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"When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion." An African Proverb - Painted Karma Custom Designs

Duran and Kristy Searles were college sweethearts who, upon graduating from Franklin & Marshall College, were married, purchased a home and were ready to start their life together. They began careers in their fields of study, started a family, and over the course of 10 years built a foundation for their family. However, watching their bright-eyed girls growing up made them realize two lessons that would shape their futures: Time passes quickly, and life is best spent doing what you truly love. 

As both Duran and Kristy had always been artistically inclined, the two began working on design-build concepts in their spare time.  Soon the momentum would build, and they found themselves creating works of art and taking their talents to the Brooklyn Flea, selling their pieces on the weekend in the very trendy NYC.  Eventually, they would take the biggest risk of their lives; leaving their full-time jobs to open their design-build company - Painted Karma.  After much research, Duran and Kristy decided to open their store in Rhode Island.  They found that Rhode Island had a significant market for their vintage designs, with an emphasis on communities that desire to "shop local" and "shop small".  It proved to be an ideal place to both run a small business and raise a family. 

“Like art, hand-crafted designs have the ability to tell a story and stir emotion,” said Kristy Searles. “Painted Karma is a 'design-build’ establishment where we custom build and create original pieces.  We specialize in constructing farm tables, creating one-of-a-kind pieces, custom home accents, unique lighting and audio concepts, kitchen and bath rehab, interior design, commercial designs, staging, textiles, artwork and so much more!  We pride ourselves on thinking outside of the box to bring the vision of our clients to life with our custom designs,” she added.

With the support of friends, Duran and Kristy found an ideal location that would double as their home and storefront.  This allowed them to keep costs down and be present with their young children.  Kristy and Duran officially opened the doors to their home and business on July 4, 2015.  By the end of 2016, Painted Karma’s business had tripled.   

They were overwhelmed by how well they were received and how much people were interested in their "story" as a family of color successfully operating a business in South County - a very unexpected notion they would have to face head-on.  Duran and Kristy would quickly build a platform for themselves and their designs which earned them many accolades, including winning a "Best of Rhode Island" award from RI Monthly for "One-of-a-Kind-Furniture", two "Chamber Choice Awards" from the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, a feature on Chronicle 5 News in Boston and numerous write-ups in newspapers and magazines, including a front cover story on the Providence Business News. 

In 2018, they began brainstorming about acquiring a new location.  With some help, they were able to find a property in historic Kingston Village that fit their needs. They reached out to Josh Daly of the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center to seek his council on the feasibility of the location and potential for success. Josh acted as a sounding board for Duran and Kristy, listening to their ideas, helping in the planning, and introducing them to contacts that could help their growth. Together, they were able to identify the best way to move forward. In 2019, Duran and Kristy moved Painted Karma and their family to their new location in Kingston. 

Daly, who nominated the Searles for this award, shared his thoughts on the husband and wife team. “Kristy and Duran have put such care into their business and their community, and it shows in the way their community loves them. It is not just their unique products and services they provide to make people's homes beautiful, but the real, infectious joy and love that they share through those offerings. I'm proud to see them recognized as the RI SBA Homebased Business of the Year.” 

In addition to their custom designs, Painted Karma’s business model is heavily focused on their restoration services.  Their name, Painted Karma, is a thoughtful one that not only holds cultural importance, but accurately describes what they aim to achieve in their designs.  Each of Duran and Kristy’s antique and vintage pieces are restored to maintain the integrity of its history, while giving it new life and aesthetic value. 

Like so many other businesses, COVID-19 took its toll on Painted Karma. With a business so reliant on in-person showings and custom home modifications social distancing presented incredible obstacles. Duran and Kristy contacted the SBA and were able to secure and Economic Injury Disaster Loan to get them through this difficult period. The loan helped pay essential bills and kept the business operating until clients began returning. 

As Kristy and Duran continue to push Painted Karma forward, they never lose sight of what is most important to them: family and happiness. Kristy refers to an African proverb that helps light their path, “When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion.” As time passes and their family and business continue to grow, Painted Karma and the Searles family will always hold fast to each other to make their dreams a reality.  As long as they are together, nothing can stop them.

Company Name: 
Painted Karma Custom Designs
Location: 
Kingston, Rhode Island