From BizLaunch: Entrepreneur Highlight
Sea Beans with Style
After 25 years of administrative, web development and database support experience, Patricia Karpinski, like many others, found herself laid off from her aerospace position in 2012. However the story of her business, Sea Beans with Style, began years before in 2007 while living in Liberia.
Sea Beans with Style is a craft business that started with the collection of a few thousand sea beans in Liberia and research on how to polish them. Patty ordered beads and, with her husband Ken, started creating designs for necklaces made with a sea bean and beads. She began to wear the necklaces to work and soon her co-workers began to show interest in purchasing her sea bean necklaces.
Patty and Ken started off the business slow in that they used a business credit card to purchase the materials to make their necklaces and did not borrow money. They began selling them at the Cape Canaveral Farmers’ Market and gradually expanded to the Cocoa Village Craft Fair, and the Friday Fests in Cape Canaveral and Downtown Melbourne.
Much of the allure for her Sea Beans with Style has been that most customers do not know what it is or where is comes from. Patty and Ken explain that the sea beans come from rain forests traveling via rivers to the ocean where they are swept into the currents and carried around the world eventually washing up on a beach somewhere. Customers are intrigued with the unique story and a unique product.
Patty’s business made another step forward after her participation in a Florida Institute of Technology entrepreneur class. During the course, which met one evening a week over several months, participants worked with FIT professors as mentors, heard presentations by business owners, wrote their own business plans and presented them to a panel of local business owners. Patty and Ken continued moving forward in their business by contracting with a friend of their youngest daughter, who is an artist, to design a company logo based on one of their necklaces. Patty also began working on the company website and expanding their product line to include key chains, fan pulls, and bracelets. Also available are coco plumosa baskets decorated with a sea bean charm.
Since the initial gathering of a few thousand sea beans in 2007, Ken and Patty have collaborated with an assistant, Clarence, still based in Liberia. Sea Beans with Style wires money to Clarence who then coordinates the effort to collect another thousand sea beans based on certain specifications. Clarence offers village children who live close to the beach in Monrovia and in Marshall an opportunity to collect the sea beans. The children are paid to collect the beans, Clarence is paid as their agent, and Clarence ships them to Patty and Ken here on the Space Coast. They have done this twice and plan to order another 1,000 beans this summer.
Sea Beans with Style continues to experience gradual growth by expanding into bigger and better arts and crafts venues. In addition, Patty is applying business concepts and ideas learned in BizLaunch to continue to grow the company. For instance, through networking and research Patty has decided to pursue patent development of their bracelet helper. She is also developing contacts to manufacture and package the product when they are ready for distribution and sales.
You can see more of Sea Beans with Style crafts on their website at www.seabeanswithstyle.com or at the upcoming Indialantic Craft Show, Nance Park, Indialantic, FL, on July 13th – 14th.