When Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman travelled to Costa Rica in 2009 after graduating from San Diego State University, they were just looking for a fun trip to celebrate their accomplishments and unwind before starting the job hunt. They never imagined that a finding in a small beach community would be the catalyst for their own successful business, one which not only generates profits, but also provides jobs and contributes to local and national charities. Their La Jolla-based company, Pura Vida Bracelets, now in its second year, sells string bracelets that are produced by Costa Rica artisans. To date, the venture has created a nationwide fashion statement, funneled profits to hundreds of charities and helped more than 35 Costa Ricans find full time work.
“We kind of just went with our instincts of doing good and helping people out, and it worked in our favor,” Thall said. “We wanted to work with [the artisans] and help change what we saw in Costa Rica, which was a lot of poverty.”
It all started when Thall and Goodman purchased bracelets from two craft makers, Jorge and Joaquin, who were peddling the accessories on the street. After wearing the bracelets throughout their trip, Thall and Goodman admired their simplicity and began brainstorming business ideas. Inhibitions aside, they returned to Jorge and Joaquin to purchase 400 bracelets to bring back to the United States, where they placed them in a bowl in a local boutique.
The bracelets quickly sold out and were in high demand, and Thall and Goodman realized they were onto something. Keeping in touch with Jorge and Joaquin, they formed a full-fledged business relationship.
Thall and Goodman, who went to school for marketing and finance respectively, began working hard to market the products through word of mouth and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, hoping to help increase production for Jorge and Joaquin. They also contacted several fashion blogs and retail stores, and showcased the bracelets on local campuses. Today, they focus much of their marketing efforts on trade shows across the country.
“Basically we started buying a few hundreds bracelets, then it grew to 1,000 per week, then 5,000 and 10,000. Today, we buy almost 20,000 bracelets a week,” Thall said. “We send [Jorge and Joaquin] an email of what we need, and distribute them to our different accounts based on their needs.”
What started out as only a few simple designs has actually grown into a custom bracelet business. Each bracelet features a unique color and beading combination. Pura Vida Bracelets now services more than 2,500 retails accounts from local business such as Pure Barre La Jolla to international brands such as American Eagle and Rip Curl. Clients can order directly from the company’s line of accessories, or can place custom orders to raise awareness for various causes, as many did in October for Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“I think we started realizing that this was becoming big when we would wake up in the morning and there would be dozens of people who had shopped on our website, or our sales reps were requesting overnight shipment because the bracelets were in such high demand,” Thall said.
As for the future, the company hopes to expand into other products such as clothing, hats and more. The important thing for Thall and Goodman, however, is making sure that they don’t lose sight of why they created the company in the first place.
“The hardest part has been making sure the products remain high quality, keeping good relationships with our retail accounts, and making sure that we don’t grow too quickly that we can’t manage it,” Thall said.
In addition to helping create jobs for artisans in Costa Rica, Pura Vida bracelets donates 1 percent of their profits to the Surfrider Foundation through 1% for the Planet in an effort to keep beaches around the world clean and safe for humans and wildlife.
Pura Vida bracelets can be purchased at several retail locations in La Jolla, including La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, Surf Diva Boutique, Warwicks and Mitch’s Surf Shop. Visit their website, puravidabracelets.com for a complete listing of all online and in-store retailers. You can also learn more about the company in this video.
On November 1, Pura Vida bracelets launched a Hurricane Sandy relief effort. A total of 50 percent of profits from the sale of select bracelets will go to the American Red Cross.