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Fighting hunger through ‘Bless Bracelets’

Business is blooming for a local 13-year-old girl.

Tatum Bless, an eighth-grader at Aviara Oaks Middle School in Carlsbad, recently started raising money for a charity called Seed Programs International, which fights world hunger. Through her business, Bless Bracelets, Tatum makes and sells seed bead bracelets to generate funds so she can donate a carton of seeds to those in need through the nonprofit. A carton contains enough seeds to produce 5 tons of vegetables, feeding thousands of people.

“The people at SPI suggested that at the level of $500, I would be able to choose who received my seeds and I would be able to hear from them once their crops grew,” Tatum said. “I wanted to know what happened after I raised the money for them. … They even said that sometimes the people in the villages write to their ‘sponsors,’ so I’m excited for that.”

While Tatum’s business is new – she started it in November – she has always been a bit of an entrepreneur. When she was younger, Tatum and her brother, Braeden Bless, used to make “mini-businesses” and sell things such as pencils to their friends at school.

“We have always encouraged our kids to be entrepreneurs, to be in charge of their own destiny,” said Tatum and Braeden’s mother, Debbie Bless. “If they want toys, new outfits every week, or just fun money, they need to get creative and earn money to buy it. When Tatum was in fourth grade, she made ‘Fuzz Buddies’ (pencils with fur at the eraser and with eyes and a nose; when you roll the pencil between your hands, the hair goes crazy). She sold them for $2 and raised enough money to buy an iPad. She hired her friends to sell them, and paid them by taking them out to ice cream. I’d say that’s where this all started. We were also heavily involved in fundraising for her elementary school, and she enjoyed many perks from that, as well as the feeling of being involved and helping her school purchase art supplies and books for the library, Chromebooks, etc.”

Tatum’s idea for her new business began to blossom in October, while making meal packages for those in need at the Stop Hunger Now event at Daybreak Church in Carlsbad. It was there that she first heard about SPI.

“I have always liked making bracelets, so I thought that doing that would be a fun way to help out others,” Tatum said. “I ended up choosing SPI because they did most of their work incorporating seeds, and the bracelets I wanted to make involved seed beads, so I saw that it would be a perfect fit.”

She decided to start her business the day after Thanksgiving, “having realized how much I have and how little people living tens of thousands of miles away don’t have. This realization inspired me to help those people have more.”

Tatum creates the bracelets with seed beads in a variety of colors, each hue representing something for which she is thankful. For instance, yellow symbolizes optimism for the people living with less, and orange stands for the balance needed to be happy in life. It takes her an average of 20 minutes to make one bracelet, depending on its difficulty.

While she does receive a little help from her family, Tatum runs the majority of the business. Besides designing, making and naming the types of bracelets, she photographs them and posts them to her website, www.blessbracelets.com. Tatum also sends weekly updates to SPI via email.

“I have created the accounting aspect of her business and keep track of expenses vs. profits,” her mom said. “It was my intention to make this 100 percent hers, so we (parents) have not contributed anything financially. She uses her profits to purchase her supplies and pay her expenses, then puts the remaining amount toward SPI.”

Tatum’s handmade bracelets cost $9.50 to $11.50. She also sells Mayan bracelets through SPI’s Widows Project.

“The Widows Project helps widows in different countries support themselves and their families within their villages with the help of seeds from SPI,” Tatum said. “The Mayan bracelets on my website were donated to me from Janet Bourque of Bright Star Consultants. She purchased them from one of the widows that you can see on my website. She donated them to me to help me reach my goal. We are both working toward the same thing, to help people.”

As of Jan. 26, Tatum had raised $98.

“After I meet my goal of $500, I want to set another, bigger goal to help even more people,” she said. “I sure hope that my business can grow and become large enough to make into a career. Currently, I am working on getting friends/cousins from different states to become salespeople.”

Also, Tatum said she is working on getting Bless Bracelets established as a nonprofit.

Meanwhile, the business has been a learning experience for the teen.

“So far, I have learned that it takes a lot of time and commitment to running a business and having it be successful,” Tatum said.

With Bless Bracelets, “(Tatum) has reconfirmed how determined she is and how empathetic she is toward others,” her mom said.

While balancing her business and school, Tatum also is involved with National Charity League, Forgotten Paws and her youth group at Daybreak Church. She is headed to Atlanta in March to compete in a national broadcasting/journalism contest for Student Television Network.

“Tatum is very responsible and mature for her age,” Bless said. “She balances her responsibilities very well. She is an amazing young lady, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.” For more information, go to www.blessbracelets.com. ‬


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