Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ryan and I’m the founder of Bead the Change.
We sell 100% recycled glass bead bracelets. Our beads are made from recycled glass bottles and our cord is made from recycled plastic water bottles. When designing our bracelets it was super important that we created a 100% recycled bracelet. We are very proud to say that our bracelets are not factory-made like most other companies. We also believe in fairtrade and supporting the bead makers and artisans who make our bracelets.
Whenever we sell a bracelet, we donate a percentage directly to a specific environmental organization associated with that bracelet.
We currently have 5 different bracelets:
- 1) Ocean Cleanup Bracelet
- 2) Protect the Elephants & Rhinos Bracelet
- 3) Water Relief Bracelet
- 4) Climate Change Bracelet
- 5) Reforestation Bracelet
However, as we continue to grow we will be adding new bracelets and causes. For our Water Relief Bracelet, we work with an organization called Drop in the Bucket that builds water wells for schools in Africa that don’t have access to clean water.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The journey of Bead the Change began in 2015 when I embarked on what I imagined would be a two-month backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. As months quickly passed, the trip grew into a two-year whirlwind tour of twenty-plus countries on multiple continents.
If you truly believe in what you are creating, that’s all that matters.
During my travels, I stayed at a monastery in India where I met the Dalai Lama, did volunteer work with refugees in Myanmar, and lived with a family in a remote part of Cambodia. Although my travels were incredible, I also saw firsthand many of the most devastating problems that currently plague our planet and its inhabitants.
As an environmentalist at heart, I vowed that I would someday do something to help solve these problems. After returning home and reflecting on my experiences, the idea to create Bead the Change began to take root.
The idea to create 100% recycled bracelets to raise awareness for crucial environmental causes was sparked by two places I visited: Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia and a village in Western Africa where bead making was a part of life.
At each of the hundreds of temples I had visited in Asia, I received a bracelet that was blessed by a Monk, meant to provide protection and good luck. In an African village, I was inspired by unique and beautiful recycled glass beads made by local bead makers.
Bead the Change bracelets are handmade by artisans in Ghana using recycled plastic water bottles and recycled glass beads. The bracelets reflect five causes I encountered during the travels that I knew needed immediate attention on a global scale.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
In Ghana, bead making is a longstanding tradition. The intricate, labor-intensive process begins by washing glass bottles of all types and colors and then sorting them by color.
Next, the glass is crushed with a mortar and pestle until it becomes a fine powder. The powder is then carefully sifted so that only the finest grains are used. To create different colors, ceramic dyes are added to the glass powder. Then it is poured into molds made of termite clay. The molds are coated in kaolin, a talc-like natural substance, to keep the beads from sticking to the molds as they are fired.
The molds are then placed in traditional termite clay kilns and fired at 650 to 800 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Once the beads have been fired, the artisan uses an awl to make a hole in the center of the bead so it can be threaded. A second awl is used to turn the bead within the mold and shape it as the glass begins to harden. The beads are then cooled for at least one hour.
When the beads emerge from the kiln, they look white due to the firing process. Once they have cooled, they are washed and polished. This is done by placing the beads in a smooth stone bowl and rubbing them with sand and water for 10 to 15 minutes until their vibrant colors are revealed. Finally, the beads are strung and the bracelet is ready to be assembled.
In order to find a bead maker, I had to travel to Ghana. In the beginning, I had to have a lot of different bead makers produce beads for me. Because I only wanted to use the very best beads in all of Ghana. After determining which beads were the best, I proceeded forward with my bead maker to make different colored beads. This is a very important step because you want to make sure that you get the exact color tone that you are going for.
The next step was determining what material we were going to use for the cord. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to use rPET (Recycled Plastic Water Bottles) for the cord material. The main issue with this is that it’s very hard to find this material. Most of the companies that make this are located in Asia. I tried calling and emailing a lot of these companies in Asia to find this material, but it was impossible because of the communication barrier. So I ended up having to fly to Asia and personally meet with several companies to find this material. After a few months I was able to locate a manufacturer and have our cord made.
Once we had the beads and cord ready, the next step was determining how we wanted to design the bracelet. Because of the rPET cord we were using, we really only had one way to design them. This was basically using a tie-knot design that can be tightened and loosened accordingly. So I met with a few different artisans and jewelry makers to see if they could design what I was looking for. After making several different prototypes from different artisans, I chose the one I thought was the best. We then proceeded with making a bulk order of the bracelets.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The first steps were creating a logo, website, and brand. We worked with a really good branding person to help us execute all of this. We then hired a really good videographer in Ghana to create a video of how our beads are made. This really helps customers see the process of how our beads are made and help to tell our story.
We also hired a local photographer in Ghana to capture the bead-making process and our bracelets. The photos were important so we could use on Instagram and show people the bead-making process. After all of this, we hired a Facebook Ads Expert to help us run ads and get our brand out there. Since then we’ve also got our products listed on Amazon.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I think that where our bracelets come from and how they’re made has really helped us stand out from the crowd. I’ve found that more and more people are starting to care about how the products they buy are made. We’re not selling a cheap factory-made bracelet like most other companies are.
In addition, the fact that we donate a generous amount from each bracelet sold is a huge plus for most customers. They can purchase a bracelet for themselves or somebody else, knowing that at the same time they are making a positive impact with a purchase.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
As a company that just recently launched, everything is looking positive so far. We’ve received a very warm reception from pretty much everyone that’s purchased our bracelets. At this point, we’re just going to continue to try and spread brand awareness and get our bracelets out there.
We do plan on releasing new colors of bracelets very soon which will help. We will also try to grow our sales via Amazon as this is a platform that a lot of people are using to make purchases. In the next 1 - 2 years we would like to get our products into select retail stores.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Whenever you start any kind of business, you are going to run into all kinds of problems along the way.
I think the most important this is realizing that this is going to happen and just move through it. Otherwise, you are never going to make any progress along the way and get the business to where it needs to be. But whenever you are stuck or don’t know how to do something, make sure you hire somebody who does know how to do it.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Shopify as our eCommerce platform. It works well when selling physical products and needing to keep track of inventory.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey
- The Power Of Now - Eckhart Tolle
- How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Make sure you have a unique product or idea before starting. Then if you truly believe in it, go all in and see it through to the end.
There’s going to be a lot of obstacles and people who don’t believe in you or your ideas along the way but pay little attention to them. It’s hard sometimes for people to see your ideas and vision the way that you see them. But if you truly believe in what you are creating, that’s all that matters.
Where can we go to learn more?
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