Local entrepreneurs pop the cork on an interesting business

NEW ORLEANS(WGNO)--Local entrepreneurs started a quirky, or should I say queorky business, after they stumbled on a million dollar idea while on vacation. Julie Araujo and Amanda Dailey were on vacation in Portugal in 2012, visiting Julie's family, when Amanda became enthralled with some items in a gift shop made out of cork.

Julie had been familiar with the material because it's one of Portugal's biggest exports, mainly used for wine corks and flooring. But Amanda couldn't help but stare at a cork belt and think what a great dog collar it would make for her large dog, Walley.

Back stateside, Amanda was in a local pet store picking up some dog food, and asked the store owner if he had ever heard of cork dog collars. She explained that they 're light weight, eco-friendly, water resilient, and mildew proof so they don't get the smell most dog collars get after time. He said if she could find them he would sell them. So, Amanda went on a mission.

Only, she couldn't just make one collar she had to make 500. And just like that, she was in business. It evolved from dog collars, to purses. She had 35 purses made to sell at a festival and they sold out. She was on to something.

Within just a couple of months Julie and Amanda opened their very first store in the French Quarter, and now four years later they have five stores in three states. Anything you can think of a need for, Amanda and Julie can cork it.

Iphone cases, wallets, place mats, shoes, purses, hats, umbrellas, furniture, dog beds, jewelry, suitcases the list goes on and on.

"The material just amazed me," said Amanda, and she was not alone in her fascination.

"Me being Portuguese, it was known to me, but its a very foreign thing to Americans," said Julie remarking on their accidental success.

Most people are delighted to learn that the process of harvesting cork from the cork oak trees happens entirely my manual labor and does not kill the trees. In fact, the harvesting is necessary, like a molting process, to allow the trees to grow. The cork forests in just Portugal alone are huge and are credited with removal of almost 30% of the carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

Their New Orleans stores are located at 838 Chartres and 3005 Magazine Street. Products are also available online.