By Dirk Perrefort The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.
The owners of A Bead of Roses are turning their passion for the arts into a formula for success.
In the seven years since the retail operation opened its doors, the business has become one of the state's largest retailers of beads and handcrafted jewelry, growing at 10 to 15 percent annually.
While some entrepreneurs might be satisfied with that growth, managing partners Lisa Rose and Traci Gentry are setting their sights even higher.
Within the next few years, the entrepreneurs hope to have the largest home-parties business, the fastest growing segment of the operation, in the United States.
It all began when Rose, the founding member, was on vacation in North Carolina and walked into a bead store.
"It was a rainy weekend and I was looking for something to do," Rose said. "When I walked into the store, I just fell in love with the idea."
Rose and Gentry, who together have decades of corporate experience under their belts, said their business differentiates itself from the competition in three main areas, all of their jewelry pieces are original designs that are handmade in the shop, they work with only the best quality materials, and many pieces can be customized based on customer preference.
"Quality of the product is something we pay a lot of attention to," Rose said. "We don't buy anything from overseas, we ensure that there are no hazardous elements used in the materials and we even check to see where the particular stones were mined. It's raising the bar, but we believe in providing the best quality product and craftsmanship on the market today."
When Rose first started the shop in Monroe, it consisted of about 800 square feet. In their current location, the entrepreneurs have more than 3,000 square feet of space, and they expect to expand again in the near future.
Rose was considering opening a second location in Milford when she met Gentry at a home-shopping party and a new direction for the business was hatched.
Already they have sales associates in Connecticut and Massachusetts. They plan to expand the home-party concept throughout New England and the West Coast before moving into the central United States.
"Traci and I are very dedicated to growing the business," Rose said. "We love a challenge."
Newtown Chamber of Commerce President Tim Haas said the business is another great local example of people taking their corporate backgrounds and using their skills to become successful entrepreneurs.
"They're taking that entrepreneurial spirt, setting bold goals and using creativity and innovation to make it happen," he said.
"It's fantastic to see that happening here in Newtown."