Seven years ago, while still in law school at MSU, Tina Menzie was given a challenge that would sprout and bloom into a wonderful business. It all began with greeting cards. She had a tradition of creating handmade cards for all of her friends at Christmas time. Her friends loved them. And then she went to law school.
Suddenly she had no time to spare, and making cards just didn't seem that important anymore. People began to wonder if she had forgotten them. "Did you take me off your Christmas list?" One friend asked her. Menzie tried to explain how little time she had for crafts. "Besides," she said, "You'll just throw them away anyway!". To which her friend replied, "So make me something I won't throw away!" And Future Oxygen
Working out of their basement, Menzie and her husband, Shawn, started work on their first product. Using all natural paper, they created cards that contained seeds imbedded in the fibers. You got your card in the mail, displayed it for the holiday season, and in the spring you planted it. Soon your Christmas card became a patch of flowers or fragrant herbs.
People loved the idea, but the seeds were so well disguised in the cards that they were essentially invisible. Many people threw out their cards after Christmas without even realizing that they had held a future bouquet in their hands. So Menzie and her husband returned to the drawing board, redesigning their stationary to look less like a regular Christmas card and more like a piece of future oxygen.
The Seeds Of Change
Over time their focus shifted. They began to create eco-jewelry, something you could wear for a season in life, and then plant when you were done. It was very important to both Menzie and her husband that this new company be entirely earth friendly. They selected only sustainably sourced seeds, mostly from Michigan, weeding out anything invasive or poisonous. They researched pigments, determined to use only pure and natural colors. But if you're going to make such earth-friendly claims, you have to be able to back them up.
"The first three of four years were spent almost entirely in development." Menzie explains. "We had outside scientists study and test our products, prove that they did what we said they would do. We wanted to be certain that all the components bio-degraded and the seeds actually grew!"
Blooming, Blossoming ...
When a beloved dog of their's passed away, Menzie and her husband used their own memorial bracelets as part of their grieving process. Menzie chose a bracelet full of perennial seeds to wear while she worked through her sorrow, and then planted it when she felt her heart had healed sufficiently. "Now I can go and look at those flowers every spring and remember." Menzie says. "It actually helps me."
Their jewelry line now contains memorial bracelets, along with a host of other jewelry, like the pieces created especially for expectant mothers. A mom-to-be would wear her necklace or bracelet during the pregnancy and then plant it when the baby is born, commemorating her child's new life. "We even offer them for soon-to-be-siblings!" Menzie laughs, "Something a child can wear while they wait for the birth of their new baby brother or sister, and then plant as a special memento to mark their transition in life."
"We want people to celebrate their events and accomplishments!" Menzie says, and what better way to celebrate a great moment in life than by growing something beautiful? Wear a bracelet during chemo, during a marathon, or during the move into your new home. Then plant it and watch it blossom into a beautiful reminder of what you've achieved.
Reap What You Sow
Menzie and her husband both feel very strongly about community and investing in the local economy. As a result, Future Oxygen is in many ways a celebration of Michigan - her people, her plants and her creativity. All of the packaging for their products are made at Peckham, Inc
. here in Lansing. They use Portage based non-profit, SFE Works for the production of their products, and the designs for the pendants are created by local Michigan artist Donna Mitchell-Collins
, well known for her murals and blockwork.
While Future Oxygen supports a variety of local charities, the Menzie's passions lie with cancer research, military veterans and school gardens. Part of their personal mission is the desire to see every school with a garden of it's own.
Because they are able to offer such a gorgeous array of natural pigments, even including metallics, Future Oxygen has branched out to create custom pieces. They offer customized designs and seed combinations to schools, organisations and non-profits. A business logo can be printed on a pendant and filled with seeds for complimentary flowers. Their breast cancer awareness pendant, for example, is printed with the pink ribbon and filled with seeds for pink flowers, while the pendant bearing the US flag comes up as red, white and blue blossoms.
All of their jewelry can be worn for up to two years, and then planted to grow into flowers, herbs or trees. Every piece is non-toxic, biodegradable, and packed with sustainably sourced seeds. Even the packaging is fully compostable. "We're very proud of the fact that we're a zero waste company!" Menzie says. The metal pieces they use, like the rings in the keychains, are recyclable. "If a customer sends them back to us when they've planted their keychain, we'll send them a coupon towards their next purchase and we'll reuse the the metal in the production of new keychains. Nothing is wasted!"
So whether you're growing a company or grieving a loss, preparing for motherhood or overcoming an illness, whatever the occasion, Future Oxygen has you covered. And there's a future flower garden just waiting to commemorate your success. Look out Lansing, this company is blooming!