Reducing plastic waste at home turns into a successful family business in Southport.
Fourteen-year-old Skyla, 11-year-old twins Trinity and Lana and 9-year-old Journey enjoy helping their parents make business decisions for their family-owned company. After all, it was because of their daughters that Nellie and Brian Harden created SeaGlass Designs, LLC.
The Hardens started their glass-straw company after Nellie looked around her family’s house and realized all of the things that they didn’t need and how they could reduce their own plastic waste. They began making their own laundry detergent and hand soaps that were not only plastic-free, but also chemical free. They experimented with non-plastic straw options like long-term plastic, bamboo and stainless steel — all with downsides. With glass straws, they found the right solution. After just three weeks of use, they realized how much waste they saved.
“Initially, we were just trying to find a way to benefit our health and the world,” Nellie says. “And then my husband suggested we make these for other people.”
The inventiveness was met with success. Their glass-straw business is thriving, with wholesale orders for several retail outlets, and they’re shipping straws nationally and internationally.
Originally from Indiana, the Hardens met in college and began spending their spring breaks on Oak Island. After vacationing there for more than 17 years, they decided to stay. In 2015 they moved their family to Southport. Nellie, a certified family wellness coach, has a background in marine mammology, so her love of nature and passion for the ocean and its inhabitants is unsurprising.
The materials and process for their glass straws are 100 percent earth-friendly, according to Nellie. “We purchase the raw borosilicate glass from Asheville, North Carolina, and we make everything here in Southport,” she says. “We do all the bending and customizable etching, and we hand-sew the carriers to protect the straws from everyday hazards.” SeaGlass Designs’ straws come with a lifetime warranty.
Giving back is a crucial part of SeaGlass Designs’ mission. The company donates 10 percent of all sales to the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to helping reduce and prevent plastics, trash and other pollutants from entering our oceans. In addition, the Hardens are actively involved with local marine animal and environmental conservation programs.
It’s important to the Hardens that their daughters, even at their young ages, understand the impact that plastic can have on marine life and the environment. It’s also essential to them to include their daughters in the family business.
“We include the girls in all of our decisions,” Nellie says. “This entire business is for the start of life funds for our children for college. It’s important for them to be part of it when they’re benefiting from it.”
Since first starting with the idea of the glass straws in the spring of 2015, the Hardens have expanded their business model beyond just the individual customer who wants to reduce his or her use of plastic.
“Today we’re doing a lot of business-to-business work with multiple stores and restaurants, and we’re working with national grocery store chains,” Nellie says. “But we still sell to a lot of individuals. We’ll make one or one thousand straws for events too. Every straw matters.”
For more information on SeaGlass Designs’ straws and other products, visit seaglassstraws.com, or call (910) 304-2111.
Photography by Laura Glantz