing this mentality.
“I really nod my head towards this movement. It’s not the easy thing to do. It’s not profitable in the immediate sense in terms of a business model, but it’s the right thing to do,” Jens said.