By Patricia Danflous
Searching for a guy named Jelly in the shadows of Bali temples is not the way most businesses get up and running. Then again, traveling to Indonesia on a whim is also not the norm – unless you are Alexandra Ernst.
The New Orleans native booked a flight to Indonesia on a Thursday, stored her belongings and packed her bags over the weekend and was in the air on Monday. Three years later, she is the founder and creative designer of Bali Bracelets, a growing environmentally focused business that provides sustainable income for Bali locals.
“It was pretty surreal,” says the entrepreneur, who was just 24 when her Indonesian adventure began. “I had no plans, didn’t know a soul, but just had a lot of trust and something calling me.”
She stayed for almost two months, and that is when the concept for Bali Bracelets came to her. She now lives in Bali on a regular basis.
The simple, colorful bracelets are handcrafted by artisans in a small Bali beach community. Made with recycled surfboards, each piece carries the message “travel in kindness” and is marked with a unique code. The code can be entered into the search bar on the Bali Bracelets website, where you can add photos and a pinpoint on a map. Then, give it to someone else and follow as it connects people around the world.
“I had no plans, didn’t know a soul, but just had a lot of trust and something calling me.”
The idea to use recycled surfboards is one of many pivotal moments Ernst has encountered in the last several years. “I was brainstorming at a little organic warung (restaurant) here in Bali, about 15 minutes away from the world famous surfing spot in Uluwatu,” she explains. She soon met Douglas, a surfboard shaper, and Sonja, who painted on broken surfboards. “I mentioned that I was looking for recyclable material that I could make beads with, and so it was, the first major epiphany: recycled surfboards.”
Then came Jelly. “I was told to look for a local guy named Jelly who could help me,” she reflects. “Jelly is a spiritual guru/healer, and one of the most incredibly happy and humble people I’ve ever met. We make the beads together, and then I work with ladies down on the beach to make the bracelets.”
Ernst is inspired by “the incredible friends I’ve made through my life and travels — many of whom are really involved with the environment, higher consciousness and social change. My vision for Bali Bracelets has always been to create something that would be part of that change.”