Mankind’s love story with the sea began millennia ago when the world was still very young. Archaeological evidence has been uncovered confirming that populations dating back into the Stone Age developed the first fishing vessels, which would be followed by the first seafaring boats via the craftsmanship of the Austronesian peoples. The ocean has been, and continues to be, a constant and unwavering element in the lives of the world’s people. For those who feel particularly called by its siren song, they may choose to immortalize the sea’s features through their personal talents. Alexa Allamano is one such individual. Armed with a love for jewelry, Alexa created “Foamy Wader,” a sustainable jewelry brand designed to allow the charm of the sea to be carried with the wearer wherever they may go.
However, when the pandemic hit, many shops had to close their doors to in-person shopping, and Foamy Wader was no exception. Yet, Alexa was determined to find a way to overcome this with the creation of The Scan to Shop Solution, a QR code-based window shopping experience for customers. As both a jewelry connoisseur and pioneer of pandemic-safe shopping methods, Alexa’s story is one of passion, resilience, and innovation.
Alexa found the beginning of her career in the corporate world of banking. But, as fate would have it, this was not meant to be a long-lasting job. In her free time, Alexa began crafting jewelry in order to maintain a creative outlet, launching an online storefront on Etsy to sell her creations. Just a few months after the Etsy launch, the bank went belly-up. Alexa saw this turn of events as a sign that she was meant to pursue her passion project as more than just a side hustle. “I like to say ‘I got fired – and then I got fired up!’” Alexa said.
Cue the beginning of Alexa’s journey toward entrepreneurship and the vibrant enterprise that has become today’s Foamy Wader. “Foamy Wader is my sustainable jewelry brand with nautical inspiration – delicate jewelry for refined sea lovers. We specialize in made-to-order inclusive sizes and guarantee our handmade jewelry for life,” Alexa said.
Foamy Wader was first established online via Etsy in 2008. Over the course of the next few years, Alexa hustled to build an organic audience, traveling to craft fairs and making her brand known. This work all came to a payoff in fall of 2014 with the purchase of Foamy Wader’s first storefront in Seattle, along with the launch of foamywader.com, the business’s independently owned web store. As the business continued to grow, the draw of the sea also gained volume— it was time for Alexa to commit her creations to true island life. So in 2017, the store was packed and moved to Langley, WA, a quaint tourist town on Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle. Foamy Wader’s in-store location thrived surrounded by its new island community, but faced a roadblock when the now-infamous 2020 arrived. The lease on the storefront had come to an end, and with the growing threat of COVID-19 to the world of business, Alexa opted to close down, shifting the business back to its exclusively online roots. Yet, that very same community that had been there from the store’s move to Whidbey Island stayed by its side throughout the course of the pandemic, urging and supporting Foamy Wader for a reopening.
“I stumbled upon a tiny storefront with big display windows that sparked the idea for Scan to Shop. We launched our Scan to Shop window shop in fall of 2020, with click-and-collect pickup and private in-store access by appointment. Today, we are open again daily and fully staffed,” Alexa said.
What It Means to Wade
You might now be asking, why the name, “Foamy Wader?” The name encapsulates both the fluffy foam washing up on shore from the crashing waves and the sensation of stepping through the soft surf.
“To me, wading encapsulates that spirit of joy, playfulness and peace you can find at the seashore (or any body of water, really),” Alexa said.
Wading into the sea introduces its visitors and inhabitants to the magic of the sunlight glittering on the water’s surface, the ever-changing figure of the water, and the unique intersectionality of blues, greens, silvers, and golds.
“I believe mastering understated design is all about the use of silhouette and texture. My eye deconstructs the lines, colors, and aesthetics of the beach and echoes a design concept. My signature shimmer finish is a translation of the reflective surface of seawater captured in precious metals. To be reminded of the beauty, power, and serenity of the sea anywhere you roam. When someone steps into my #nauticalcore space, I want them to feel like they’re exploring a treasure trove tucked in a sailor’s attic,” Alexa said.
We’re On Island Time
Foamy Wader’s home on Whidbey Island has served to generate both a local and tourist following, attracting business at any time of the year. Langley, also known as “The Village by the Sea,” is snuggled within the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to this, Foamy Wader is surrounded by an organic seaside aesthetic and thousands of fellow ocean lovers. When the summer months arrive, the combination of locals as well as mainland tourists traveling to Whidbey for a relaxing dose of island life keeps the Foamy Wader staff on their toes, hardly able to keep up with the volume of eager customers. Along with such benefits, an island storefront also brings about a unique set of obstacles.
“While we’re open daily, our hours are “by appointment or chance” due to the fact that everything runs on island time and power outages happen at least a couple times each year,” Alexa said.
