For most college students, trips with friends to tropical destinations are far from business expeditions.
But for Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman, that is precisely what their five-week college graduation trip to Costa Rica became.
While visiting a small community, the duo came across two men – Jorge and Joaquin – who were selling bracelets along a street. The colorful, handmade bracelets seemed to capture the “Pura Vida” – or in Spanish, pure life – way of life that the pair experienced on their trip.
It was in that moment that the idea behind the pair’s company, Pura Vida Bracelets, was hatched.
Mr. Thall and Mr. Goodman bought a batch of 400 bracelets to bring back to the United States. It wasn’t long before they sold out at a local boutique shop, and customers were asking for more.
“I think people like our brand honestly because it is so simple and unique,” says Thall, who serves as co-founder and CEO of Pura Vida Bracelets. “We sell handmade bracelets that people have seen scattered everywhere in third-world countries. But we have found a way to truly inspire our customers to trust our brand and join our movement. Pura Vida is a lifestyle in Costa Rica, and we simply just wanted to share that with the rest of the world.”
Today, Thall and Goodman have an operation with about a dozen staff in the US and more than 50 in Costa Rica. To date, they have sold more than 2 million bracelets and, as a result, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than 175 charities around the world.
“We sell bracelets. Simple as that,” Thall says. “But the way we have scaled it is something we didn't think was possible. My Pura Vida journey has been an experience that I wish everyone can have some day.”
The team has made bracelets representing a variety of causes, ranging from Hurricane Sandy relief for the US East Coast to a Sandy Hook Elementary School memorial bracelet, the sale of which has helped Thall and his colleagues to donate more than $30,000 to the Newtown (Conn.) Memorial Fund.
But beyond the contributions to charitable organizations, Thall says that one of the greatest parts of Pura Vida has been the benefits that have been reaped by Jorge and Joaquin. While the pair had previously been living in a single room with three beds and multiple family members, they now have a home of their own and a staff of more than 30 friends who work with them to create the bracelets.
“The most meaningful part to me thus far has been traveling back to where it all began and visiting our team,” Thall says. “Every time we go, the team is larger, the office is bigger, and the spools of string are in the hundreds of thousands.”
Thall described the sight as “one of the coolest things I have ever seen,” adding that the other things that always capture his attention are “the huge smiles on the whole team, the entire time.”
Part of their joy probably stems from the fact that more than 20,000 of their hand-crafted bracelets sell on a weekly basis from some 2,500 surf shops, boutiques, college book stores, and a handful of chain stores across the globe.
In the coming months and years, the team hopes to come out with new styles and colors, and is considering expanding the product line to include a full apparel brand, with T-shirts, hoodies, pants, bags, and other items, Thall says.
Of course, the experience has had its ups and downs.
“The best moment has been celebrating the success of our business with our friends,” he says, adding that they have faced a set of unique challenges as well.
“The worst moment was when we had a package stuck in customs for two months and had to figure out how fulfill the orders and service our accounts the correct way,” he says. “This was a terrible time, but somehow we all made it through it.”
Thall never expected a vacation with a college pal to turn into a thriving business with a strong philanthropic philosophy, he says, or the lifestyle they adopted after visiting Costa Rica.
“My Pura Vida journey has been something that I could never have dreamed of,” he says.
• For more information, visit http://puravidabracelets.com.