Rising Stars: Meet Helena Silva

Article source: VoyageMIA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Helena Silva.

Hi Helena, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
BENT&BREE is an earth-friendly and sustainable brand of vegan bags and accessories handcrafted from genuine cork. We design and create pieces that reveal comfort, function and style. Our products are revelations of feedback that we have gotten from extended consumer research, focus groups and trend analysis. I started this journey with the birth of my second child. When I first became a parent, I found it very frustrating to find distinctive and conscious products. I could only find bags made of PVC, leather or other materials that didn’t compliment my desire for a vegan, non-toxic and sustainable product. Years later, I still felt the same way, so I designed my own Tote Diaper Bag handcrafted from cork that is still my work bag today and our best-seller, used not only by moms but also professionals. BENT&BREE is a brand inspired by love, nature, imagination and a desire to provide unique and stylish planet-friendly products.

One of the company’s deepest core values is our respect for the environment and contributing to the preservation of it. Our handbags and accessories are sustainable, lightweight, durable, water-resistant and easy to clean. Today we can be found online, boutiques, QVC and corporate partnerships with Incentive Rewards Programs. Recently, we’ve been expanding our Home Accessories category and are proud to be working with hotels and restaurants throughout the country and Canada in providing a line of sustainable hospitality accessories (ice buckets, courtesy trays, pillows, bath mats, etc., which is helping them transition from plastic to cork (one of the most sustainable materials in the world).

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The inspiration and motivation to start this company were my children, Bentley and Bree (BENT&BREE). Their names are not only the company name but the heart icon is a derivative from the 2 B’s from their names. The road has been somewhat smooth because the focus has always been to have the flexibility to be with them and be part of their upbringing as much as possible rather than spend most of my time traveling as I was before. However; it has also been challenging trying to balance family and starting/managing a company. Now that they are getting older and more independent, I’m ready and eager to expand.

I launched the company in Massachusetts in 2016 and only moved to Boca Raton, FL end of December 2019, so we have only been here about a year! The goal at the time was to participate in events and eventually open a retail boutique that would help build brand recognition and trust. Of course, plans changed do to the virus. We get a lot of our creative inspiration from feedback and being able to interact with our clients. Another challenge has been not being able to travel to our factories. All our collections are handcrafted in Portugal, the biggest producer of cork. I am grateful, being fluent in Portuguese and being able to communicate effectively without a face-to-face interaction at this time. Our factories are very aware of our quality demands. In fact, we had all our bags and cork material tested by an independent lab in Buffalo, NY to determine and confirm that we are providing the best… which we are!!

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I started my career in Portugal working for a Knitwear Company that manufactured high-end knitwear designs for elite fashion designers/brands throughout Europe and United States. I had just graduated from college in the United States and decided to move to Portugal, where I had grew up. I was very successful because my English was superb and having a creative eye helped conquer new projects and maintain relationships with current ones. Later on, after getting married, I decided to move back to the United States and worked in jewelry and juvenile-products marketing. I decided to obtain my MBA with the prospect of starting my own company and being able to be in control, especially after becoming a parent.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
I certainly want to concentrate more on the Hospitality and Restaurant industry as well as working with interior designers that focus on sustainability and custom projects. I can design and make anything out of cork… I mean anything. I love exploring different ways to use cork. Our collections consist of printed cork, laser-cut, color-dyed cork, etc. Cork is as or more durable than leather. Why not make a cork sofa? I know that more hotels are focusing on becoming sustainable. Recently, we shipped a nice order of ice buckets to a hotel in Canada and now they want to replace their plastic hospitality trays with cork ones. We’re on a mission and truly hope to grow this sector.

There are currently so many articles made of plastic that can easily be made with cork. There is plenty of cork, we met with the Portuguese Association of cork to make sure there wasn’t a shortage and they confirmed that there will never be one. Only the bark of the cork tree gets harvested and then it regenerates every nine years. These trees are known to live 150+ years. We also want to continue with our handbag and jewelry line handcrafted from cork by continuing to design and create amazing pieces. We are very happy with our repeat and word of mouth customers. We haven’t really invested in spending a lot on advertising because we wanted to be able to manage growth in an organic and sustainable way. Our customers really appreciate the attention to detail, quality, beauty and functionality of our bags.

Contact Info:

Elysian Clutch

To see full article published on March 25, 2021 visit http://voyagemia.com/interview/rising-stars-meet-helena-silva-boca-raton/

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