The Buck Stops With Me
Alexa’s mornings tend to begin early. Rising between the early hours of 5-6 a.m., she kicks off the day with some quiet time in the studio prior to her son also waking up. After the rest of the Allamano family has gotten moving for the day, Alexa will pack up the car and make a trip over to the store to drop off restock pieces and leave assignments for the staff for the day. Finally, following a full work day, she will typically send off the evening with an hour or two in the studio after her son’s bedtime.
“Working from home means I juggle parenting my preschooler, tending to household chores, and addressing business (neverending emails, order fulfillment, custom service, PR and marketing, bookkeeping, project managing my retail staff…) Luckily my husband works from home as well so we tag-team parenting throughout the day,” Alexa said.
Despite the comfort of a relatively stable daily routine and maintaining personal control over company operations, keeping Foamy Wader thriving has created its fair share of difficulties for its founder.
“As a woman in business, the biggest challenges always feel rooted in a sense of audacity and boldness like ‘how dare she only be open by appointment?’ or ‘what exactly makes you a guru, ma’am?’ and ‘why aren’t you using an annoying website pop-up; don’t you know you’re leaving money on the table?!’” Alexa said.
Yet in spite of the continually winding path of entrepreneurship, Alexa has remained steadfast in keeping Foamy Wader’s operations aligned with her personal values. As both a mother and a business owner, she emphasizes the value of the flexibility and autonomy that come with the job.
“I get to make the decisions for my business without answering to someone above my pay grade. I can choose to be open when it fits my schedule and determine my own work/life balance,” Alexa said.
Meet Scan to Shop
When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in its full, brutal force, Scan to Shop was innovated out of necessity in 2020. Scan to Shop allowed Foamy Wader to stay afloat amid the pandemic, even after the storefront’s doors were closed. The business’s new model could be described as literal window shopping.
“By tastefully merchandising a system of QR codes within our window display we facilitate easy online ordering, converting foot traffic into leads and sales with a phone scan,” Alexa said.
The Scan to Shop integration was so effective for Foamy Wader that it allowed the storefront location to reopen with a staff exceeding pre-pandemic numbers.
“The lightbulb moment felt more like a lightning rod. My husband and I seemed to have the same idea simultaneously (but I definitely said it out loud first). I shared the idea with my business bestie, Rosalie Gale of Ugly Baby, who immediately said ‘Write a book, right now. You’re gonna be a millionaire!’ Recognizing how Scan to Shop could transform retail, we wrote The Scan to Shop Solution guide and made it available online at an accessible cost so that retailers of any size could learn from our first-hand experience in innovating and implementing this system,” Alexa said.
From Sprout to Flourish
“The very first Scan to Shop sale occurred within a week of announcing our window shopping option. Given that it was a cold Tuesday in early November in a small town on an island where the median age is 57, it felt like a huge success to see results with a new tech-savvy local shopping option in an older demo. It was the first and I knew it would not be the last.
I have managed to spy on folks window shopping a few times – without being a total creeper! Since the windows face a popular restaurant, we benefit from their waiting crowds and evening foot traffic. It’s such a delight to overhear people revel in the alfresco shopping experience. It merges the main benefits of in-store and online shopping – seeing something in person (because pictures online never really do proper justice) without the hassle of store hours and awkward interactions (introverts, you’re welcome),” Alexa said.
True Window Shopping
“When designing the windows, I knew I wanted some organization to the display in order to make the purpose of the corresponding QR code simple to understand. Since Scan to Shop was a brand new concept, it needed to be as easy to comprehend as possible. We built custom shelves to create mini shadow boxes for each design and collection to be merchandised within, then installed a small LED spotlight in each shadowbox for 24-hour visibility. I even used my theater degree to sketch a scale model for the windows when planning the size of each shadowbox.
I’m a retailer first, so Scan to Shop is my passion/side hustle. I saw the timeliness and urgency in sharing this method with the retail world. As adoption increases more widely, my hope is that small businesses will feel empowered to take advantage of this accessible tool to capture leads from foot traffic outside business hours, book appointments, or provide customer service remotely,” Alexa said.
Waves of Change
“The personalization I deliver in my business is probably the most magnetic element. I’m a helpful person by nature and I’m happiest when I’m providing service or support in some way. I feel motivated by helping people of all sizes feel good in jewelry that is made to fit their body just as it is. I offer a wide range of inclusive sizes along with custom commissions to do just that—celebrate their style and enhance their inner shine. I’ve built a business with integrity that I love and serves a purpose. I’ve got my eye on a couple of commercial spaces to expand into, but nothing is certain just yet. The thing my husband says that I’ve come to accept fully is that “‘divine timing takes time sometimes,’” Alexa said.
Visit Foamy Wader
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FoamyWader/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/FoamyWader/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/FoamyWader/
Tiktok – https://www.tiktok.com/@foamywader
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/FoamyWader/_shop/