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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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SDSU alumni and Pura Vida founders Griffin Thall (left) and Paul Goodman (right). SDSU alumni and Pura Vida founders Griffin Thall (left) and Paul Goodman (right).

From Surfing Trip to Success

SDSU alumni and Pura Vida founders Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman talk about the company's recent acquisition.
By Lainie Fraser

San Diego State University alumni Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman have been selling colorful braided bracelets since 2010, and they now have a million-dollar brand name behind them. 

Friends since high school, Thall and Goodman founded their company, Pura Vida, after a surfing trip to Costa Rica. They spent years designing and developing their brand while spreading the name at parties and local events. As of this year, the two ship more than  one million products per month. 

As their success continued to grow, the two ambitious entrepreneurs acknowledged they needed a little guidance. Thall and Goodman met with more than 25 different private equity groups and strategic buyers before they settled on Vera Bradley – a company with similar morals and history to their own brand but with a wealth of knowledge they wanted to tap. 

This past month, Vera Bradley, a leading American bag and luggage company and iconic lifestyle brand, entered into an agreement to purchase 75 percent of Pura Vida, valuing the company at $130 million. The remaining 25 percent is retained by Goodman and Thall for the future growth of the brand.

The SDSU News Team spoke with Thall and Goodman about the recent deal, their story and their future.

Q: How does it feel to make a $130 million-dollar deal for something you’ve been working so hard on and hold close to your heart?

Goodman: For a public company to recognize the brand we have created is truly amazing.

Q: How did you guys select Vera Bradley? What changes for Pura Vida now?

Goodman: After meeting with 25 different private equity groups and strategic buyers we found that Vera Bradley was just the best fit for the Pura Vida brand. The day-to-day operations will remain the same, our office will remain in La Jolla and we will be able to utilize the Vera Bradley support as we continue to grow.

Thall: We met with different groups and chose Vera Bradley because of this big brother feel we got from them. Their brand history, the efforts with charities and causes, just the synergy between their team and ours stood out to us. Their story is similar to ours. We also felt particularly connected because the CEO of Vera Bradley attended the same high school as Paul and I and is also a SDSU alum.

Q: How did you two meet and how did the relationship go from friends to business partners? Where did the Pura Vida idea come from?

Goodman: Griff and I actually went to the same high school in Agoura Hills, California and then eventually became close friends while attending SDSU. We both graduated in 2010 and took a graduation surf trip down to Costa Rica. While on that trip, we met two artisans who were producing bracelets and selling them to tourists. That is where the idea for Pura Vida was started. We bought 400 bracelets from the artisans on the beach. From the minute we bought those bracelets, we just put our heads down and set out to build the best possible brand we could.

Thall: We met Jorge and Joaquin and fell in love with their craft. We brought 400 bracelets back to SDSU and got to work on a website and a brand. Paul and I went to sororities and fraternities and talked about our vision and brand, and it really took off. Jorge and Joaquin now manage 600 bracelet makers themselves.

Q: What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs at SDSU right now? What is something you learned while at SDSU or an experience that has stuck with you?

Goodman: My advice would be to just put your head down and make small improvements each and every day. Those improvements will add up over time and you will look back on what you were able to build. If you truly love what you are doing, you won’t feel like you are even working. The time management that I learned while at SDSU has been invaluable. I was able to learn that by filling my plate with as much as possible while attending SDSU and I am thankful that I did that.

Thall: I would advise young entrepreneurs to find something you are passionate about. People throw that around a lot but it really is true. Also, find a business partner. Find someone who matches you. Paul’s strengths are my weaknesses. He majored in finance and I majored in marketing. We meet the others’ needs. The biggest thing I’ve learned as a founder is that if you are going it alone you will get bogged down. While at SDSU, I found confidence in myself and what believed in what I was selling. I got this confidence from my time in a fraternity, my social circles and my networking. I became comfortable putting myself out there. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and gained a new skill I now use with this company every single day.

Q: Where is Pura Vida headed now?

Goodman: The sky is truly the limit. We are focused on continuing to build out our team, expanding our product line, growing internationally, and potentially opening up retail stores.

Thall: Our sights are set on retail stores and hiring more people. With Vera Bradley’s guidance we can lean on the knowledge and help of a publicly traded company and really accomplish any goal we set.