A realtor-turned-entrepreneur, appropriately-named Ponte Vedra business owner Sandy Powell has always loved the beach. In 2011, on a mere whim, she launched Sandy by the Sea Designs to help spread that love, but she had no idea that she would soon be shipping her products around the world.
“I’ve sold pillows in Washington state, California, the Bahamas … I sell in every state that has coastline,” Powell said. “I ship to Ibiza, Spain. I’ve sold to stores in Acapulco, and I also had an order from Peru.”
According to Powell, her entrepreneurial journey began with the market collapse of the Great Recession.
“I sold real estate in Atlanta for 20-some years, and then the market just tanked up there,” she said. “When I got out of real estate and moved down here, I moved over to the beach.”
Powell soon after began working at Thomasville Furniture in Jacksonville, but with the housing market down for the count, there wasn’t much demand for furniture either.
“I would sit there for hours looking at Coastal Living Magazine, and finally decided, ‘I’ve got to figure out another way,’” she said.
Inspired by her love of the beach, Powell began making her own coastal furnishings, including bedding, pillows, jewelry, bags and other decorative items.
“I made six pillows and took them to Dale and Joy, who own Cottage by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach, and they told me ‘You need to take these to Atlanta.’”
Atlanta is home to AmericasMart Atlanta, a wholesale marketplace for merchants of various kinds, and it was there that Powell’s products really began to garner attention—including from some big-name companies.
“Three years ago, I got an email from Amazon.com, and they said, ‘We saw you at market, and we want your product,’” she said. “At first, I was kind of freaked out. I thought, ‘I’m a single woman – the single owner of a minority company – and the largest retailer in the world has found me and wants me.’”
Since then, Powell’s business has continued to grow, with her products now available on numerous e-commerce websites, including Amazon.com, Houzz.com and, as of this week, Wayfair.com. Business has been going so well, in fact, that Powell recently launched another business—Staging by the Sea.
“The philosophy is this,” she said. “You have these people who come down from up north, and they might be looking at a house or a condo, and they fall in love with the beach. They’re out here looking at these houses at the beach because they love the beach, and that’s the environment they want to live in, so I decided to start staging homes coastal.”
Even now, with an ocean of business possibilities in front of her, Powell still occasionally finds time to reflect on her road to success.
“When I first went to market…I thought to myself, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it big, and I’m going to do it all the way,’” she said. “So that’s what I did, and I’m so glad that I did, because it made all the difference in the world. It’s been a very short seven years, and at times, it seems like it’s been a very long seven years, but I absolutely love what I do, and I know I’m very blessed to have had things turn around the way that they have.”