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Bootstrapping to $130M: Pura Vida CEO Griffin Thall (Part 1)

Posted on Friday, Dec 4th 2020

If you haven’t already, please study our Bootstrapping Course and Investor Introductions page. 

Griffin and his partner have turned an investment of $200 into a $130M company. Amazing execution!

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background did you have?

Griffin Thall: I grew up in LA. I went to school at San Diego State. After graduating from college in 2010, my business partner and I went on a trip to Costa Rica. We were there for five weeks to travel, surf, and explore.

On the last week of our trip, we stumbled across two bracelets vendors – Jorge and Joaquin. They were selling bracelets to tourists just like what you see throughout every third-world country. We bought a couple of bracelets, and we brought them back to our room that night.

We looked at them and said, “Hey, I think we could sell these to our friends and families back home. We can bring them more business opportunities.” Fast forward to today, our ten-year anniversary is coming up in a week or two.

Ten years later, Jorge and Joaquin manage about 800 artisans throughout Central America. We make every single bracelet by hand. They ship it to our distribution center, and we disperse them all over the world. 

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go to the beginning of the company. You encountered these bracelets during your vacation in Costa Rica. How did you get the company launched?

Griffin Thall: We brought the bracelets back to San Diego. We built a website. We also put them in a couple of stores and started marketing them anywhere on Facebook. It was easy for us to give the bracelets out to our friends and have them post our story and the new brand that we were creating.

Overnight, we started to get orders from San Diego and LA. Over the next couple of months, orders would come from San Francisco and all the way from New York. It was cool to see that happen because e-commerce at that time in 2010 was new.

There weren’t that many trusted stores to buy from. We were probably one of the firsts. This was before Instagram and Shopify. We just ran with it. We kept our heads down and got to work. 

Sramana Mitra: You bought the bracelets that you were selling or was it some other kind of deal?

Griffin Thall: We bought the bracelets. 

Sramana Mitra: It’s the regular resell model. You buy wholesale, and you sell retail?

Griffin Thall: Correct. 

Sramana Mitra: In terms of the scale, did you build on top of somebody’s platform like a Shopify or did you write it off from scratch?

Griffin Thall: We are on Shopify now. We have been on Shopify for seven years, but at the start of the brand, we were on WordPress or Magenta. We didn’t know what we were doing at the time, but now we’ve fully optimized on Shopify. 

Sramana Mitra: It’s basically a retail e-commerce business. When you launched in 2010, what kind of numbers were you seeing?

Griffin Thall: In the first year of business, we had $750,000 in revenue. This was through our website that was not optimized and not mobile-friendly. We also had a couple of hundred retail stores that we were selling to. 

Sramana Mitra: Were you buying wholesale and selling wholesale? This is not a retail business if you were selling to retail stores.

Griffin Thall: We were manufacturing and not buying wholesale. We were buying them at a manufacturing price and not a wholesale price. We were able to sell them at wholesale and at retail. 

Sramana Mitra: Okay. It sounds like your business is primarily wholesale? 

Griffin Thall: No, we are 70% online and 30% wholesale. 

This segment is part 1 in the series : Bootstrapping to $130M: Pura Vida CEO Griffin Thall
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