Her love of the sea and of beach combing led to a second career for Tiverton resident Jane McHenry. In May, the US Small Business Administration honored Ms. McHenry and her venture, A Day at the Beach Sea Glass Jewelry, as the 2016 Rhode Island Home-Based Small Business of the Year.
Here’s what the presenters had to say about the winner …
Jane McHenry, owner and chief designer of A Day at the Beach Sea Glass Jewelry, began her career in advertising and publishing (much of it with East Bay Newspapers). Despite a flourishing 25-year career, Ms. McHenry felt the pull of something long subdued; a childhood fascination with the ocean. As a youth, she would walk the beaches collecting the sea glass treasures that had washed up onto the sand. Those memories and that excitement never left and she began to brainstorm ways to recapture her passion.
Her initial idea was a clearinghouse to celebrate other local artists and their work but the deeper she delved into the process the more her own curiosity and creativity grew. She began taking classes, learning styles and techniques, and her focus turned to sea glass. Soon her home became a studio where she turned out unique, hand-crafted jewelry.
Her search for business support led her to the Center for Women & Enterprise; there she took classes in Visioning and Business Planning. She graduated from the program and, in 2009, opened her home-based business, A Day at the Beach Sea Glass Jewelry.
Ms. McHenry began taking her sea glass jewelry to parties and festivals finding an enthusiastic yet limited market. Thinking back to her time with the CWE, she revamped her business plan to be less reliant on shows and festivals and more focused on a fully functional online boutique. In 2015, her new website went online and the strategy has been an incredible success.
She has since added six wholesale jewelry locations in Rhode Island and Florida and has continued to grow her online presence. Sales have increased 300% over prior years and the online market allows Ms. McHenry to reach a national audience.
Throughout this process, she has continued to create, building an ever growing and changing inventory of one-of-a-kind wearable art.
She said that a difficulty lies in the diminishing quantity of sea glass — the search keeps Jane and her husband Mike on the hunt for the glass and this has taken them to shorelines all over the world including the Bahamas, Bermuda, California, Hawaii, Nova Scotia, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, the United Kingdom and more.
When asked how she can keep up with the day-to-day demands of the business while keeping her artistic spirit she replied, “I wake up in the morning and live and breathe it.”
A Day at the Beach Sea Glass Jewelry products can be found online as well as many local charity events. Ms. McHenry is a champion for many local charities and small business who believes that, “A purchase from a small business means you’re buying US made and supporting your local economy.”
In her words…
Ms. McHenry told the North American Sea Glass Association:
Getting started … After much trial and error, lots of jewelry classes and a long traverse along an even longer learning curve, we began selling our designs in early 2009, always amazed and a little thrilled when people actually purchased them!
Favorite colors … Blues, aqua, sea foams. For me, personally, I am terribly fond of sea foam, one of the most underrated and beautiful sea glass colors. Favorite type of sea glass? A toss-up between bottle stoppers and marbles.
The real thing …When you are selling real, beach found sea glass it has intrinsic value that cannot be replicated, especially by something that is man-made or altered to mimic its appearance. Real, surf- tumbled sea glass is 20-30-plus years old, is not available in abundance and is not available in every color of the rainbow. The value of real sea glass is its story, its unique shape and color, its history and the effort required to find it.
Favorite finds … Years ago I found a large, thick piece of pink sea glass in Bermuda. I saw it on the beach while I was still on the street walking towards it. I was so afraid someone else was going to arrive at the beach and pick it up! But I’ll have to say that my favorite find is actually my granddaughter’s favorite find (so far), also in Bermuda! She and my husband were snorkeling right along the water line and she found a beautiful aqua, flawless bottle stopper. She was so proud and I was so happy to think that this could be the beginning of a new generation of sea glass hunters.
Story courtesy of the East Bay Newspapers, Sakonnet Times, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton, Rhode Island, June 2, 2016