How Four Jewelry Designers Cultivated Their Home Based Businesses

September 29, 2010  |  

by Demetria Irwin

Making a living from selling handmade items crafted at home conjures up images of early 20th century women sewing dresses, slacks, aprons and other goods for their fellow working class neighbors. In today’s world of dollar stores and outsourced labor that allows for rock bottom prices at nationwide retailers, there doesn’t seem to be a space for those who seek to earn a living making items that can be found anywhere and at lower prices.

However, the women behind these four handmade jewelry businesses show how to make a home-based business model work.  They have a couple things in common. They all rely on the internet for free marketing and they all have three digit numbers for the amount of items sold per month.  Beyond that, they each offer something unique and that is the key to having a successful home-based business.  Sure, you can get earrings from anywhere, but do they look like this?

Business Name: Sarenzo Beads
Sarah Elliot
Day Job: Cosmetology Student
Wares: Earrings, Bracelets, Hair Accessories
Price Range: $10-$30
Business Fact: Sarenzo Beads sold 500 items at an arts and crafts show in Baltimore.

Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs:
“Start small. Have a $5 or $10 per paycheck habit. Put that money towards buying supplies every week and stick to your budget. You’ll start to build your business on those $10 trips. You’re not breaking the bank and it gives you the opportunity to see if it’s for you.”

The saying goes that necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes, boredom can be that motherly figure too.  While living in a semi-rural Virginia community nine years ago, Elliot and her husband would make frequent trips to the area’s only sign of life, a Walmart, to buy boredom busting products like puzzles and games.  One day she picked up a beading kit and, not too long after that, Sarenzo Beads was born.

It started out small and simple. Elliot and her husband (the name Sarenzo is a mash-up of Sarah and Lorenzo) would make beaded earrings and their friends and co-workers would buy them.  As demand grew and they started getting orders from people they didn’t know personally, they expanded the line, which now includes bracelets and most recently hair accessories. “Wood is my signature. I sell a lot of wood pieces. My hair ties are probably my most popular item. They are small, durable and easy to use,” said Elliot.

In 2009, Elliot was able to get a website designed for her in exchange for a few custom pieces.  Since then, her website, along with her Twitter account and arts & crafts shows are her main channels for marketing and selling. “Shows have been great for us, but they do take a lot of preparation,” she said. “If I sell five of something online, I might sell a couple hundred of that same thing at a show. I have to do my research, know what kind of buyers will likely be there and make things they’ll like,” Elliot said of her recent decision to begin selling her work at special fairs and events.

Though Elliot is a cosmetology student and her husband is in culinary school and their son and daughter ages seven and six are both high-functioning autistic children, Sarenzo Beads still manages to produce between 150 to 200 pieces per month on average.  Everything is done by hand out of the Elliots’ home in Virginia.  Already a third Elliot is helping out. Their daughter designed the autism earrings on the site, which are silver circles with a puzzle piece in the middle. A portion of the proceeds from those sales as well as the sales from an upcoming line from her “Baby Girl” (as her mother affectionately calls her) are donated to the classroom that handles autistic children in her area to help them with supplies.

Elliot says she is able to offer her handmade work for such low prices because she buys in bulk whenever possible and she recycles. If an item doesn’t sell after a couple months, she takes it apart and uses the parts to make a new piece.

Jewelry is not the final stop for the now 31-year-old. Elliot–who was accepted to the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in New York years ago, but didn’t go because her parents forbade it—has been working on a line of pocketbooks and she just bought a sewing machine.

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  • I love the features on the jewelry artists Im trying to encourage my daughter to start a line of her own and this is the perfect read for her

  • Rachel Stewart is a new era of jewelry! I love her pieces, they are bold and funky!

  • I love to see women doing their thing! I've been following Ms. Rachel for a while, and have cheered her on sliently. Keep up the fab work! Thanks for featuring her.

  • Support your community by joining The Black Business Network! It's totally free. Be black, buy black!

  • Jasmin

    Sooooo proud for my girl Tiff Headbangin! Talk about a driven, intelligent, talented woman!

  • Hi my name is Carcia,
    I also design unique handcrafted jewelry and I have my own website, but my stuff hasn't been selling as much as I would like. I was told not to do craft shows because there's too much competition with other jewelers. If anyone has any suggestions please check out my website. I am always open to feedback. Website:

  • Ebony

    Great article…. I am such a huge fan and have been a faithful follower of these ladies since they began. Please support these women…. they are humble, eager and are truly inspiring.

  • Farrah

    Girl Power! I love it, so inspirational. Don't stop your hustle ladies, this is amazing!

  • jaden

    nothing but resepect for women who persue personal goals and make things happen on their own but the earrings the head banger chicks sell are the same design styles as whats sold in dollar store for 60+ times the amount which is quite ridiculous in price if you ask me. Paying 70 for an earring that isnt even gold plated and is made with fabric is just nuts crazy to me that anyone would spend that but hey I cant knock it get it how you get it ladies but you're making money off a lot of dumb people.

    • Ebony

      Jaden, wow it's interesting your feedback is so contradictive, what dollar store do you purchase hand crafted earrings?! Thats an amazing steal & you should keep shopping in your arena, the dollar store. Remember you get what you pay for. Its unfortunate that women always have to bring negativity to the table & hate on each other as opposed to being genuinely happy for one anothers success. Seems to me you're a bit jealous and are probably one of the many copy cats of Headbanger Accessories. To call thier customers dumb is a sad representation of the person you are. I'm sure your comment won't affect the Headbanger women because realistically they need people like you to let them know thier doing the right thing, otherwise you wouldn' be so mad. Anyway, I hope they never see your stupid comment because its ignorant. Best of luck to finding your own happiness.

  • Great to see these successful artists and examples of their jewelry. Kudos to all of you!

  • This is an inspiring article. Congrats to all you powerful ladies.
    As a fellow handmade jewelry designer I can relate. Starting out is the hardest part. Once you've made the decision to go, then doing what you love to do and seeing the joy it brings others is a reward that simply can't be measured.
    I have recently listed my items on Etsy where I get support from the Etsy Artists of Color. To see my online shop for ideas or purchases go to Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

  • sarahjessicamaybe

    I am very impressed by Bay Area’s Headbangers Accessories line, I wished the article included a website where the readers can obtain their own earrings…

    Congrats ladies!!! Keep up the great work, very impressive and inspiring.

    • rasmerom

      The business name links to the entrepreneurs' websites where you can shop their respective jewelry lines.

    • Thank you for this article, I LOVE it! You managed to capture everything we talked about in this write up & we are SO grateful for the recognition! To all the Ladies who want to join the BANGer movement, check us out at 😉

  • Wonderful!!!! I 'know' both Sarah and Rachel, and they are both wonderful, hard working women! I'm in great company.

    Thanks Demetria. Great piece.