Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Our 10th Anniversary: How We Got Here & Why

May marks Antelope Beads’ 10th anniversary! While we’re excited to celebrate this milestone with all of our friends and customers, we thought it an appropriate time to look back at how we got started and why we do what we do.

"The Bracelet"
Just looking for something to do on a day off in 2005, founder Laura Bittner made a trip to a bead store with family. On that day in 2005, she left the store having fallen in love with beads and jewelry making. She began taking jewelry making classes and experimenting with materials such as wire. Her large gauge wire creations required large-holed beads, and that’s when Laura discovered Kazuri beads and created “The Bracelet” that got her started with artisan beads. Small and colorful, Kazuri beads are created by mostly single mothers in Kenya who sustain and provide for their families through their jobs. It was the powerful story of Kazuri that gave Laura an idea.

She began seeking out artisan, handmade beads for her projects that had a story and a purpose behind them. Antelope Beads is now built around the idea of ethically and responsibly sourced beads that provide communities and individuals with a source of creativity, independence and income. What started with Kazuri expanded to other bead groups such as Samunnat, which offers beads made by Nepalese women who have escaped domestic violence as well as Golem Design Studios from Bulgaria and their newest artisan find, Claycult from Cambodia, launching in late May. The selection of handmade beads has now extended to include several U.S. based independent artists like Dorabeth Designs, C-Koop, Clay River Designs, Urban Raku and many more. “I love beads that have a story and have been created and shaped by hand,” says Laura. “I view Antelope Beads as part of a ‘global circle’ of women empowering women and artists supporting one another’s art. When you buy from us, you also help support the artists who create those beads. Their beautiful products help you to explore and develop your own creative talents, as do the videos we create to pass along the gift of beading knowledge and techniques.”

Some of Antelope Beads' inventory!
What started as a small business crammed into her 10’x10’ office in her house has expanded to a 1,400-square foot space filled with all sorts of beads and jewelry components. Laura’s enlisted the help of family and friends to expand Antelope Beads’ reach, with her parents (Bob and Carolyn) being a big part of the business since the beginning doing just about anything to help the business grow, her brother, Brian, handling marketing efforts and sister-in-law Jill working shows and spreading the word with her fun jewelry parties. The extended “work family” includes Elaine Teevens who passionately creates all sorts of beautiful jewelry samples and video tutorials and has a deep knowledge and limitless creativity when it comes to all things beads.  Rounding out the team are long time members Kathy Siddall and Carrie Walker who do an amazing job keeping orders filled,  inventory under control, and providing outstanding customer support.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped make Antelope Beads what it is today, from the artists who make beautiful products that inspire us all, to all our customers whose continued support enables us to bring these beautiful beads to market. To everyone who has played a role in helping us in our first decade in business: Thank you!” - Laura

Laura, Antelope Beads' founder