Vicky DeRouchey battled breast cancer twice. After the second scare, she vowed to leave an unsatisfying job and become an entrepreneur. She turned to her wife, Melanie Cole — the pair have been together for 27 years — to talk mission and passion.
“We realized all the activities we do, our travels, the people we hook up with, have to do with water,” Mel says.
But how to turn that into a business?
“Mel came up with the idea to solve a problem we have when we’re on the water,” Vicky says.
“And that is, we’re anxious about our belongings,” Mel says. “Our phones, money, keys, passports, medications — they connect us to safety. You don’t want to worry about theft or about losing or damaging them in the lake.”
Vicky (top left) and Mel (bottom left) researched the market and saw that many waterproof bags had a tendency to leak or sink. That’s when they looked into scuba gear, zeroing in on zippers.
They designed and filed patents for Ugo, a small dry bag. Its stiff, sealed, German-made zipper locks in air, so the bag floats. They added a clear side so users can see — and operate — a cellphone inside.
“It doesn’t look like it, but it’s highly technical gear,” Mel says.
Mel, 54, and Vicky, 64, dream of expanding Ugo and of launching a kindness foundation. “We are working and living with integrity,” Mel says. “We dared to be free,” Vicky adds, “to make the most of every day.”
Ugo bags retail for $129-$149. Use the code MNNICE for 25 percent off. ugowear.com