Paul Dakermandji got the idea to launch his brand Ruddy Lad while on his honeymoon to Scotland back in 2016. He was with his wife when he noticed a red-headed child give the finger to his mother.
“I thought it was hysterical, then I just created a character based on that. I called him Ruddy Lad which means red-headed kid,” Dakermandji said in an interview with Global News. “He is supposed to be a bad boy. He likes to cause some proper mischief.”
The image of a round, freckled-faced boy with a shock of red head percolated in Dakermandji’s head. A graduate of the John Molson School of Business, he has held various sales job over the year.
But he always dreamed of developing his own brand. The image of that boy didn’t leave him and Dakermandji eventually created a character based on that image.
“I spent time in front of my computer just working out some ideas and came up with the retro style 50s head. It looks like an old school cartoon with reddish hair.”
WATCH: A Saint-Laurent resident’s t-shirt company got an endorsement from Bono
Dakermandji printed the image on a large cardboard mask. Last summer he started wearing the mask downtown and at high-profile events including Montreal’s Grand Prix.
“My main goal was to get social media pictures. I wanted to build up my content before launching the brand.”
He took pictures with random people on the street, and started posting videos and images of the character on social media.
By last fall, Dakermandji was ready and launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign on Nov. 1. Within one month, he had surpassed his goal slightly, raising almost $8,000.
He bought plain t-shirts in Montreal and printed several hundred with various pictures of Ruddy Lad and different slogans. He convinced celebrities such as Chris Kirkpatrick from NSYNC and Chuck Lindell from the UFC to wear the t-shirts and post photos of it on social media.
“I am very excited knowing these people I have watched forever, to see them wearing my shirts is ridiculous — ridiculous. It’s really great.”
Dakermandji’s brand got a big boost last week while the band U2 was in town for rehearsals for their upcoming concert tour. As a lifelong fan, he went to Place Bell in Laval, where the band was rehearsing, to try and see them.
Last Saturday, he and a group of fans got their wish and met Bono at the sports complex.
Dakermandji had his large Ruddy Lad head mask with him.
“Bono arrived and I put up my (Ruddy Lad) head saying ‘Bono, sign my head.’ He said he’d never heard that before,” he said.
“Then he saw the head and he said ‘I like the head.’ So he signs the head and he writes ‘sign the head’ on it which was fantastic. I am in awe.”
Dakermandji then asked Bono if he could put the mask on.
“He said ‘I am game, I think, yeah,’ then he did the peace sign and it was phenomenal,” he said.
He shared the post widely on social media, and hopes it will give his t-shirt sales a big boost. They are available at the store III Monkeys downtown and online.
Dakermandji is only selling up to 10 shirts a week online at the moment. It’s not enough to quit his day job, but he wants to expand to make hats and other items.
While the company is still in its early days, Dakermandji hopes it’s something he can keep growing for years to come.