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Crafty entrepreneurs

For two self-taught jewelrymakers, creating a piece by hand puts a twinkle in their eye.

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 29, 2002

OAKFORD PARK -- The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks left a lot of people searching for ways to show their patriotism.

Like many, Marilyn Figueredo wanted to fly the American flag but couldn't find a store with any in stock.

Then she went to the Bead Corner at 4004 W Neptune St.

The shop was out of flags but had plenty of red, white and blue beads. With a little guidance from the clerk she strung a few together and, voila, she made a bracelet.

It was such a hit that family, friends and colleagues wanted to place orders.

LilyRose Creations was born.

Figueredo, 53, started the jewelrymaking business in October 2001 with her best friend and roommate, Vienna Santisteban. They work out of their home on North B Street.

After 30 years with Delta Air Lines, Figueredo retired last year as a human resources manager. The company offered an early retirement package that was "too good to pass up," she said.

Today Figueredo spends her time managing LilyRose Creations, which she and Santisteban named after their mothers. Santisteban, 46, continues to work at Delta as a payroll and staffing supervisor.

Neither took beading classes (Figueredo took a class on making watches). They taught themselves by looking at jewelry in department stores and leafing through bead catalogs and magazines.

"Most of it is being creative," Santisteban said while working on a sterling silver bracelet. "It's relaxing and fun."

They work on a computer table that they can move from room to room. Plastic containers separate semiprecious stones, pressed glass beads, Swarovski crystal beads, and sterling silver and copper buttons.

They make bracelets, watches, earrings, anklets and toe rings. Simple pieces take about 11/2 hours. More complicated ones can take several.

The most popular item is a name bracelet with birthstones. Children's bracelets cost $12 and $2 per letter. Adult bracelets start at $25 and $2 per letter.

Other big sellers are theme jewelry for Christmas, Gasparilla, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and other holidays.

It seems more and more people have taken up beading since Sept. 11, Figueredo said. It's a sign that people are trying to find ways "to relax and get their mind off of things."

"They see all the negative in the newspaper (and) on television," she said. "They're looking for something different for them to do."

Stacey Abitabilo, owner of the Bead Cottage on Cleveland Street, agrees. Many people have started making beaded jewelry as a form of extra income and a favorite pastime, she said.

There's also "the whole sentimental value of having something being made by someone."

Figueredo and Santisteban plan to continue their business for as long as they enjoy it. For them, it's one good thing that has come out of Sept. 11.

"It's fun when you see ... something that you made," Figueredo said. "It's the best feeling in the world."

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