We had the good fortune of connecting with Benjamin Ramirez Reed and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Benjamin, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
In the plant-based/vegan world and eco-friendly world, it can often be difficult for you to find high-quality, good-looking simple products. Dog supplies, as one example, are often made from leather or nylon. Both have their issue for you, if you own a dog. Leather, while beautiful, can crack if it gets wet, and your pup might “mistake” it for a chew toy. Nylon is tougher and will last almost forever (a problem itself if/when it goes to the landfill), but after time it’ll pick up that musty dog smell and the color will fade. When I started Oak & Berry, I wanted to offer you something different. An alternative to the conventional dog supplies everyone and there pup have. After testing different materials, I settled on a textile called Pinatex. A leather alternative made from up-cycled pineapple leaf fibers, Pinatex offered a beautiful, plant-based and eco-friendly alternative to leather or nylon. When people first hold an Oak & Berry dog collar or leash made from Pinatex, they often first guess that it’s made from leather. Pinatex looks just like leather, feels just like leather, and softens with use just like the finest leather. Best of all, it’s soft and comfortable for your fur-baby while also being gentle on the environment. It’s a win, win, win for you, your pupper, and the Earth.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Like many people, I’ve loved dogs for a long time. If you grew up with a dog, or some furry or feathered companion, you know how they can shape you and your life. For me, it happened like that but to the extreme. My mother opened a dog daycare and boarding place attached to our house when I was little. From a young age I worked in the dog daycare, caring for and training dogs. I spent most of my time around dogs in that business. After awhile I took over managing and running the business and learned a lot about what it took to be an entrepreneur. That was my introduction to the dog world and dog industry. When I decided I wanted to own and operate my own business, it seemed the natural choice for me to stay in the dog world. My first business was a combination of my leather-working hobby that I’d picked up a few years prior and my experience with dog’s and the dog world. I started out making leather dog collars and leashes that people could personalize and customize to their style and pup. There are a few problems with leather, though. While it’s a beautiful and classic material, leather will dry and crack if your pup takes their leather collar for a swim. Or that custom leather leash will snap in two if your pup gets the strap between there teeth. Both of these situations I’d seen and more, many times. The problems with leather eventually lead me to the textile Pinatex, made from upcycled, pineapple fibers, and Oak & Berry dog supplies were born.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Just south of Ithaca, the shop that makes all the Oak & Berry dog collars and leashes is nestled in the woods of upstate New York. Arguably, we’re most famous for the Fingerlakes’ waterfalls and gorges and being the home of Cornell University. Whatever it is that brings people here, the area seems to attract a unique and eclectic group of people with ideas from all over the world. I always recommend to people visiting to try the small restaurants around town, from New Delhi Diamond’s Indian Cuisine to Coltivare’s local Farm to Bistro. If you have the energy (and want to get in some cardio), the trails and views along the waterfalls and gorges are breathtaking. On the weekends, you can wander down to the local Ithaca Farmer’s Market to sample local produce, or even Cambodian food hand-made by a local family. After a morning of shopping at the Market, you can walk right down to the dock on Cayuga Lake and take a boat tour of the lake and here more about the area. Surprising to many visitors, Ithaca and the Fingerlakes are well know nationally for growing some of the best Riesling wine in the country. Vineyards sprinkled up the western side of Cayuga lake offer a leisurely day of wine tasting while you drive up the winding roads along the lake. As a cultural melting pot, there’s really an opportunity for adventure wherever you turn here. My biggest recommendation would be to plan on coming back a second or third time!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I know a lot of people can relate when I say I owe a lot of credit to my dogs for the life I live now. They encourage you when your down, love you no matter what, and always seem happy with life. For me, though, my dogs hold an even more special place in my life. They’re also my inspiration for my business and products. When I design new dog collars or leashes, my own two German Shepards, Vivian and Sylvie, are always the first to wear them. It’s become a small ritual and Vivian and Sylvie get very excited with all the attention of trying on a new collar, or measuring for a harness. I chose the material I use, called Pinatex, because of how soft and gentle it was to touch and hold. I wanted something that would be comfortable and safe for my pups’ and yours to wear, while still being strong and high-quality. My two pups are a constant source of inspiration and encouragement for me, that I try to bring to my business. As man’s best friend, don’t your fur-babies deserve the best?
KNG Marketing, Arizona USA