Oh, MiniDisc. We remember you fondly. A few million music nerds rocked magneto-optical jams in the late '90s and early 2000s, but in 2019, California-based jewelers Ejects gives outdated mediums a fashionable second life.
Sony's flash-pan technological wonder enjoyed a slice of popularity between the pre-millennial CD boom and the perfection of the iPod. MiniDiscs gave users 80-minutes of hi-fidelity sound with the convenience of rewritable cassettes. It was rad to throw all your illegal downloads onto one of these flashy, blue or red, sci-fi gizmos, but by the time Apple started to air the dancing silhouette commercials, the MiniDisc's short reign was over.
They made a come back in 2015, when friends and co-founders Gabby Lovazzano and Adam Mork started turning MiniDiscs and mini cassettes into must-have earrings, necklaces and bolo ties. These light-weight accessories let ravers wear their love for music on their sleeve – or their heads or chests or whatever – and they're so eye-catching, they're almost a public hazard.
“I always tell people 'be prepared to get a whole bunch of fucking compliments, because everybody is going to be telling you how cool they are,” Lovazzano laughs. “You're almost going to have to take them off if you don't want any attention."
What backgrounds in style and music led you to start a company like this?
Mork: I was the weirdo kid in high school that listened to electronic music, always into DJing. I had a MiniDisc player, and I would record music from the radio. I'm a software engineer and a developer. I've also had some experience throwing events. Me and Gabby were both born in that transitional period where things were going from analog to digital. Digital was stored on a physical media, and then the physical media went away when we got the iPod. It all came and went so quickly, and everybody's just fine with it being gone, but there's something really cool about the way it all looks and the engineering that went into those formats. You look at a tape or a CD and you're like, "How does this even work?" Part of it is in admiration towards it.
Lovazzano: I didn't have a MiniDisc. I didn't know what it was. I had a CD player, so that was what I listened to. I still listen to CDs sometimes in my car. I met Adam in college. We went to Boulder together, and that didn't work out for me, so I went back to the Bay Area, went to cosmetology school. Just being a creative, I wasn't able to do just one thing. I had a couple of different jewelry lines. They weren't a really serious thing. They were more like hobbies to make some money on the side.
Adam [asked me] "what do you think of this little tape? Our friend's brand is making them into keychains." I was like "Yeah, it's pretty cool," and he was like "do you think you could make this into an earring?" I said "Yeah, I definitely could." The second question was "would you wear it?" We weren't really thinking "we're going into business together and we're going to start this really cool jewelry line." It was just like, Adam's love for tech and music, which I also have a love for, and my skills with jewelry design linked up. It was just the right timing.
Where do you get the media?
Mork: Mostly E-bay.
Lovazzano: You just wait until your alert goes off that someone has 50 of these awesome gold and black MiniDiscs you've been eyeing. We're working on creating our own labels, finding manufacturers that are still making these micro cassette tapes so we don't have to use Sony or Maxells. We can have our own Ejects tapes. We also want to be ethical about creating more waste, so we're taking this process pretty slow. It's still all handmade by Adam and I, so if we do something like that, it's going to be a big step into the manufacturing world. We want to make sure it's done properly and not in a sweatshop. It's gotta be made in California.
Is there ever music on them?
Lovazzano: At first, we were getting used MiniDiscs, and we also have a lot of friends that would just give us their used MiniDiscs that have media on it. Those are really cool, but they're not as shiny. It doesn't give you that wow factor. We could put music on it if we want. We have MiniDisc players.
Mork: I actually recorded my first DJ mix on a MiniDisc player. I still have it.
You were recently selling in Dolls Kills. Where else can people find Ejects?
Lovazzano: We supplied them with a batch of about 90 pieces and they sold out within, like, a week. It's pretty cool. We've been doing these cyber bolos. We started doing that a couple years ago, and now everybody is on the cowboy hype. Everywhere I go it's like cowboy this, cowboy that. I don't want to say it, but maybe we started a little bit of a trend, brought it back a little bit.
Is there anything you've learned running this business that could be golden advice for creative entrepreneurs?
Mork: If you think it's a good idea and your friends think it's cool, just believe in it. Because we're doing something completely new and different, there isn't some industry we can tap into and send designs to. If you do clothing, you come up with a design, send it to somebody, they print it all, package it and do it all for you. That was a lot harder for us, but in the end it pays off, because what we're doing is actually unique. If you have something like that, just don't compromise, and it will be worth it.