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Collaring a business idea and turning it into glittering success

Kimberly Martinez knew her sister-in-law’s beaded ID necklaces were a great idea. Combining her “corporate” experience with her relative’s creativity, the two women transformed a home-based hobby into a full-fledged award-winning business.


LatinaLista — Working in corporate America, Kimberly Martinez used to joke that she was an “Entrepreneurial Rapunzel.” The 45-year-old Florida resident dreamt of one day going into business for herself, but the safe feeling of receiving a steady paycheck did more to trap her in her chrome and glass office tower than encourage her to take the needed plunge.


It wasn’t until that fateful day of September 11, that Kimberly realized life was too short to play it safe. She decided it was time for her to be her own boss and she knew exactly what she wanted to do.


Kimberly Martinez, co-founder of Bonitas International LLC

Having attended a family party, she heard how her sister-in-law, Lisa Harrington, a fulltime pediatric nurse was creating beaded ID necklaces as gifts for her friends.

Excited by the business potential of Lisa’s creations, Kimberly put together a business plan on the back of a holiday card envelope. With the encouragement of her husband Jerry, Kimberly teamed up with her sister-in-law Lisa and formed Bonitas International, LLC.

“Seventy-five million people wear a shoelace style lanyard to work everyday,” Kimberly said. “It’s not a woman’s first choice as a fashion accessory to go with her carefully chosen outfit.”

Creating a collection that uses the company’s flagship product BooJeeBeads™, the women created a product line featuring fashion lanyards, beaded lanyards, fashion ID clips, and eyeglass leashes.

The pink ribbon boojee bead lanyard is but one of hundreds of specially designed products to make wearing an ID fun.

But Kimberly is the first to admit that it’s Lisa who envisions the product line while she is the one in charge of executing the company’s strategy to achieve their business goals.

“Lisa is a super creative person who had a great idea,” confessed Kimberly. “I brought the ‘big company’ experience. It was a perfect match. I would encourage other women to build their teams with people who have complementary experiences.”

And in this technological age, partnering with the right person outweighs the convenience of living in the same city. With Kimberly living in Florida and Lisa located in Ohio, the sister-in-laws stay connected throughout the day through video conferencing and meetings, servers, IP phones and instant messaging.

“But nothing replaces face-to-face time,” Kimberly admits. “So we get together as a Company at least four times a year.”

Company headquarters encompasses a 4,500 square foot distribution center outside of Cleveland, Ohio and a design studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company is serviced by a staff of 14 people, some of who work out of their homes.

Yet, for all the logistical challenges, Bonitas hasn’t suffered from it. The company has been profitable since its first year in business and has annually doubled their sales with 2008 sales projected to be $3 million.

Though it’s a small company, the entrepreneurs have garnered attention. In 2004, the women won the “Hottest New Gift Market Product” award; in 2007, they won the “Best New Gift Product Award” and in 2005, the women won the “Make Mine a Million” contest which focuses on finding those businesses that believe it will hit the $1 million mark or more.

“Women own 50 percent of the businesses in the United States,” Kimberly said. “But sadly less than 3 percent have revenues in excess of $1 million dollars. In winning the contest, it was great to know that someone besides our family and friends believed in us.”

In turn, Kimberly wants to inspire other women entrepreneurs to not let fear hold them back from accomplishing their dreams. She plans to fulfill this mission by delivering inspirational talks and writing a book about women starting and achieving success in business.

It’s a journey that Kimberly has already begun. While she and her business partner primarily use factories in Asia to manufacture their products, the pair participates in a Guatemalan art cooperative employing fair trade local artists to produce a Bonita brand of eyeglass jewelry called A Mother’s Promise™. The profit from the cooperative goes back to the Guatemalan women and their families in the form of scholarships for their children.

Yet whether it’s winning contests, building a company that generates over a million in revenue or helping young Guatemaltecos attend college, Kimberly knows the source of her success lies in setting goals for herself.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline,” Kimberly said. “I create big dreams and big plans. That way if unforeseen circumstances arise and only half of my goal is achieved, it’s still pretty awesome.

“It’s not about the bunny hop — but the huge leaps that create real traction. And I ‘choose to believe’ that all things are possible.”

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