“Artrepreneur” Rebecca Puig has loved to paint and create whimsical works of art since she was a little girl. Along with her husband, Rick, the University of Georgia alumnus put her studio art degree to good use when they started Sugarboo Designs in 2005.

What has become the Sugarboo family of businesses originally started with the idea of an oversized wood frame with a small floating photo in the middle. Rebecca and Rick built a prototype, received a United States patent on the design, and eventually took her artwork and the frames, called photoboxes, to market. Needless to say, they were a mega-hit.

It wasn’t long before Rebecca was able to design and move into her very own studio. She made it feel like home and gave it the vintage feel she loved by covering the walls in chalkboard paint and filling the room with all her favorite things, including her children’s artwork, a painting her mom created, a tattered orange chair, metal bins for her paint, and an old jar for her paint brushes. It was great practice for several years down the road when she would become known for her retail displays with a unique vintage flair.

Owners Rebecca and Rick Puig with their two children, who have been an inspiration for many of their mom’s designs. Photo Courtesy of Paige Knudsen

Frequently drawing on her two kids for inspiration, the company is named after her two children’s nicknames. After all, she is “usually working on art that has a message I want my children to see,” she said. Rebecca said she strives to create products that “have a soul of their own” and serve to remind people of the ones they love.

She has a well-defined style created by mixing old and new, light and dark, and serious thoughts with fluff. Some of the messages on her popular signs can be simple and profound at the same time, while others make people laugh out loud.

“I believe in putting good out into the world whenever possible,” Rebecca said. “My hope is that each Sugarboo piece we send out into the world will add a little good!”

A business that was started in their garage just 12 years ago now produces products that are sold all over the world, including retail giant Target. The success of her business is a testament to her creative spirit.

Since expanding her operations from wholesale to retail with her first store in 2013, they now have an impressive eight locations. The Georgia-based retailer has four locations in her home state, including three in the Atlanta area; two in Florida; one in Alabama; and they’ll be expanding into Kentucky later this year.

Georgia, Florida Gift Shop: Sugarboo & Company is the brick-and-mortar embodiment of Rebecca’s whimsical dreams. Of course, the stores feature Sugarboo Designs displayed front and center, as well as handcrafted items by other brands, like Catstudio. “It’s a very curated experience for finding gifts for the home that you won’t find anywhere else,” Puig said.

The designer aims to provide her customers with an eclectic collection of unique vintage-inspired gifts, playful and inspirational art, and luxury accessories that are handcrafted with an interesting mixture of skill, passion, and nostalgic flair.

Customers will find a stunning range of antiqued signs, pillows, frames, body products and candles, dreamlike pieces of art, stationery and other paper goods, home décor pieces that are inspired by rustic or reclaimed woods, and wise words to warm the soul. They sell a carefully selected range of home décor and gifts, but they prefer to be described as “a dealer in whimsy.”

Just like in her artwork, Rebecca uses inspiration from nature, animals, antiques, children’s art and folk art, as well as her family, incorporating elements of each into her stunning retail locations. Each is filled with whimsy, a mix of modern and vintage, and that really special “one-of-a-kind” feel.

The company continues to grow and evolve, even offering a retreat and event center, called Sugarboo Farms, in the North Georgia mountains, that guests can rent for private events and trips.

But Rebecca’s mission remains the same: to create — and now sell — art and other goods that make a home more soulful and happy. Her hope has always been for her pieces to help people tell those dearest to them how they feel, and be a constant reminder of love and light in their home.

Q&A with Rebecca Puig of Sugarboo & Co.

Smart Retailer (SR): What inspired you to start your business?

Sugarboo & Co. (SB): When I had my first child, I couldn’t find any cool art for his room, so I made some art for him. I started getting commissions and it grew from there. I like the idea of putting positive images and messages into my art, and I love the idea of my little messages reaching children and hopefully making them happy. Children are such little sponges, so if there is a message for them in the art they will just soak it up!

(SR): What are you most passionate about? How do you inject that passion into your business?

(SB): Sugarboo & Co.’s tagline is “Dealer in Whimsy,” so we have to live up to this name! Our specialty is adding value and happiness to our customer’s day. We work really hard to keep the stores fresh, and we’re constantly getting in one-of-a-kind items. The culture of Sugarboo & Co. is purpose-driven. We have a really diverse group of people on our team, but everyone is on board with our mission to put good things into the world. They work really hard to make “the Boo” a place where people can slow down, pay attention to our little whimsical world we have created within the stores, recharge their batteries, and hopefully leave a little better than when they came. People tell us all the time that we are their “happy place,” so this makes us feel like we are on the right track, as our mission is to add a bit of happy into someone’s day.

(SR): Do you have a creative process, a method that helps you think outside of the box?

(SB): My art is inspired by nature, positive mantras, brilliant writers, and my children. I can usually be found working on numerous pieces at one time, as I tend to get distracted with other design projects in our line of home goods. Also, if I get to a stopping point on a painting, I never force it, as I believe they come into the world when and if they are meant to.

(SR): Tell us about your locations.

(SB): Each of our stores is unique, but they all share a few key elements that are signature to our brand. We use our rustic, reclaimed gray wood and shiplap white walls in all our stores. I hunt down vintage displays unique to each store and then our A-team brings all the pieces together to tell our story.

It all began in Georgia and we have expanded in to Alabama and Florida. Our first Kentucky location will open later this spring. Stay tuned!

Georgia, Florida Gift Shop: Sugarboo & Company Facts at a Glace

Locations: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Kentucky (spring 2017)
Website: www.sugarbooandco.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sugarbooandco
Instagram: www.instagram.com/sugarbooandco