Eriko Bailey, Vice President, Supply Chain at Pura Vida Bracelets, discusses how an ethical approach to the supply chain defines the brand...
Pura Vida Bracelets was founded by Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman after a trip to Costa Rica and an encounter with two artisan bracelet makers by the name of Jorge and Joaquin. After originally requesting 400 bracelets to take back to San Diego, 10 years later the company is now worth over $100mn dollars. As Eriko Bailey, Vice President, Supply Chain, explains, the artisanal connection has not been lost along the way. “Our artisans have been able to scale with the brand and, today, Jorge and Joaquin are the sole owners of the manufacturer that produces 75% of the products which we offer to the marketplace.”
That connection is an important part of the company’s identity and attracts the demographic with which it is most successful. “Where we really hit it off is with that millennial, Gen Z core customer,” she explains. “Being socially and charitably conscious is the life vein of the brand. We've also been able to highlight that through things like Instagram and Facebook where we use the social media aspect to really showcase Pura Vida as a lifestyle brand outside of just being a product.” In pursuit of this and alongside supporting artisans, Pura Vida partners with select charities. “We’re creating products that an end consumer can purchase and know that a portion of that dollar amount is given to charity. As a brand, our biggest focuses right now are mental health issues, animals and anything that has to do with the environment. Those are the three key things that our customers are demanding.”
Of course, a focus on sustainability runs far deeper than just burnishing the company’s reputation. As Pura Vida expands the product categories in which it is active, it is ensuring that an ethical approach is built into its operations, and the operations of those with which it works. “We try to stay as authentic as possible to the artisan and charitable messaging that we have,” Bailey explains, “whether that be working with manufacturers that are Fairtrade certified, finding the cotton farmers that are working in organic fields, all the way through to the mills that are producing the fabrics that we're going to be using.” Bailey has had a personal hand in ensuring that such intentions are translated into reality. “I've been spearheading our overall sustainability initiative. It started with social compliance auditing of the factories of our vendors and manufacturing partners, then getting them up to a baseline; ensuring that fair wages are being extended to individuals at the ground level, that these facilities are at code, and that there’s a safe working environment overall.”
The reliance on artisanal products does present its own problems. Chiefly, time. “Everybody has this idea of what artisan means, but in essence anything that's being made with two hands is artisanal. The biggest thing is focusing on transparency within all of our artisans and vendors. We work with them with regards to capacity planning and what our demands are going to be. That helps them to scale up as the business continues to grow.” In many other ways, however, dealing with artisans is not so different from conventional mass production. “Just like regular manufacturing, communication and transparency are the two biggest things that help production overall,” Bailey says. “You have to provide foresight on those annual plans you are looking to produce and also work with the teams that you have in terms of where they are today and where you need them to get to in six months, or a year from now. That visibility and transparency ignites the possibilities and the production capabilities of any manufacturer, whether they’re artisans or mass producers.”
Culture is another important consideration. “Culture's a big thing for our communities, but also in the supply chain as well. This is made up of the people that are working for our brand: the individuals in the team. But then it’s also the wider supply chain. They're an extension of our team - they may not have Pura Vida in the name, but they are still a part of us.” To a certain extent, that culture has been guided by the relative youth of its workforce. “Within the department specifically, and in the wider team as well as our vendor partners, creativity and collaboration are the two biggest components to our overall culture. I think the beauty of working with a company that is very young from an employee standpoint - probably 85% millennial to Gen Z - is the thought process of: ‘I'm going to take this process, but I'm also going to try to improve it.’”
Processes are also being improved by technological means. “We're bringing in a product lifecycle management (PLM) system this year from Visual Next, which is going to help centralise our design and development processes overall,” Bailey says. “Now that we're growing into these additional categories we need to bring all of our vendors into one centralised database of information. Being able to have a partner plug into a software program that can then provide information in real time means we don't have to wait a full day for the information to come back.” Pura Vida also relies on partners for distribution, with different third-party logistics (3PL) firms in domestic and international markets.
“Visibility and transparency ignites the possibilities and the production capabilities of any manufacturer, whether they’re artisans or mass producers” - Eriko Bailey, Vice President, Supply Chain, Pura Vida
Those international markets are just one of many focuses for this rapidly growing business. “We’ve just opened a fulfillment center in Canada to help facilitate that growth as well as in Hong Kong for the APAC region overall,” says Bailey. “We're very excited about our international growth.” Traditionally both a direct to consumer and B2B brand, Pura Vida is bolstering those relationships while also exploring new methods of reaching customers. “We’re embarking on our first branded Pura Vida retail store, opening in May 2020, with more on our radar,” Bailey explains. “We’re firing on all cylinders to ensure that we have a footprint on multiple levels so that the customer can really experience the Pura Vida brand.”