By Jenny Taylor
Barb Owen-Beorger is the recipient of a micro grant from Publish Her Story, a program dedicated to providing resources to female-identifying founders. Since 2018, more than $250,000 in grants and services have been donated to women business owners.
Barb Owen-Beorger’s heart was breaking for a family friend who was grieving. He’d said goodbye to his mother after her tragic and untimely death. He’d scattered her ashes on the beach at his family’s home on the lake. And now he was saying goodbye to the lake home too. A firm believer that there is a deep connection between bodies of water and people, Barb knew she wanted to do something to commemorate the lake for her friend. As she began thinking of ways to preserve some part of such a meaningful place for him, she suggested that he save a jar of sand. She wasn’t sure what she would do with it, but she began brainstorming ideas for a keepsake that would capture a piece of the beach while also honoring his mother.
In her final semester of college, Barb had taken a small metals class to fulfill a credit. The class helped her realize a passion for expressing herself creatively, but it was too late to change her major—she had nearly completed her degree in sports management. Now, years later, as she looked at the jar of sand, her love of metalworking and making jewelry began to emerge again. She designed a tie bar for her friend and a ring for his girlfriend. Both silver pieces were created with a clear epoxy center where sand from the lakeshore was encapsulated. Barb was happy with her designs and hoped her friend would like them. He was deeply moved by the gift. When he shared Barb’s designs on social media, she immediately received inquiries for private orders from people wanting to commemorate their favorite places with wearable pieces of art.
Though she never intended to start a business, that’s how Sand Bay Jewelry was born. For the next three years, while she continued to work a full-time job, Barb was fueled by the connection she felt with her customers and the personal stories they shared with her. She created customized, handcrafted pieces containing sand from their favorite bodies of water. She designed memorial items with the cremation ashes of loved ones, including pets. Some of her made-to-order pieces even featured soil from ballparks and golf courses. Every customized piece came with a powerful narrative: reasons the customer chose to memorialize a special place or loved one. Though Barb has held many different occupations throughout her life, her role as the founder of Sand Bay Jewelry, and her ability to help preserve those stories, has been the most fulfilling.
The path to business owner has been filled with ups and downs. One of the things Barb is most proud of is the example she’s been able to set for her two adult sons, showing them it’s worth the effort to pursue your dreams, even if there are setbacks and challenges along the way. After making it through the pandemic and leaving her job to work in the business full time, Barb faced one of her biggest challenges yet. She developed asthma. After doing some research, she learned that exposure to the epoxy resin and hardener she used to make her jewelry was a contributing factor. Barb was heartbroken by the thought of losing the business she’d built from the ground up and something she was so passionate about. But because of the significant impact to her health, she decided to sell Sand Bay Jewelry.
While Barb is in the process of selling the business, she is not giving up on being a business owner. She hopes to continue to combine her jewelry-making skills with her passion for storytelling to build something new. Wherever her journey takes her next, she is grateful to have her sons and the community in her small town, whom she also considers her family, cheering her on. “They believe in me more than I believe in myself so very often,” Barb said. “My business has been buoyed by them every single day. It would not have existed without them.”
Photo credit: Sand Bay Jewelry
About the Author
Jenny Taylor is a marketing strategist and freelance writer who enjoys bringing inspirational stories to life through the written word. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three kids.
About Publish Her
Publish Her is a female-founded publisher dedicated to elevating the words, writing and stories of women. We are passionate about amplifying the voices of women of color, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to make publishing an attainable, exciting and collaborative process for all. Publish Her specializes in print-on-demand books, workbooks, journals, magazines and more.