Really? The Starfish Business?

Really? The Starfish Business?

Who opens a small business in the middle of a global pandemic? Well, that would be me! What was I thinking you might say?

When people ask what I do for a living, it is a little difficult to explain. What do I say? Well, I have more than 10,000 starfish in my garage or warehouse. No, I typically say I am in the starfish business and always laugh, even though our small company’s products are hand-made and manufactured, sold wholesale to popular retail stores, featured annually at an international casino property trunk show and recently appeared in a much-read and loved local lifestyle magazine, South Mississippi Living. Some of our line is even on Amazon, though not the trees.

So why the starfish business? Starfish have forever been a part of my story. And not simply because each has its own personality, charm and flair. Before getting into the starfish business full-time, starfish always found a place in our home and in my retail store, Flair, which I had to close in 2018 after becoming sidelined from life and business by a neck injury. 

After much suffering until my neck surgery in 2020, I really needed to create something again. I had around a hundred starfish in various sizes in our garage left over from my retail days when I made a handful of starfish trees for jewelry displays. 

Having my materials, I grabbed a drill (after a safety refresher from my husband) and began drilling the starfish in our garage. My husband made the wood bases. It was a very simple operation then. My only goal was to make a small number of Starfish Trees for family and friends. But God had other plans.

Living on a corner lot, we do get quite a bit of traffic past our garage. I noticed more and more wide eyes and slow drive-by’s past our garage…I feel sure wondering, “WHAT are those!” 

Talking about the response with a friend and well-respected local artist, Cissy, she said to me, “You are an artist.” I had never been called that but thought, “Maybe I am in a really wild sort of way.” 

Those words gave me much-needed validation to continue making trees, and in November 2020, Cissy and I hosted a true pop-up art show (planned in six days) in our front-yard that was Covid-friendly and full of buyers wanting Starfish Trees. Raffling our art as well, we made over $750 for an important charity, The Gulf Coast Center for Non-Violence. 

Throughout the holidays, more and more passerby’s and neighbors were intrigued, stopped and wanted to purchase the trees, so I bought more and more starfish, sold more and more trees and here we are in the starfish business today, albeit a much larger operation and one with my incredible team of retirees, teachers and stay-at-home moms supporting me. My biggest encourager, supporter and non-paid employee has been my husband who has always encouraged me to dream big.

Though the starfish and I have come far, that first year was magical in so many ways as the trees began their journey to brighten my life and the lives of others. From the beginning, I saw the power of the starfish trees to inspire. They brought smiles, created dialogue and encouraged others with their symbolism of love and renewal.

The fact that the trees exist this year is remarkable and lets me know that their creation was meant to be despite immense supply chain and shipping issues. After all, starfish are not first in line to be exported and are rare to find these days. But I took a risk, bought all the starfish I could and here we are still in the starfish biz in 2022. It’s true. Really!