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Yen's Little Things

By Hannah Wallace December 31, 2007

A chance class at the University of Florida arts and crafts center turned jewelry making into an all-consuming hobby—and now a second career—for Yen Reed, public relations specialist at Willis A. Smith Construction.

A native of Malaysia, Reed moved to the United States to attend UF and graduated with a public relations degree in 2003. She worked as an editor for the UF department of housing, married and then was forced to quit her job while she waited for a new visa.

“I was always fiddling and doodling, making an assortment of goodies just for me and my friends but not going anywhere with it,” she says. Then, “immigration took forever. It was literally a year before I could work and I was going crazy. So I started the jewelry business.”

Reed, who moved to Sarasota in 2005, creates necklaces, bracelets and earrings that incorporate old silverware, belt buckles, coins and other found objects in a distinctive style she calls “revamped vintage.” She sells her wares—priced from $13 to $200—at area art shows and on the Internet at www.gneebo.etsy.com, a Web site like eBay for handcrafted goods, and at www.yenslittlethings.blogspot.com. (Yen’s Little Things is her company’s name.) Because of her Internet connection, about a quarter of her sales are to boutiques in Australia, Singapore and the U.K.

Reed creates her jewelry after hours since she works full time for Willis A. Smith. “I went to OfficeMax and bought an 8-foot table and I plop down there every night and churn away,” she says. “My husband is always nudging me, ‘It’s time to go to bed.’”

It’s not such a stretch from writing press releases to making jewelry, Reed says. “I truly love both my jobs and I truly don’t want to choose between them,” she says. Her only regret: that she has very little time to market Yen’s Little Things.

“It started out as playtime and, darn it, I can’t stop.”

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