Students think outside the lines with new company

Courtesy Photo / Ryan Weber
Ryan Weber and AJ Montgomery pictured left and right, repectively. Webb and Montgomery collaborated on the new Unruled notebooks.

Courtesy Photo / Ryan Weber Ryan Weber and AJ Montgomery pictured left and right, repectively. Webb and Montgomery collaborated on the new Unruled notebooks.

Chelsea Lane

Spiral notebooks are a constant companion for college students and a student’s grade usually hinges on how well they record lecture information and charts onto those familiar pages. Now, Grand Valley State University senior Ryan Weber and recent GVSU graduate AJ Montgomery hope to transform cluttered notes and figures with their notebook company Unruled.

Unlike traditional notebooks, Unruled notebooks have blank, unlined pages, allowing students to draw out diagrams, graphs or just day-to-day notes without lines cluttering up the page. The idea for the company came about last year during a late-night study session.

“I came back from the library last year really late at night and he (Montgomery) came into my room and asked me if I had any unlined, white computer paper for something he was working on,” Weber said. “…We got to talking: ‘Let’s just make notebooks like this.’ So we looked around the internet, we looked in all the office stores and no one made it.”

The closest alternative Weber and Montgomery found were art pads, which are often a more costly and impractical option.

“Those aren’t very practical for taking notes,” Montgomery said. “It’s thicker paper plus they fold out vertically and it’s just not really meant for it.”

Weber and Montgomery’s initial idea has steadily grown into a promising business. The notebooks are currently sold at both GVSU and Western Michigan University. The GVSU University bookstore bought an initial order of 250 notebooks and Weber said UBS seems pleased with how the notebooks are selling so far.

Montgomery said one of the notebooks’ main selling points is how much easier it is to take lecture notes, especially those involving graphs and figures, on clean, unlined paper.

“A lot of students in BMS (buy the notebooks) and I think Econ can definitely use them,” Montgomery said. “Maybe management and marketing could use them as well because they do a lot of flowcharts. I know that professors use the whiteboard and they’re all over the place, so it’s kind of hard if you’re trying to draw arrows and everything else for the flowcharts.”

Each notebook contains 100 durable sheets of pre-perforated, three-hole punched paper and comes in a wide variety of cover designs, created by fellow GVSU student, art design major Nate Garcia. The paper itself comes from a Minnesota-based company, but the rest of the manufacturing process, including binding and printing, takes place in Grand Rapids.

Although an outside company currently manufactures the notebooks, Weber and Montgomery plan on converting to an in-house process. After they receive their next round of orders in the early summer, they hope to begin looking for a warehouse to serve as Unruled’s manufacturing headquarters. The pair have also begun talks with national companies, some ranked in the Fortune 500, about distributing their product to a wider market.

But for the time being, their focus is on maintaining the company’s recently-launched website,, and starting a video marketing campaign based around the theme of “college lessons” learned both in and out of the classroom.

While Weber finishes up one last class at GVSU this semester, Montgomery works a full-time job in addition to expanding Unruled. Both hope Unruled eventually evolves into a full-time endeavor.

“If it gets busy enough to keep us busy full-time, then it’ll definitely become that,” Weber said. “We probably talk every day about it, but it’s not an everyday job yet. But they sold really well at Grand Valley and they sold even better at Western.”

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