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World-Class Indigenous Bead Weaving

Tropic Options began operation in 2002 and has become a premiere importer of world-class bead weaving into the USA, creating economic opportunities in Guatemala, California and across a broad network of stores and entrepreneurial ventures internationally. We are known for our expert color sense, varied and visually exciting Collection, and excellent customer service.

Our International Team



Since her first trip to Guatemala in the 70’s, MaryLea Balsley, founder of Tropic Options, has loved the Spanish language, the picturesque landscape, culture, vivid colors and undaunted spirit of the beautiful Mayan Indian people. She decided to create a ‘win-win’ situation by using her accumulated business skills to provide gorgeous handcrafted jewelry to women that can afford and appreciate the detailed work created by these talented and deserving women. An educator, professional speaker and business and marketing consultant since 1987, she parlayed her experience to form a socially conscious company with the capacity to transform indigenous weavers into successful entrepreneurs. To learn more about MaryLea’s background, experience, education and consulting services, see


Invaluable to Tropic Options, Mike knows a LOT about a LOT of things. A jack-of-all-trades, with a degree in Marketing and Engineering, he offers a rare combination of right-brained, left-brained thinking to the day-to-day operations, on-going marketing, sales and strategic planning for Tropic Options. A rare Mid-westerner, having learned Chinese on–the-job in Taipei. An intrepid entrepreneur, he has also designed a line of ‘the world’s best pet homes’…stay tuned.

Our Guamanian island girl and loyal helper since the beginning of our journey. A busy international logistics and compliance Zen-master here in Silicon Valley, securing her degree in Business Administration @ 62 yrs. of age! Still, she enjoys pleasing our demanding and delightful customers at a variety of engaging venues, and spending time with her precious grandchildren.



Our crackerjack Buying Agent in Guatemala is also the daughter of one our most talented, prolific and original artists, Lucia. Always appropriate but very shy growing up, it never crossed my mind to hire her for this vital position. I really needed someone to be ‘my eyes’ in the villages, and Lucia suggested that her daughter ‘could do it’. What an amazing girl she is and what a professional businesswoman she has become in just these last few years. Always solid, alert and responsive, with a ‘can-do’ attitude…and all this at the ripe old age of 19! She represents the next generation, hungry for opportunity and not afraid to work for it. We expect her earnings to pay her way through school, giving her an opportunity to better care for her eventual family as well as her aging parents someday. We are always looking for more talent like Manuela to create a multiplier effect in our mentoring and economic development activities.

P.S. By the way, she doesn’t speak a word of English.

Our Scottish Shipping Agent is quite a character and a huge asset. We would be lost without his assistance in navigating the logistics and paperwork needed for our export activities.

…SO MANY OTHERS join us on the road and chip-in when help is needed, getting the on-the-job training needed to satisfy our happy customers and making this a beautiful joint effort by caring contributors that believe they can make a difference in the lives of others.


Our Weavers

Indigenous Mayan women have been famous for their intricate fabric weavings over the centuries. Beadwork is a relatively new adaptation of this art form, quickly mastered by our talented and adept weavers when introduced to them a mere 30 years ago.

Our work is primarily done by the Quiche, Tzutujil and Cachiquel Indians of the Central Highlands of Guatemala. Some younger women work in small ‘fabricas’ (factories) with their friends, while others work at home with their families and friends. They speak a variety of Mayan dialects and wear the customary native dress (traje) that identifies their tribe and individual village of origin in the highlands.



Since Mayan women and girls have limited educational and almost non-existent work opportunities, women are proud to have jobs that make them more self-sufficient, make a contribution to the community and help them to provide for their families. We generally provide an ‘anticipo’ (advance deposit) to provide the seed money needed to buy materials. Tropic Options loans this money to them at NO INTEREST, in comparison to the local micro-loan program, which charges 28% interest, which adds to the cost of goods, making their loan recipients non-competitive.

Our economic development efforts help to develop self-sufficient entrepreneurs, and the opportunity to work from home, gives them the ability to care for their children and earn money for each piece they can produce. This amount far exceeds what they are able to generate by other means available to them.

To learn more about our relationship with our weavers and how Tropic Options does business, visit our F.A.Q.’s (Frequently Asked Questions.) - Coming Soon