A newsmaker you should know: Churchill teen a finalist in national retailer's contest
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When Rachel Tobin started making and selling beaded bracelets at age 12 to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, she hoped to raise about $200.
That took just a few weeks.
Now 19, the young Churchill woman -- who has Type 1 diabetes -- has raised $50,000 to support the foundation and runs her own jewelry business: Rachel's Cure by Design.
"I was surprised. People really took to the jewelry," she said.
Last week, Miss Tobin was one of 20 women entrepreneurs from across the nation to be selected by online retailer ideeli.com and author Tory Johnson as a finalist for ideeli's "Best in Shop" contest. The top three winning finalists, selected by online voting, will be featured on the site in the fall edition of Tory's Shop on ideeli.com.
"This is a huge deal for my company. I'm hoping to get support from my customers because it can really change the business and spread awareness about diabetes," Miss Tobin said.
Voting for the contest continues until Sept. 7.
Earlier this month, Miss Tobin was a guest speaker for a gathering of women entrepreneurs at one of Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle conferences in Green Tree.
"It featured presentations from experts in fields that impact you when you run your own business," Miss Tobin said.
Her grandmother, Carol Lewis, taught her how to craft the silver, gem and glass beaded bracelets around the same time Miss Tobin was diagnosed with diabetes seven years ago.
"It was a huge shock. I didn't understand what it really meant to have diabetes. I had to learn to test my blood sugar and to give myself three to five shots each day," Miss Tobin recalled.
Now, maintaining her diabetes is much easier using an insulin pump, she noted.
"I'm doing well today. It's kind of an unpredictable disease. Your blood sugar can fluctuate with any change," she said.
A sophomore, majoring in pre-med at Emory University in Atlanta, Miss Tobin has designed all of her 100 or so styles of bracelets. About 7 or 8 inches in length, each has a signature "hope" and "made with love" charm along with its own name. Her favorite "go-to" bracelet is a pearl and crystal creation called "bling it on." She also sells earrings and necklaces.
Costs for the jewelry range from $35 to $70. Forty-one percent of each sale goes to the research foundation.
Miss Tobin said she gets help from family and friends with stringing the bracelets. Her mother, Linda Tobin, and her business partner, Margie Dubner, work full time, running the business while Rachel is at school.
"We call ourselves the elves," Linda Tobin said.
The two manage customer service, packing and shipping and meeting with manufacturers. They attend two bead shows a year, the larger in Tucson, Ariz., each spring.
"We send pictures to Rachel through our phones, and then [the beads] get shipped home," she said, adding that the new supplies arrive just in time for Rachel Tobin's spring break when she can come home and get to work.
The bracelets sell in boutiques across the country and through her website.
"At the holidays, we can ship from 60 to 80 in a day," Linda Tobin said.
Deb Trevellini, owner of the Morninglory shop in Murrysville, welcomes Rachel into her store during the holidays and before Mother's Day to sell her jewelry. She said the bracelets definitely have a following.
"I love the story, that is a local charity and her level of dedication and the continuity over the years. [The bracelets] are really pretty, and they're a nice price, too," Ms. Trevellini said.
Miss Tobin also partners with other charities to design bracelets to support their causes. For each sale, along with the 41 percent to the research foundation, $10 goes to the charity.
This summer, Miss Tobin teamed with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh to create a silver and purple stone bracelet called "mentoring rocks." Along with the signature charms, it has a "friends" charm "because that's what happens when our mentors develop a meaningful relationship with their 'littles,' " said Jan Glick, CEO of the organization.
"I think it's amazing that this young girl is unselfishly making this offer to other nonprofits so we can educate and spread awareness," Mrs. Glick said.
In addition, there are bracelets to support the Animal Rescue League, Big Brothers Big Sisters Butler County, Blind and Vision Rehabilitations Services, Children's Hospital Foundation Auxiliaries, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Pittsburgh, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery.
"The whole concept of partnering is wonderful," Mrs. Glick said.
First Published August 30, 2012 5:05 am