Women throughout the community turn their hobbies into businesses
By Ashourina Slewo
There is no shortage of creative spirit within the community. This is the case for Berta Rihan who began making custom rosaries when she was 16 years old. Started as a hobby, her passion grew into a way for her to help her church’s youth group.
“I started selling pieces at events that were hosted by St. Mary’s Assyrian Church of the East in Warren, Mich. to help raise money for our youth group,” Rihan explained. “Most of my support comes from my church’s youth group, so I have always vowed to help them raise money by selling some of my pieces for them.”
About a year ago, Rihan decided she wanted to extend her product offerings to Etsy, a platform that enables crafters to sell their items to people from all over the world, and Beads by Bee was born.
What originally started with personalized rosaries has grown to include a number of different of items, including bracelets and necklaces. With the majority of her offerings being personalized, Rihan offers her customers one of a kind pieces.
“My bracelets can be personalized by adding an initial, flag, or by adding any desired charm,” she explained.
Most recently, Rihan has been working to produce Aramaic/Sureth/Assyrian name plates. “The necklaces have been a hit so far because they are very unique and an exclusive product because as an Assyrian, I can’t simply walk into any store and request a name necklace in my mother language,” she said.
With her mind on continuous growth, Rihan hopes to introduce Rosary necklaces in the near future. In addition, her hope is for Beads by Bee to physically extend to California. “God willing, though global, Beads by Bee will physically be extending to California to explore more territory,” she explained. “I want this business to keep growing by bringing in unique and differentiated products.
”Beyond her ability to offer distinctive personalized items, Rihan believes her passion is just one facet that sets her apart, with the work she does with her church’s youth group being the other part.
“I like to use my skills and talent to make items to help raise money for my church’s youth group,” said Rihan. “Because of my involvement with the Assyrian Church of the East Youth Association (ACEYA), I have been able to connect with other youth groups who collaborate with me in order to help raise money for their youth group.”
While most of her customers are from the Assyrian and Chaldean communities, Rihan has had the opportunity to work with customers from all over the world. From Germany and Sweden to Costa Rica and Brazil, she has been able to collaborate and create pieces for customers from all walks of life.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from my customers. I love collaborating with my customers to create one of a kind pieces,” said Rihan. “I make each and every piece with love and with my clients and their reactions in mind. Enjoying what they have ordered means everything to me and I do anything to accommodate them with the best experience.”
Beads By Bee can be found across social media platforms under the same moniker or on Etsy.
Also impassioned to make rosaries is founder of Chloe’s Treasures, Mervit Toma. Born as an escape where she could find peace, Toma started making rosaries after suffering a miscarriage. Falling into depression after the loss, the only thing that helped her was praying the Rosary every day.
“I fell into a deep depression and it got really bad; it actually got to the point where I couldn’t take care of Chloe for two or three years,” explained Toma. “I became very sick and this was a combination of losing the baby and the actual chemical imbalance. That mixture became out of control.”
Seeking the help and guidance of priests in the community, Toma was encouraged to continue her prayers. “Fr. Frank at the time, would meet with me about four times a week to just talk and help me because I didn’t want to be on medications for the depression,” she explained.
As a religious and prayerful woman, she took this advice and found that praying the Rosary brought her what she calls an “indescribable amount of relief” and left her feeling like she could finally breathe again.
In addition to encouraging prayer, Fr. Frank, now Bishop Francis, suggested Toma find something to occupy her time. “He said to me, ‘you’re either going to get very sick and God forbid something’s going to happen to you, or you can find something to keep you busy’,” she explained.
Still grieving and looking to continue her journey of healing, Toma made a Rosary for her then one-year old daughter Chloe. In more ways than one, her daughter served as her inspiration.
“I was showing the Rosary I made to friends on Facebook and so many of them responded asking where I got it and that’s how I got started,” said Toma.
More than 11 years later, Toma continues to make rosaries and has even introduced a variety of necklaces to her store.
“I love doing what I do each and every day,” said Toma. “Every message and every comment from clients from all over the world make me so happy.”
Toma offers a variety of rosaries perfect for any occasion, including weddings and communions. Most pieces by Toma are customizable, from the color of the beads to adding individual names.
