THE LITTLE FISH BOATEAK
Talent. A creative drive and the desire to excel. Add to that the deep love of a mother who wanted to be a role model for her two daughters, and you can begin to understand Melissa “Lissy” Wood-Rawl, who owns Littlefish Boateak.
Three years ago, Rawl took the plunge into jewelry design, creating her own line which banks on her signature style— coastal designs using quality metals, textiles, and semi-precious stones.
She studied interior design at Michigan State and moved to the Hilton Head Island in 2004. Wood-Rawl interned at J. Banks Design, then worked for KRA Architecture before joining Group3 Designs, where she fell in love with residential interior design work. But at some point, she realized the long hours would never jibe with her desire to raise a family. So, when her first daughter, Woodley, arrived, she left Group3 and started bartending after her husband, Bill returned home from teaching web design at the high school.
A creative urge that kept her up at night resurfaced a couple years later after the birth of their second daughter, Willa.
“I would play around with the old (interior design) sample books from Group3 and think about creating jewelry out of them. But I needed metal to make it work. I wanted the jewelry to be luxurious but lightweight and comfortable. It all evolved from there,” she said.
Much of her line is designed with particular muses from the sea in mind, and includes influences from family, friends, magazines and interior designs in her collection.
“Coastal vibes,” Rawl said. “I love sailboats, I love teakwood. I’ll start by pulling together different fabrics and textures into specific color schemes and go from there.”
Little Boateak started with a $500 investment. Rawl cleared out her garage, found free workbenches and shelving, and began to expand her inventory after a few sales. Her biggest operational cost is purchasing materials for the jewelry she makes. Her jewelry can be found in shops across Hilton Head Island, Bluffton. She also launched a website to showcase and sell her accessories online at www.littlefishboateak.com.
Then Southern Living decided to include her popular piece, “Prepster-Pearl Necklace” in their holiday gift guide after seeing it at a jewelry show. Rawl’s greatest challenge at the moment is how to keep up with all the orders. She wants to do things well, but as quickly as possible. She hired three part-time workers. And thank God for family.
“My father, who hammers all of my metal, just started training workers at the vocational center in Beaufort in metalsmithing, which is awesome. He’s 79. My mom originally created all of the hand-stamped, hand-dyed bags we use. And my aunt jumps in whenever we need someone to string beads together. Bill manages cash flow, inventory, packaging and shipping. It’s great to have family involved.”
From more delicate pieces that exude femininity, to modern designs that can be worn both alone or beautifully layered, mom-entrepreneur Lissy Wood-Rawl knows how important it is to design with a clear voice and have a specific point of view and then to go out and promote her brand and vision as best she can.