A 29-year-old former upstater who lives with her husband Scott Enstine on Shelter Island, where she directs the summer sailing program at Camp Quinipet, Lisa Krekeler has done something surprising with her extensive academic background in communication — that’s “communication” ending with an “N” not an “S.”
Her studies at the University of Rhode Island were not about media relations and spinning stories to make clients shine. They were “all about how we interact with and perceive the world through our words and how we talk to one another,” Lisa explained during a chat at her dining room table last weekend. “It’s the study of how we use our language to create meaning.”
When she got her master’s degree in 2010 after commuting all the way from Shelter Island to Seton Hall University in New Jersey two and three days a week — the whole time working in the office at Piccozzi’s Fuel Oil — she was thinking she’d find some kind of corporate consulting job, even though “those are few and far between on Shelter Island,” she laughed.
Instead, she found a job in 2012 working with kids, something that seems to come naturally to her, teaching three days a week at the Orient Congregational Preschool. But she needed something more.
Inspired by a bracelet from a friend and the simple gift of an orange from a Ugandan boy when she was in the Peace Corps, Lisa has found that “something more” in an online handmade jewelry business she launched last fall called “Positive Charm.”
It’s a business that perfectly combines her professional approach to words with her pleasure of working with her hands.
Her business isn’t just about making a few dollars selling jewelry that she assembles in her upstairs studio for children and adults. “The whole mission of my business is to spread love and kindness,” she said. Her jewelry, with its inspirational words or symbols, or customized with a child’s name, can be seen on her etsy website (etsy.com/shop/PositiveCharm) and on her Positive Charm Facebook page.
As a tie-in to her business, she’s written and published a children’s book called “Emily and the Kindness Bracelet,” illustrated by Danielle Malmet Rodger of Greenport, whose drawings reflect a Shelter Island-like setting; the houses look like they belong here, and a gazebo just like Camp Quinipet’s appears in one scene.
The privately printed book, which is available on her Positive Charm website, was designed by her husband, who is a graphic designer at Corcoran real estate in Bridgehampton.
The book tells a charming tale about generosity and selflessness, symbolized by a bracelet stamped with the word “kindness” that a little girl receives from her parents.
The idea for her jewelry business “came to me because in college my best friend Genna gave me a bracelet,” Lisa explained. “It was solid silver with the word ‘Believe’ stamped on it. I would wear it and think of her and it really helped me … it served as a reminder to believe in myself.”
As for the Ugandan boy’s gift, it was something she kept in the back of her mind ever since she received it in 2008. As a Peace Corps observer at a Ugandan elementary-level classroom, she was about to leave one morning when “a little boy came running toward me and he handed me an orange … It hit me that this child wanted to make me feel so loved and welcome that he was giving up something really precious to him. He gave up food” even when “most of those kids hadn’t eaten that day.”
Today children are influenced by a mass consumer culture that does not encourage kindness, Lisa said. “When I started teaching preschool, my co-teacher and I found ourselves telling kids over and over again to use their ‘kind’ words and to be kind to their friends.”
She kept thinking of the Ugandan boy. “I really felt that if there could be kindness in a country where there’s no food and water … If a child can be so kind in that setting, kindness is possible anywhere and should be everywhere.”
With that thought in mind, she sat down and began writing.
How Lisa came to be a person who cares so deeply about kindness probably has a lot to do with her family’s connection to Camp Quinipet, a retreat and sports camp founded in 1922 by the Methodist Church.
Lisa’s grandparents, Beatrice and George Krekeler from Bellmore, New York, are Methodists who volunteered there every summer for years. Lisa’s father, Paul, who works for the state Department of Transportation in Albany, went to Quinipet as a kid and worked there in his college years. He and his wife Patti, a nurse at Albany Medical Center, volunteer every summer and began taking Lisa and her sister Debbie there when they were toddlers. Debbie’s now a physical therapist in the White Plains area.
Lisa’s move from Guilderlands, New York to the Island came right after college in 2007. By then she had been dating Scott, who grew up in Southampton, for more than a year, having met him on the Island in 2006 through Scott’s Moravian College friend Greg Nissen, the director of Camp Quinipet. Scott was living on the Island then because he preferred it to any place “with a South Fork feel.”
After graduation, she came back to direct the sailing program as usual and stayed on with Scott, working as a lifeguard at the YMCA pool in East Hampton before landing the office job at Piccozzi’s. She and Scott were married at Quinipet in September 2009 and bought their nearly new dormered Cape on Penny’s Path in 2011.
Since they bought the place, “We get really popular in the summer” with their families, Lisa said. “This is the summer house.”
Lisa got her Positive Charm etsy site up and running last fall in time for Christmas, and her jewelry sold well over the holidays, she said.
In addition to making all the jewelry, a skill she taught herself after extensive research, she took all the photos and prepared the copy for the website; Scott did the layouts and logos, just as he did all the graphic design for Lisa’s book, working late at night.
Lisa wasn’t sure how many bracelets, necklaces and charms have sold — “dozens,” she said. The book became available on the site about a month ago and has sold about 25 copies. The weekend before her interview, she had taken a selection to Palmer Vineyard for her first craft fair; the following day she was headed to a craft fair at Greenport High School. She’s signed up to sell at the Shelter Island Farmer’s Market and plans to hit other venues during the season.
Come June, when she again will be running the sailing program at Quinipet, she and Scott will barely see each other during daylight hours — which is how it’s been most of the time for the busy couple. Their break will come late in the season, when they get to relax and go hiking at a cabin Scott’s mother’s family owns in western Maine.
“We don’t see each other until we go to Maine,” Lisa said, laughing, which comes easily to this cheerful, articulate and motivated young woman.