Tips From The Top: One On One With Griffin Thall

I spoke to Griffin Thall, co-founder and CEO of Pura Vida Bracelets, about his journey and best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Griffin: I love design and have a great appreciation for aesthetics, whether it’s art or fashion. I actually have 50 black shirts, 50 grey shirts, and 50 white shirts, and wear a new one every day. Dress for success, ya know?

Adam:  How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Griffin: After graduating with a marketing degree from San Diego State University in 2010, I went on a surfing trip with my best friend (and Pura Vida co-founder) Paul Goodman to Costa Rica, where we had a chance encounter with two bracelet artisans named Jorge and Joaquin. We were so impressed by the quality of their bracelets, as well as their ability to embrace the little treasures in life despite living in extreme poverty (which is a Costa Rican philosophy otherwise known as the “pura vida” lifestyle). In an effort to support our new friends, we returned home to San Diego with 400 bracelets in tow and decided to sell them at a local boutique, where they depleted their stock within a few short days. Paul and I recognized the immense potential these bracelets and artisans had and partnered with Jorge and Joaquin to create Pura Vida, building the brand into what it is today.

We’ve faced a number of challenges along the way. The biggest and the one we still struggle with today is keeping up with inventory. Because our bracelets are handmade, it takes time to renew stock once we sell out. This can be really frustrating for both us and consumers, but it’s also taught us to be patient and to focus on the bigger picture. The fact that we are selling out is a really positive thing, and not losing that perspective has really helped us grow into effective, level-headed leaders.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Griffin: Everything we do at Pura Vida, including how we lead our team of artisans and employees, we do with the pura vida mindset—not sweating the small stuff, but also paying attention to the little things, whether it’s taking the time to hear to an employee’s idea or celebrating their success. Being a good listener will keep you well-informed on the needs of your employees and help to retain talent, which is incredibly important to help you stay connected even as you grow.  Also, truly believing in yourself and leading with confidence is key and will allow you to take the necessary risks to catapult your company to the next level, as well as inspire those around you to do the same.

Aspiring leaders should keep this in mind and take the time to stop and listen, then act with confidence. It takes practice, but it will become a habit that will be essential to their success as a leader.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Griffin: 1. Discipline Is Key. Cliche, I know, but if you really want to build something, put your head down and start building. No one will do the work for you, and the only way to create something is with continuous hard work.

2. Continue Your Education Around Relevant Platforms. When we first started our company, we recognized the potential of social media and invested in it. Now have a viral cult following of influencers and consumers around the globe, and through their adventures, they can help tell the story of Pura Vida while we’re working at our desks.

3. Celebrate The Little Wins. There are days when you are going to have lots of high fives, and those when you want to close up shop. Celebrate the little wins and stay focused, making sure you are not distracted by the losses and that every action you take lends itself to achieving your goals.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Griffin: If you have an idea that you know is good, value it and don’t let outside opinions sway your thinking, discourage you, or influence you to do something that you shouldn’t.  

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Griffin: With all that you do, always remember to give back, whether it is to your employees, to a charity, or to consumers. At Pura Vida, we give back by employing artisans in third-world countries and by donating proceeds from every charity collection sale to global causes. This gives our work purpose, and when you find purpose in what you do, you are constantly striving to do better in your work.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Griffin: My passion in life is surfing. Aside from being one of the sole reasons Pura Vida was even created (thanks to a surf trip to Costa Rica), it has shaped me by teaching me persistence, hard work, and balance, both literally and figuratively, since surfing is a mix of work and play. At Pura Vida, we have created a work environment that balances hard work and a healthy lifestyle, so our employees have truly embraced work-life integration rather than struggling to maintain a work-life balance.

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