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Mom finds new identity written in the sand

Mom finds new identity written in the sand

  • After an unfulfilling start to retirement, Patti Foster says going into business with her daughters — dealing with Bahamian sand — has broadened her horizons.
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At 64, Patti Foster had wrapped up 20 years as a church secretary, raised her three daughters through adulthood, and walked with her parents through end-of-life care.

“You get to a point where you think, I’m all done,” she says. “Let me play with my grandchildren now.”

But the fulfillment she thought she’d have at this stage in life just wasn’t there, and she found herself wondering, “Is that all there is?”

Playing in the sand

While Patti always figured sand would play some role in her retirement — “I saw myself fishing on the beach in Panama City” — she never dreamed of what laid ahead.

Her husband, Bill, had friends who owned a business that dealt in oolitic aragonite sand from the Bahamas. A chance conversation sparked an idea.

Together with their daughters Tiffani Spangler and Chelsea Foster, the family would start their own company that would turn that special Bahamian sand into play sand for kids.

In 2019, Three Arrow Enterprises launched its Pearl Sand Play Sand line. After importing the sand from the Bahamas, it’s cleaned, sterilized, and bagged at a facility in Spring Grove, then distributed throughout the country to both retail and wholesale clients.

Multiple benefits

What makes the sand unique, Tiffani says, is that the rounded individual sand grains are non-toxic, silica safe, and virtually dust free.

“It’s a good product for families to bring into their homes and to introduce their children to,” she says.

Advantages of excavation to the local environment also intrigued the family. The sand there is considered to be renewable and sustainable, and the very act of digging it up stirs nutrients that feed sea life.

“The fish are fatter and bigger, so the fishing is better for the beaches there,” Tiffani says. “Then there is more sand that is made years later, so there’s an immediate benefit.”

Finding a new identity

While Patti wasn’t sure she was ready to transition from being a mom to being a business partner, she dove in with an open mind.

“There’s this little zipper that I’ve had to open up and say, ‘You know what, I’m not done,’” she says.

But with Tiffani’s experience in sales, Chelsea’s background in marketing and design, and Bill’s expertise in industrial agriculture, Patti wasn’t sure where she fit into the team.

Her family, though, saw her as an invaluable member, bringing wisdom, experience, and outside-the-box thinking that no one else offered.

“She’s the smartest one in the group,” Tiffani says. “The value that that brings is held in high regard.” 

Patti says the whole experience has broadened her horizons in a different kind of way.

“It’s possible that you can grow if you’re open to it, especially as an older adult,” Patti says. “It’s there if you allow it.