San Diego State alumni elevate surf culture to stylish accessories
Posted on September 3, 2019
So often, the most successful companies seem to have the simplest beginnings, and Pura Vida is a perfect example. For Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman, it was handmade bracelets from two locals, Jorge and Joaquin, that caught their eye — and their entrepreneurial imagination — while on a surfing trip in Costa Rica in 2010. The San Diego State grads purchased a bunch to take home to friends and family. Everyone loved them, they decided to give selling them a try, and a fashion movement was born.
To hear Thall tell the story is even more astounding in its simple brilliance. “We had no intention of coming home with this ‘grand idea.’ We just came home with a bag of bracelets in a trash bag,” he says. “[Paul’s] dad picked us up from LAX, we got In-N-Out, and we wrote a story on his iPhone.” As luck would have it, Thall’s mom was a buyer at a chic Malibu boutique, Planet Blue, and agreed to carry the bracelets. They sold through 400 in a week. They emailed Jorge and Joaquin in Costa Rica to request more and waited a full ten days for a response, during which they feared it might be time to polish up their resumes. When the reply finally came, a new order was placed, and a partnership was cemented between the entrepreneurs and the artisans, who now include about 650 workers in Costa Rica and El Salvador. “We kind of just both crossed paths at the same time and believed in each other,” says Thall, Pura Vida’s CEO and co-founder. “I would say probably one of the best parts of our story is the luck of us finding each other.”
Nine years later, Pura Vida has become a brilliantly marketed brand that is capitalizing on a new generation of social media-savvy consumers who seek to purchase not just a product, but a lifestyle. “We grew up in the Facebook [and] Instagram era,” acknowledges Thall. “All our friends were born into it — it wasn’t something we had to learn how to do — and that gave us a little step ahead.” Thall estimates the average age of his 35 employees in his downtown La Jolla headquarters is between 23 and 25, which only elevates Pura Vida’s ability to connect to its like-minded consumers. “We’re putting bracelets in people’s backpacks and telling them to go climb a mountain in Bali, or dive deep in the ocean off Kauai, and we show that above and below ground experience through Instagram,” says Thall. “It allows people to get lost in our feed.”
While bracelets remain the most popular items, the company’s offerings now also include rings, earrings, necklaces, and anklets. But despite Pura Vida’s meteoric growth, Thall is unjaded. “When I see Pura Vida on someone’s wrist, it just makes me so happy — the first time I saw it and the hundredth time I see it. I would say that’s the coolest moment, for sure.” puravidabracelets.com Deanna Murphy
Photography courtesy of Pura Vida Bracelets