After a Chance Meeting on the Beach These Entrepreneurs Built a Company Based on Respect for Global Artisans

Working with artisans around the world has taught these two Americans to embrace different cultures and celebrate the differences.

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After a Chance Meeting on the Beach These Entrepreneurs Built a Company Based on Respect for Global Artisans
Image credit: Chris Tobin | Getty Images
Guest Writer
CEO and Co-Founder of Pura Vida Bracelets
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 2011, my friend Paul Goodman and I were traveling through Costa Rica when we met two local beachside artisans selling their colorful handmade bracelets. Like all good stories, our introduction was by happenstance, a chance meeting of strangers. From day one, we fell in love with these beautiful organic wares -- kaleidoscopic handicrafts with a simple aesthetic vision. More importantly, these artisans captured the country’s native mantra known as “pura vida,” Spanish for “pure life” and savoring the small moments.

Because of this chance encounter, we were inspired to create our company, Pura Vida Bracelets. Over the course of eight years, we’ve worked to forge a deep and meaningful connection with our partners. Naturally, this has had a positive impact on the way we run our business and our lives. Here are some key lessons we’ve learned along the way.

1. Respect cultural differences

From a global perspective, we’ve been intent on sharing the indigenous aspirations of these artisans with a larger audience. In fact, our brand’s core foundation was built on a common language of gratitude and mutual respect. From our inception, we instantly recognized our artisan partners as the makers of their own story. In turn, they taught us about strong character, attention to detail, dedication to craft and, ultimately, the gleaming outcome of their product. Like most successful artists, they also showed us the importance of a finely-tuned technique coupled with unwavering dedication to artistry and high-quality production.

Related: A Social Engine That is Handcrafting Artisans' Livelihoods

2. Embrace the quiet art of collaboration

We’ve never strayed from our origin story and have built a shared understanding of key components. First, our bracelets aren’t mass produced. Because each is different in style, we understand the intrinsic value of evolved artistry. Second, thanks to this highly regarded production value, our artisan friends can focus on new, innovative designs; take more creative risk; hire their own heritage teams and inspire leadership.

Our collaboration reaches outside of domestic production and combines a time-honored respect for tradition, craftsmanship and the delicate art form of each handicraft. We’ve always looked to our colleagues as experts. For example, they suggested dividing fellow artisans into teams based on their style and expertise, which in turn allowed for an efficient and seamless production model while still ensuring the best quality.

Related: Why Collaboration Is Essential to Entrepreneurship

3. Stay human

There’s a very important humanistic element in our partnership. The artisans we work with show an obvious kindness in their workplace. In contrast to what we’ve seen domestically, this marks an important cultural lesson for us that enhances our own workplace environment with a positive mindset. Simply put, diversity and inclusion are monumental. To drive a better business, we embrace the idea of bringing together different cultures and celebrating those differences.

We find value in partnering with people who are like-minded. We believe this harkens back to the old adage that kindness is contagious. We’re inspired by simple brands with personal missions, like the TOMS story, where the human element shines. Today, Millennials are increasingly attracted to brands with authentic stories. We’ve worked to create a deep connection with our partners by honoring their craft and establishing a sense of mutual respect and understanding. This has truly transformed the way we approach all of our professional relationships.

Related: 8 Effortless Ways to Make Kindness Part of Every Day

4. Be humble and remain open

From a global perspective, we’ve constantly worked to incorporate the pura vida culture into our daily routine and business practices. As a result, we feel more peaceful because of this genuine, pay-it-forward mindset. Personally speaking, our artisan partners have transformed my life. Without sounding overly-sentimental, they’ve allowed me to create a company with talented people and find purpose in my day-to-day life. This value of humility allows me to see the bigger picture.

So without our chance meeting that one day, we’d be writing a different narrative with different artisans. We embrace the unknown. And rather than rush to over-produce, we like a slow-simmering pace for the exchange of ideas. Thanks to our partnership, we’ve expanded into working with artisans in India and El Salvador, where we employ the same business ethos we learned eight years ago. Really, the best collaborations are the most basic in nature: a simple pay-it-forward mindset coupled with the sharing of authentic ideas and materials and staying true our original mantra: pura vida.

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