Since starting Chloe’s Treasures, Toma has experienced an influx of encouragement from the community and beyond. Through her business, she has been able to share her creations with a variety of people, from the Chaldean community and beyond. Most notably, Toma has made rosaries for actor Mark Wahlberg along with Catholic talk show host Teresa Tomeo’s husband Deacon Dominic that was gifted to him when he became a Deacon.
Looking to the future, Toma will continue to share her creations with her customers and as a whole continue to grow.
“In my mind, I truly believe God wanted me to go through the miscarriage to get to where I am at today,” Toma said. “I feel like God wanted me to make these rosaries to help others grow in their faith the way I did.”
Chloe’s Treasures can be found online or by appointment at Toma’s new storefront in West Bloomfield.
That’s My Name
Inspired by a close friend’s creative abilities and driven by a lost beach towel, Loreen Lossia Yaldo is the founder of That’s My Name Towels. She makes “customized, high quality, hand made name towels.” From the color to the name, each towel is special.
“Jennifer, a friend of mine, used to make these beautiful towels and stopped doing so about four years or so ago,” explained Lossia Yaldo. “Having been given these for my own three kids, I also loved giving them as gifts, so when she stopped making them, I started thinking about taking over.”
This was just a fleeting thought, though, until Lossia Yaldo’s son lost the towel her friend had made.
“…I just put it in the back of my mind until my youngest son forgot his name towel at the pool at the end of this past summer and it was lost for good,” she said. “I then started thinking about making them once again.”
With encouragement from friends and family and direction from Jennifer, Lossia Yaldo made her very first custom name towel in August 2018.
With an inclination for crafts, Lossia Yaldo knew that making these towels would be a good time for her. What she did not expect to find out was just how helpful making these towels would be for her own headspace.
“I consider myself to be a crafty person so this was right up my alley,” she explained. “What I didn’t expect is how therapeutic making these towels is for me. It’s quite relaxing to just retreat to my workspace and work on these towels.”
The time-consuming process to create each towel is one she looks forward to.
Since making her first towel in August, Lossia Yaldo has launched an Instagram account that serves as hub for her business. Through her Instagram account and the word of mouth, she has enjoyed plenty of opportunities to make customers happy.
Lossia Yaldo offers a personalized and durable product meant to last for years. Each item is as individualistic as its recipient.
“I offer many different towel colors and fabric options to choose from,” she explained. “Whether superheroes, hunting, boating, sports, or butterflies are your thing, there is something for everyone. If I don’t already offer what you are looking for, I am also happy to take on a new theme at the customer’s request.”
That’s My Name Towels can be found on Instagram.
Fascination and Passion
For LeeAnn Kirma, mosaics have always been fascinating, from the various techniques to the end result. Like most, making mosaics started as a hobby before Kirma decided to make a business out of it about 12 years ago when she founded Lulu’s Mosaics.
Making a mosaic, says Kirma, starts with the customer and understanding what they want. With a grasp of what the customer wants, she begins “shopping” her shelves and stacks for china to create the mosaics.
The process can be laborious, but well worth the wait, says Kirma. “Timing to create a piece varies by size and what is wanted. My standard 8x10 Birth Announcement mosaic take roughly six to seven hours total but over roughly three days to allow dry time. It’s a messy process but the end result is beautiful.”
Most of Kirma’s clients are women, with 70 percent of her customer base coming from Michigan and 30 percent from out of state. Her pieces have reached beyond the United States.
“I have pieces that have been gifted to people as far as Germany and Dubai,” she said.
Lulu’s Mosaics is driven by word of mouth alone. “I do not advertise,” explained Kirma. “My clients are all from word of mouth or people who received one of my pieces and now wants to gift a piece of their own to someone. Almost all of my clients are repeat clients.”
Making mosaics isn’t all business for Kirma. In fact, she finds great peace throughout the process of making each piece. “I find great peace and it being a stress reliever while making a mosaic,” she said. “I can work for hours and just lose track of time. It’s my “me” time. I am grateful that I am able to do something I truly enjoy and love.”
With a knack for crafts, Kirma, alongside her sister Deanne Kirma Toma, has moved into stitching in addition to mosaics. Using embroidery, she personalizes towels, blankets, and much more. “It’s amazing how creative you can be with stitching.”
Looking to the future, Kirma hopes to continue making a great product that will last a lifetime.
Lulu’s Mosaics can be found on Instagram.