By Mike Bush
Kirkwood, MO (KSDK)- In Kirkwood, Missouri you can find sunshine indoors.
"Well, this is what we call the smile factory, "says owner Mark Borella.
Welcome to Seeds of Happiness, a business whose goal it is to get you to wear something more often. A smile.
"All the smiles are hand-made, "he says.
Borella is the owner and founder. An accomplished sculptor, he started making little smiles with leftover lumps of clay.
"What happened was they started giving them to their friends, they started wanting them for their friends and eventually people just said would you make them and sell them?, " he explains.
Now, six years later Borella is all smiles. The company's 2012 revenues grew by nearly 40 percent and their line of products is available at retail locations in 49 states.
"The eyes are poked with little chop sticks, " he demonstrates.
The ceramic smiley faces come in different sizes and shapes all with the seed theme
"Because, "he explains, "it's metaphorically planting a smile on someone's face."
At this company there are no board meetings or quotas, in fact every employee was a friend of the owner before he became the owner.
"It's kind of like working for a 12 year old because he's fun all the time, "says artist Amy Lueking.
"We watch crazy movies, we eat popcorn, we sing and dance and have disco Friday, " adds salesperson Michelle Pollman.
But they're carving out an important niche.
They started realizing they were touching people's hearts when they started getting emails like this one, "Seeds of Happiness were passed out at my grandfather's funeral yesterday and we all found a smile on our face and sincere appreciation. Thank you."
"They've helped people through hard times and it's just the smallest little act of kindness, " Borella says.
In fact, it was just a small act of kindness that started the whole idea.
28:42--"It gives me goose bumps still, "says Paula Ivanowski.
Ivanowski is Mark's long-time friend.
When her son Dawson was dying of cancer, Mark didn't know what to say, so he gave Paula and her husband some little clay smiles.
"The fact that he thought that much of us to bring these little smiles, " she says, "to literally try to put a smile on my face through the hard times we were going through was just amazing."
In a way, Dawson's seeds are planted in all the happiness the company sends out.
The company's latest project is sending 1,000 specially packaged seeds to Moore, Oklahoma to try and bring a little sunshine to the victims of the recent tornado.
"Powerful things come in small packages, "adds Borella.
Since everyone smiles in the same language, this small Missouri company hopes to one day do business all over the world. An idea planted in Kirkwood and now spreading from ear to ear.