A pretty watch with a flexible beaded band caught Deb Breyfogle's eye last year, and it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for her clients at Advance Opportunities.
Breyfogle bought the watch at a purse party in 2011 and after awhile noticed the band was made out of something unusual.
Jeanette Hegg of Marshall loaded beads onto a safety pin recently at Advance Opportunities. The beaded pin will eventually be part of a bracelet.
"I wore it a couple times before I realized it was safety pins," she said.
She wondered if her group could duplicate it and sell it. Breyfogle is a job coach at Advance Opportunities in Marshall, a private not-for-profit agency that provides employment and vocational training to individuals with developmental, physical and other disabilities.
The clients clean businesses and houses, do recycling and shredding and also work at Advance Opportunities' secondhand clothing store on East College Drive, Wear It's At.
"They sort through the clothes and tag them," Breyfogle said.
Breyfogle was able to figure out how her watch was made and bought beads, elastic string and clasps and a new business was formed.
"We do a lot of experimenting - trial and error," she said. "We see what clasps work the best. We're working with different weights of elastic."
She buys beads and safety pins in bulk and charm add-ons are bought at thrift stores, garage sales and are also brought in by people - spoons, belt buckles, clip earrings are all refashioned into decorative watches, bracelets and necklaces.
The jewelry has sold well.
"Last December someone said to me, 'do you realize we made over $10,000 last year?' and I said, 'really?'" Breyfogle said.
Watches cost $24, bracelets sell for $10.70 and necklaces between $5 and $7. The clients get half of the profits, and the other half goes toward buying more beading supplies and tools.
The jewelry line is sold at Advance Opportunities, Wear It's At and at various salons around town.
Breyfogle supervises up to eight individuals. Some take a day to create an item, and others take a week, she said. Jeanette Hegg of Marshall is such a regular, she has her own table where she creates necklaces. Hegg puts colors together based on "instinct," she said. "I just choose what goes together. It's fun. I love it."
Sometimes people bring in belt buckles and spoons and say, "can you make a necklace out of this?" Breyfogle said. "Before Christmas we had a lot of orders."
"We were real busy then," said Hegg.
Breyfogle said she wanted to expand the line and try making rings.
"We've got to keep it going," said Breyfogle.
"We certainly do," Hegg said.