What do you get when you cross two guys fresh out of college with a five-week celebratory trip to Costa Rica? Did you guess a thriving small business with a commitment to giving back to the community? Neither did we, but that is exactly what became of Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman’s college graduation trip. Thall and Goodman, founders of the San Diego based Pura Vida Bracelets, took what started off as a simple attempt to pay off some of the cost of their trip and turned it into a full-fledged company that currently provides full-time jobs for thirty-five Costa Rican artisans.
Pura Vida, directly translated to “Pure Life, ” sells unique, woven bracelets along with other accessories such as headbands and beanies that are made by artisans in Cost Rica. An integral aspect of Pura Vida is the full-time employment of these artisans, allowing them to live very comfortable lifestyles that would otherwise be out of reach. Besides supporting a plethora of charities, such as the American Institute for Cancer Research and Autism Society, a portion of the proceeds of each Pura Vida product also goes to the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit that helps to clean up beaches and oceans around the world. Thall, CEO of the company, gives us a glimpse into the workings of Pura Vida Bracelets and what has truly become a commitment to giving back to the community that embraced them so warmly during their first visit.
Q: What prompted you and Paul Goodman to travel to Costa Rica?
Griffin Thall: It was just our college graduation trip and we didn’t really know anything else.
Q: What was the most engaging thing about the Costa Rican lifestyle and the people that live there?
GT: The simplicity of the land and how nice the people were and just the relaxed feel. It’s not like we chose to go to Paris. We just went there to chill. We just went there and hung out. The people there just liked us for who we were and didn’t really worry about anything. It was just so simple.
Q: What gave you and Paul the idea to ask Jorge and Joaquin (the first two artisans you approached and continue to work closely with) to make 400 bracelets to sell in the US? Did you guys have any expectations going into it?
GT: We just thought we could sell the bracelets in our community and hopefully get people to buy it – just to make money to help pay for our trip, nothing too gnarly. Then, it turned out to be a very profitable venture. At the beginning we didn’t know that it could be a huge, giveback kind of thing so we didn’t really think much of it.
Q: How did you decide on the name Pura Vida for your company?
GT: Pura Vida is the slogan of Costa Rica. When we were there, that’s what everyone said, so we figured we would name our bracelets after what was said all the time.
Q: How has Pura Vida Bracelets impacted the lives of the artisans?
GT: Their lives have completely changed. Now, they’re totally taken care of. They have enough money to live, for them and their family members, all their friends. They’re very well off in their community now.
Q: What was their lifestyle like before being employed by Pura Vida?
GT: They lived in one room that was 12×12 square feet. It had two beds, no door, a coffee pot spilled on the ground, no blankets, no sheets, it was 90 degrees in the room, and that was it. Two or three people slept in that room. It was definitely under what we would consider comfortable.
Q: What are your offices like in Costa Rica? Do you travel to Costa Rica a lot?
GT: The offices in Costa Rica weren’t set up by us. It was based on the fact that we required more people to fulfill orders, so Jorge and Joaquin found ways to expand just like we did. Jorge is in charge of the offices in Costa Rica.
Q: What is it about the bracelets that has made them so popular here in the US, specifically Southern California?
GT: They’re so simple, and they represent such a unique story. They really allow people to support something on their wrist that’s just so simple and lightweight. They’re not changing their lifestyle by wearing one of our bracelets but they’re representing the ease of Costa Rica.
Q: Where are the bracelets sold? Do you have a target store that you sell your bracelets to?
GT: We’re in about 2, 500 different retailers from PacSun to Nordstrom, Zumiez and Tilly’s, those are some of the large retail stores. Also, Rip Curl, Ron Jon Surf as well as boutiques scattered around.
Q: What has been one of the most challenging aspects of starting your own company?
GT: Keeping the fans interested and hungry for what we come out with next.
Q: What has been one of the highlights of this entire process?
GT: Being able to work with all of our best friends and family. From the beginning, working with these guys (Jorge and Joaquin), it was just a couple hundred bracelets and now it’s hundreds of thousands of bracelets. To see their professionalism increase and see how they’ve grown without any education really, they’ve just adapted to what we’ve needed and we couldn’t have picked a better partner for either of us.
Q: What is your personal connection to the environment and to the Surfrider Foundation?
GT: We looked up some charities and thought that the Surfrider Foundation would be a good one to have been a big part of our brand. When we were in Costa Rica some of the beaches were dirty so we thought it would be a good way to change that aspect.
Q: What do you like to do when you have some free time?
GT: We like music a lot, so we enjoy going to music festivals. We like going to the beach a lot, because we live right on the beach. We live right by Bird Rock Beach and Pacific Beach in La Jolla.
Q: Where are some of your favorite local places to hang out in San Diego?
GT: In PB we like going to Firehouse and the Wood. We like a restaurant in La Jolla called Herringbone, we also like the restaurant JRDN Restaurant that’s in Pacific beach; it’s right on the water. I would suggest going to Downtown La Jolla and walk on Prospect Street and look at all the nice stores and shops.
Q: What’s in the future for you and Pura Vida?
GT: We’re just going to keep on making cool products and let our customers know when we have new products coming out, specials, any type of discounts. We have products being created for the next six months so we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and giving them quality products and letting people share their bracelets through social media, getting rewarded for it, keeping people always involved.