Picturesque palm trees decorate a touch-worthy material I can only characterize as delicate, yet strong at the same time. New pieces from Samudra is now in our Ceylon Sliders shop, delivered by the founder Jennifer Binney herself. With a hop, skip, and a jump from Jaipur, India, Jennifer Binney and Operations Manager, Jenn Ellenburg, found themselves in Southern Sri Lanka sparing not a second more to get in the water. We spent the next few days with these two Hawaiian girls surfing, exploring, and getting inspired by the colors of Sri Lanka.
Founder Jennifer Binney of Samudra & Aloha Superette
Jennifer Binney is the founder of Samudra and Aloha Superette, each having their own twist on island life. Samudra is a lifestyle brand, with bags and pouches that are the essence of what it is to live and travel amongst the tropics. Stow these pouches wherever you go – a bonus is being able to stuff a wet, salty bikini in one without having it dampen the rest of your gear on the go. Aloha Superette, Samudra’s sister company, pays homage to it’s Hawaiian roots and the ability to find unique goods both abroad and native to the space.
After a full morning of surfing, we sat down to chat about what served as the driving force behind creating these two businesses, as well as some sage advice for others looking towards a different way of living. We’re always inspired by people following their goal, and even more so when you find a way to sprinkle in some surf here and there. Jennifer Binney is one of those people.
1.Tell us a bit about your story? What is your background like?
I was born and raised in Hawaii. I went to school and got my undergrad in Pacific Island Studies with the goal of teaching in mind. I was studying art as a way of cultural preservation. I always had creative projects, one of which was making jewelry on the side as a hobby. I was waitressing and bartending for a while, and people kept asking me where they could find the jewelry I was wearing. I started to sell it here and there, taking photos along the way.
I eventually got connected and hired by a jewelry company that wanted me to be their buyer. They had their production in India, and wanted me to go and photograph the whole process of buying and selling jewelry there. I was taking some photographs of all of my travels and a guy that owned the store said I should turn my photographs into bags, and that they did photo printing. It was honestly being in the right place at the right time.
It was honestly being in the right place at the right time.
2. With having two company, what do you think separates the two? One being Samudra, the other Aloha Superette.
In 2011, I started Samudra as an online business. From there, it grew into both ecommerce and doing wholesale all over the world. Samudra is a word in Hindi/Sanskrit meaning a merging of the ocean. The first part – sam – means the coming together of water. Mudra, means ocean. It’s a merging of water and the merging of great ideas to form something bigger than what you are. This is the essence of my relationship with India and Hawaii. They’ve come together to form what it is today, with tropical roots.
Samudra is a word in Hindi/Sanskrit meaning a merging of the ocean.
Why India? I loved India and all the colors and vibrancy that are there. It’s not easy to do business there, but it kept calling me back. After having my second daughter, everything kept drawing me back to India. A man who’s now my business partner in India offered to take on the workload based there, and now it only makes sense for me to continue my business production there.
I loved India and all the colors and vibrancy that are there.
Aloha Superette is an extension of Samudra. It’s still in essence, a business based around the tropics but with my Hawaiian roots. Growing up on Maui there were these little stores called superettes. They had all kinds of stuff when you walked in there, and it was a bit of a surprise because you’d never know what you’d find. I wanted to create a shop like this in my own community, building off the meaning of Samudra. It’s also a space to gather and merge ideas and connect on something we all share – the ocean. Aloha Superette also isn’t its own brand, so you can find other items there either from Hawaii or places around the world.
3. How did you get the idea behind your business?
I’ve always loved the idea of capturing a memory either from traveling or at home. I always did this with photographs or finding a seashell and making it into a ring. To see something special like that always reminds people of a vacation they went on a place they love to remember. By putting photographs or places around the world on bags people can always be reminded of a time they spent somewhere they were connected to. I’m going to be making a Sri Lankan series also encapsulating the places and the people, all following the notion of tropical vibes.
By putting photographs or places around the world on bags people can always be reminded of a time they spent somewhere they were connected to.
4. What do you attribute your success to?
Being true to myself. My business has been about enjoying the process. As long as I love what I’m doing, that’s all that matters. Yes, there are times when I have to make unpleasant decisions sometimes based around money, but the majority of the time I love everything that goes into running my business. Everyone told me that I couldn’t open a business in Hawaii, but once I made that a priority, it happened. For others, I always tell them to try to be true to yourself. Only do the things that fulfill you.
Only do the things that fulfill you.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Retired, haha. No, hopefully in five years I’d like to see myself not doing as much wholesale. I’d love to do things much smaller and localized, with the ability to work with real cooperatives. I’d love to work with a small community of women if possible, especially in India to help them think out of the box. It doesn’t even have to be women, but serving as some source of information or help with the community in some way would be amazing. I basically want to be doing my same business, but doing it better. I want to be more thoughtful about the process and inspire people. Or retire, there’s that too.
I basically want to be doing my same business, but doing it better.
6. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Do what you love.