“When people say, ‘you sell bracelets,’ I say, ‘no, I sell wishes.’”
This is what 29-year-old Kael Robinson tells me in our recent interview. She is the founder of Live Worldly and when she says those words I am smiling from ear to ear. Yes. Wishes. Brilliant.
People love that about birthdays, she points out. Or, I think, when pitching a penny in a fountain. Or creating a vision board. The life coach in me comes alive.
There is something particularly compelling about a 20-something who starts a business, period. But this one figured out after just a short time interning and working in public relations during and post-college that self-employment was a much more preferred route.
“It’s the rebellion side of me,” Robinson says.
Having seen her mother in action as an entrepreneur, it didn’t seem daunting. And, well, after a layoff, an idea had sprung from a pleasure trip to Argentina and her purchase of a Brazilian bracelet or Brazilet. The idea is to tie it on your wrist with three knots, making a wish for each, and when it falls off naturally it is said your wishes will come true.
It was such a fun concept Robinson bought 100 bracelets wholesale for $40 with the idea of sharing it with friends.
“It sort of spiraled out of control from there, in a good way,” she says.
With the economy we’re living in now and unemployment rates hovering in scary places, we’ve begun to hear the ambitious mantra, “if you can’t find a job, create one.” While Robinson’s case is one of willfully choosing to work for herself, it is still a great example of this spirit -- if you can’t find a job, create one that is based on a simple concept, is globally and socially conscious, and captures a sense of spiritual whimsy in its customers.
Live Worldly began in August 2008. The Brazilets are still a best seller, but mentions in media -- as diverse as CosmoGirl, US Weekly and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few – have helped grow the business to 20 countries contributing more than 400 products. In addition, Live Worldly can be found in Barney’s and other major retailers and has recently struck deals for 2012 with Macy’s (NYSE:M) and Diane von Furstenberg.
With some very early success, Robinson was smart enough to create a logo and a website and enlist a publicist friend for pro bono help. From there, she targeted some celebrities – i.e., Gisele, Anne Hathaway -- and sent samples for “Happy Wishing” and it paid off. She had $250 in the bank when she landed a mention in CosmoGirl and wound up with 3,000 orders in a month. The company made $160,000 the first year.
On a quest to find out what makes this young entrepreneur tick, I delve into Robinson’s belief system a bit and come out with two intriguing bits that remind me of The Secret. One, her belief in “asking the universe for what you want” because “you will get it” and two, that she was “brought up to work hard to get what you want.” While a narrow reading would find those conflicting, they are principles that ideally go hand-in-hand – not just the expressed desire but the consistent taking of action toward that desire.
“If I can do it, literally anyone can,” says Robinson, who loves living in Denver because everyone is so happy. “I try to stay present in each day. I just hired my first person last week. I’m so excited.”
Live Worldly also participates in what Robinson calls “double-sided charity.” Not only has she pledged 20% of her sales to Plant a Billion Trees, which supports Brazil’s dramatically endangered Atlantic Rainforest, but she has established charity partnerships with each product’s country of origin.
“We support clean water and sustainable living in 12 countries we import from,” she says. “We buy from people who are in need of jobs as well as give back to what they need.”
And the products are aesthetically appealing and often carry a message. For example, if a user clicks on “Live Tibet” while shopping the website, she will come to lotus bracelets that have this description:
“The lotus is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols and one of the most poignant representations of Buddhist teaching. As the flower rises from muddy roots, so Nirvana arises from the shabby world, therefore symbolizing purity. They can be worn as bracelets or as a necklace and are popular with both men and women in Tibet. They sit in the monastery for days to be blessed and are worn for protection and health.”
There are bracelets made of reindeer leather and antler from Aboriginal Sami artisans who reside near the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden. And there’s a Tahitian necklace that helps preserve oceans.
Robinson is looking to grow from a little more than 30 countries to more than 300. And since those first three wishes on her Brazilet came true, well, it sounds like a good bet. She knows the appeal of her products.
“Who doesn’t want something that makes you feel good?” she says.
Spoken like a woman who knows how to sell a wish.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her webite is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.