Combing the beach, and life, for something beautiful

Real Women, Real Stories, Real InspirationAndrea Sharpe of Karlande Designs“All life experiences teach you something,” says Andrea Sharpe, owner of Karlande Designs. “You learn through obstacles.”

Like most people, Andrea’s had her share of obstacles, but as she reflects on her life she sees the way each one has brought her to where she is today.

In 2008, due to some strife in the workplace, Andrea retired from her job working as a Home Economics teacher earlier than she planned.

With two kids still at home, she knew she’d need secondary income to support them. Following her passion for creating by hand, she tried every craft.

“When I found jewelry, I knew I found my niche,” says Andrea. “This is where my passion lies.”

Hope Crystals Cancer Awareness BraceletsIn memory of her sister who died of cancer, in 2009 Andrea decided to design a bracelet. She took the major cancers, researched the colours associated with each type, and created the Sparkles of Hope bracelet, with each crystal representing a different form of cancer.

Knowing what it is to lose a loved one to cancer, she wanted the bracelet to support people who are going through this horrible disease.

She took the bracelet to Bliss Murphy Cancer Foundation. “I thought, ‘Oh, okay, we’ll sell a couple hundred,’” says Andrea.

She had no idea.

The bracelet raised over 2.5 million dollars for cancer care in Newfoundland.

It also started her business or, in Andrea’s words, exploded it.

But, says Andrea, “the money came in then the money came out.” With success came challenges, such as understanding the importance of having a sustainable profit margin and how to properly manage taxes.

Coming from a teaching background, when Andrea started Karlande, she didn’t have a clue about business. “So, obviously, I made mistakes.” However, she says, “your last mistake is your best teacher.”

And Andrea wasn’t about to give up.

When interest in the Sparkles of Hope bracelet started to die out, a friend suggested she design a bracelet for Children’s Wish.

“It kind of led on from there,” says Andrea. “Someone would contact me and say, ‘Hey, can you do something for autism?’” She kept creating and most of her success came from people asking, “’Can you do …?’ or ‘Have you ever done?’”

Creating awareness jewelry and giving back to the community is now a big part of Karlande Designs. They have jewelry for Autism, Cancer, the Heart & Stroke Foundation, the Children’s Wish Foundation, and more.

“That’s where my aim is right now,” says Andrea. “My big big dream is for the cancer bracelet to go global.” She pauses. “I believe the cancer bracelet came through me; it didn’t come from me.”

Bridal Graduated Pearl SetKarlande Designs also focuses on appreciation jewelry, such as appreciation for nurses, with a portion of the profits going to the Association of Registered Nurses.

In order to keep the business running, they also have strictly profit lines, such as their bridal collection, beach glass collection, and customized jewelry.

“Jewelry isn’t something that you physically need,” says Andrea, “but it’s something that helps you connect with people and places and important things in your life.”

This is true not just for customers, but for Andrea as well.

Beach Glass Bangle“I grew up next to the water in a small community,” says Andrea. “My father was a fisherman and that was always part of my heritage and part of what I loved–the ocean.” Beach glass, she says, “was always my first love.  … It’s all connected.”

And that’s what Karlande Designs centers around. They don’t sell jewelry, they sell connection. “Our tag line has become ‘We empower people to celebrate the most important connections in their lives through the jewelry they wear,’” says Andrea.

Andrea’s assistant does most of the jewelry creation now, but as the business grows, Andrea is excited about the prospect of getting back to the more creative side of things, the fine handiwork needed to create beautiful work.

Andrea Sharpe of Karlande Designs drilling glass“I miss being able to create” says Andrea, to take something and make it even more beautiful.

“That’s why I love the beach glass so much … we don’t know where it’s from or how long it’s been there or who touched it last. There’s this mystery behind it. We take this piece of glass and make it into a story, something part of our heritage. That’s what thrills me.”

It also thrills her to see people’s reactions to the jewelry, which is why today she focuses more on the business side of things than creation, on seeing the business grow.

“It’s been a real learning curve,” says Andrea. “There are decisions and choices you have to make that aren’t easy, but you have to put on your business cap and make those decisions.”

Even decisions such as raising prices can be a huge challenge, says Andrea. “But I realized it’s either increase my prices and make the business more viable or I’m going to have to shut down.”

“When you’re coming from a place where you want to give a lot back, you have to find that balance,” says Andrea. In order for her to give back she needs to have the business in a strong position financially.

“There’s parts of the business that are not as enjoyable and you got to dig in and do it,” says Andrea. There’s also parts that she now hires other people to do, so they can be done right.

Otherwise, she finds herself nose to the grindstone and focusing so much on the business that she falls down on taking care of herself, which is counterproductive. “The harder you work sometimes, the less you get accomplished because you’re draining yourself.”

Andrea says she’s come close to burn-out more than once, but now has a deliberate commitment to self-care. Her beach-combing is important to her, as well as giving herself a ‘quitting time’ each day.

Karle and Andrea Sharpe of Karlande DesignsMeditation, spiritual development, gratitude, and surrounding herself with wonderful people who are good for the soul also help keep her life well balanced. And, of course, she’s got to have time for her motorcycle.

Andrea learned this the hard way. “We all face struggles,” she says. Part of the reason she left teaching early was because of stress.

Other challenges she’s had were going through a divorce, having financial problems, almost losing her house, and then, in 2011, getting a call from Canada Revenue saying she owed a highly unexpected amount of money.

“I crashed,” says Andrea. “I thought, ‘Oh, God, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t run a business. I can’t do anything. I’m going to have to get a job at Walmart and I don’t want a job at Walmart.’”

But, says Andrea, you have a choice, and we all come to crossroads where we have to ask ourselves, ‘What am I going to do?’ “So, I went through my pity party and I said, ‘Okay, put on your big girl pants, pick yourself up, start over.’ And that’s what I did.”

Recently, Andrea’s had some financial troubles again, but she realizes she has to let it go. “All I can do is live right now and say I’m doing the best I can today, and tomorrow I’ll do the absolute best I can too.”

“I’ve come a long way,” says Andrea, “I’ve faced a lot of challenges. But you weather the storm, and you grow stronger.” You learn from obstacles and create something beautiful, whether it be a piece of jewelry to touch someone’s heart, or your very own life.

Interested in jewelry that expresses a meaningful connection in your life or the life of someone you love? Want that custom designed bracelet or necklace for the perfect gift? Visit Karlande Designs. You can also keep up to date with their latest designs and contests by visiting Karlande Designs on Facebook.

Have some thoughts on Andrea’s journey or see parallels to your own? Scroll down to “Join the Conversation!” 


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