Lives of Style: Barbara Carey

I was impressed, touched, moved, rocked to laughter, enlightened, inspired, encouraged by Barbara Carey. The girl’s a kick — and a great storyteller.

You know why she’s built seven successful businesses and, more importantly to her, a loyal cadre of female friends. She is, to use Cosmo’s ubiquitous yet still relevant citation, “fun, fearless (fabulous), female.”

She’s entertaining and surprising, like the high school princess who’s equally at home with guys fixing cars in the back parking lot. Pretty, blonde, slim and stunning, she’s smart, affable, interested in everything.

An inventor (104 products) and entrepreneur (turning $6,000 into $47 million), she’s parlayed her proficiency in creating products (Hairagami is the most well-known) and selling to mass merchandisers (Wal-Mart, Kmart, Toys “R” Us and QVC) into a public persona as a self-made female dynamo. She has just released her book, “The Carey Formula,” to share her entrepreneurship with others.

This fifth-generation East Bay resident began young. A Girl Scout cookie-selling star and daughter of two doting parents, Margie and Ron Kraft, who abetted her innovations, early on Carey wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel. Her dad advised her, “Why do you want to be a Charlie’s Angel when you could be Charlie?”

Expediting college in three years, Barbara married and had a child, Rich Stachowski Jr., yet stumbled in her first try at entrepreneurship. Facing bankruptcy, she leveraged garage-sale money, spent $4,000 (of $6,000 remaining) on a red Donna Karan suit and took a leap of faith — in herself.

Renting and sleeping in a car on a trip to Kmart headquarters in Minnesota, she sold them on her idea 17 days before Halloween — disguises called “Who am I?” She made her first million dollars. The woman does not take “no” for an answer. Scores of successes followed.

Her residence, a hilltop estate she purchased and transformed five years ago, is a three-story contemporary masterpiece, defined by a perfect mix of wood, metals, colors cool (aubergine and silver) and warm (red), sleek design and raw elements of nature (fire, water, earth).

Vast expanses of light and stanchion walls rise to verticalhighs and meet angled ceilings that lavish spacious, pristine, yet kinetic feeling. Important art, artifacts and fixtures are set with aesthetic precision to harmonize with the flow of textures and hues of the home.

From the meditation room to her “purple couch” and “dancing fireplace,” there is serenity and ease. This is a home with spirit.

For a woman who’s created so much, the greatest gifts can be giving back. Barbara has created foundations for matching grants to inventors, and is donating 20 percent of a new feminine product she’s developed to Breast Cancer Support.

Barbara Carey is in her element — she’s in all elements. And she smiles.

elaurence@examiner.com

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