Back in 2006, it would appear to any outsider that Ray DelMuro had it made. He was in his mid-20s, held a director-level position at an aerospace company in California, and lived in a house only a block away from the beach. There was something missing, though. He didn’t feel fulfilled.
DelMuro decided to save up some money, leave his job and travel the world for a year. Circling the date on his calendar was the first of two turning points in his life, and what helped pave the path for his future company.
After a year of traveling and learning first-hand about the different cultures of the world, readjusting to working in the tech industry proved to be a difficult transition. DelMuro held three different jobs, one after another, none lasting longer than three months.
After being fired on a Friday just before lunch from the third job—the first and only time he had ever been fired—he went home, sat on his couch for a few minutes and then hit the gym for several hours. By the end of the rigorous workout, he realized it was time to open his own business. Looking back, DelMuro says being fired from that job was his second turning point—it was time to work for himself doing something he enjoyed.
DelMuro dove right into the world of entrepreneurship and signed up for several classes at Scottsdale Community College. He began drawing up a matrix of business possibilities, a couple of which included a t-shirt company and a furniture company.
On a lark, he ordered a glass-making kit online for forty dollars. When it arrived, he stayed up until 2 a.m., watching YouTube videos of how to do it. The process was time consuming and unrefined; he knew there had to be a better way. Through his engineering mentality, he began adjusting the techniques and improving his glasses. He sold the glasses he made out of wine bottles to his family and friends, and realized these products were far more popular and requested than any other idea he had tried.
Creating glasses out of wine bottles allowed DelMuro to capture the perfect balance for his left brain-right brain personality. Perfecting the rim and structure of the glass, the artistic level of creation, the positive responses to the product and the ability to support a larger cause—sustainable living—are a “combination of all the things that I love,” he explained. The business matrix was no longer needed, and Refresh Glass was born.
DelMuro sold his first four-pack of glasses in the fall of 2008, and set up his first booth at a harvest festival that same year. He introduced his products at local farmer’s markets and First Fridays. Through these events, he met people who wanted to help, and those connections eventually helped him get his products placed in Whole Foods Market and the Hyatt.
He opened his first production shop in early 2009 and lived in the shop for a few weeks due to financial constraints. By the end of that year, he had hired his first employee.
DelMuro was beginning to fill in the piece that was missing from his career back in California. He had found a way to merge his engineering skills and artistic passion, all while rescuing and reusing bottles before they hit landfills—a sustainable business effort he could be proud of.
Throughout the first few years of Refresh Glass, DelMuro received financial help for a few small expansions from a friend and investor. This person acts as DelMuro’s mentor and someone he and another friend, Mark Jamnik, meet with for monthly “mentor Mondays,” where the three of them brainstorm and discuss business ideas.
These meetings have helped DelMuro realize his life goal: “to be a purpose-driven thought leader,” and through Jamnik, he was introduced to MAC6, an angel investor and incubator.
MAC6 invests in businesses in their early stages that embody the four tenets of Conscious Capitalism: recognizes that the business has a higher purpose than financial profit; creates value through stakeholder orientation; practices conscious leadership; and holds the values, principles and practices for a conscious culture.
Although Refresh Glass is past its infancy as a business, MAC6 announced its investment in the company this May, supporting Refresh Glass’ next large expansion. MAC6 Co-founder Kyle McIntosh said the company chose to support Refresh Glass because it is a “perfect example of a conscious business that has a higher purpose than just making money.”
McIntosh expects that DelMuro will be able to quadruple his production in the near future, much due to the investment and new office space—a 38,000-square-foot facility in Tempe.
The partnership between MAC6 and Refresh Glass is mutually beneficial. While Refresh Glass will be able to make great strides in achieving its “10 Million Bottle Rescue” goal, DelMuro will become a model and mentor for other business owners in the MAC6 incubator program.
McIntosh says DelMuro’s relationships with local businesses go beyond straight business partnerships and he is able to “develop a true community through what he is doing.”
“I feel like Refresh Glass is the adopted little brother of the hospitality industry,” DelMuro said. Right now, about 15 local businesses are donating their used wine bottles to Refresh Glass.
The logic is there—restaurants save money on dump loads, support a local business and incorporate sustainability efforts to their own business.
The Refresh Glass products can be found at Dillard’s and on Amazon, as well as in many local hot spots including FnB Restaurant, Pig & Pickle, Salut Kitchen Bar, Wolfgang Puck and The Four Seasons.
Pig & Pickle diners are often seen inspecting their glasses—tilting them to the side, looking at the bottom and noticing the variations of the shapes and colors. Pig & Pickle General Manager Chris Beelendorf says that, once they know the glasses are made from recycled wine bottles and by a local company, it adds intrigue and interest to the restaurant.
Pig & Pickle uses Refresh Glass products because it complements the Bohemian, less-structured identity and supports the values of the restaurant. Their other efforts toward sustainability include buying locally grown produce and using kegged wine. “We try to use everything that we bring in,” says Beelendorf.
Salut Kitchen Bar in Tempe has its focus on sustainable business practices as well, aiming to leave the “smallest footprint possible.” Salut found Refresh Glass and chose to use the products because, “It fit our whole theme of reclaimed and recycled,” Salut Kitchen Bar Marketing Manager David Freedman explained.
The community partnership doesn’t stop there. The Refreshing Hour is a charitable happy hour event, partnering Refresh Glass with Valley restaurants including Pig & Pickle, Beckett’s Table, The Vig and Postino. The monthly event benefits Phoenix Children’s Hospital while bringing community support and business to local companies.
Moving forward with the support of the local community and MAC6, DelMuro plans to strengthen his relationships with local businesses and add about a dozen employees to his staff by the end of the year.
His products are likely to evolve as well. “I want to use 100 percent of the bottle,” DelMuro says. He has developed ways to use the top half of the bottle and has working samples of shot glasses, candle covers, self-watering plant holders and lights. “I like giving a big middle finger to people who tell me I can’t do something,” DelMuro proclaims.
DelMuro mentors fellow entrepreneurs in Arizona through a nonprofit organization called SEED SPOT and is a board member of Conscious Capitalism, Arizona Chapter. Through his engineering skills, artistic spirit and a need for doing something that supports a greater mission, DelMuro has found his place in the business world and is actively empowering entrepreneurs to do the same.
The Refreshing Hour upcoming events…
Monday, September 30, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Taggia at Firesky Resort and Spa
Wednesday, October 16, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at J&G Steakhouse
Monday, November 4, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Central Bistro
Tuesday, December 10, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Phoenix Public Market Cafe
Article by Kimberly Gunning
Photos by Lillian Reid
Originally published in the Fall 2013 issue of AZ Wine Lifestyle.