Tina Sprigg would have been content to sell her beaded jewelry to the usual clientele. But an unexpected request for a medical ID bracelet opened up a whole new specialty area for the Fort Lauderdale entrepreneur, one linked with deep satisfaction.
"My youngest client was a 14-month-old girl with a heart condition," Sprigg says. The mother found Sprigg's Beadin' Beagle Web site and ordered a bracelet of glass flowered beads for her child.
Another mother, doubting she'd ever get her diabetic daughter to wear any medical Identification jewelry, ordered a Sprigg creation, anyway. The girl was so thrilled with the colorful bracelet, the mother reported, that for three days she refused to take it off.
Today, 15 months after fashioning her first such bracelet, Sprigg is selling 15 to 20 a month, at prices ranging from $20 for children's bracelets to $35 for an adult's.
Most are custom-made for children with diabetes or food allergies or medication dependencies. Featuring semiprecious gemstones, crystals, pearls, glass beads, and sterling silver, the possibly lifesaving wrist ticklers offer a fun and attractive alternative to the usual clunky metal jewelry of the medical genre.
For girls, designs include red-and-black ladybugs, flower beads, and pastel beads interspersed with baby pearls. For boys, Sprigg conjured a rugged-looking number (test-marketed on her neighbor's three sons) that alternates beads of wood with beads of bone.
Most children, notes Sprigg, reject the traditional medical jewelry because they don't want to call attention to their ailments. Her creations, on the other hand, are viewed more as fashion. The essential metal plate is there, of course. But it's upstaged by an eye-catching beaded band. The nameplate (which bears on the front the wearer's name and the medical Identification symbol and on the flip side the specific medical warning) is provided by the customer. To assist customers, Sprigg's Web site, www.beadin-beagle.com, has a link to Oneida Nameplate Co.
Sprigg knows well the importance of the nameplate. "My dad was a fireman in Memphis for many years," says the 33-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident. When he showed up at accident scenes, he always made sure to check the wrist of an ill or injured person "because that's going to tell you a lot."
Sprigg, who has suffered her own medical problems both as a child and an adult, feels a special pride when a child gets excited over one of her bracelets. "I get such a warm feeling when parents e-mail me," she says. To change a child's attitude about wearing a piece of jewelry that could save a life, she feels, is work well worth doing.
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