Student creates one-stop-shop for all things vintage

Ashley Watson/Courtesy Photo

Nicole Horton, Mustang News

In a small room full of natural light, piles of mismatched textiles and fabrics occupy open counter space, an impressive collection of belts drape over lamp shades and a sewing machine sits pretty under the window sill. What appears to be a miniature warehouse for a local boutique is actually the bedroom of liberal studies junior Jenna Cady. It’s in this room that Cady brings new life to vintage flea market finds and creates signature bags for her business, Jenna Bee Handmade.

Cady’s mother runs a furniture business in San Diego and introduced Cady to the world of flea markets. Together, they scoured the flea markets of San Diego, gaining inspiration and walking away with new treasures.

Jenna Bee Handmade started about a year ago when Cady’s friends and classmates took note of the woven bags she sport ed around town. Cady began to make personalized tote bags from her growing collection of textiles and advanced sewing skills. Soon, her hobby evolved into a full-fledged business.

“More and more people started asking me about the bags I was making, so the idea came to me to start my own business and begin selling them,” Cady said. “I just kind of went with it and it has allowed me to be creative and meet other creative and like-minded people.”

Her pieces first appeared on Etsy, a popular online marketplace for handmade products. Her bags received an overwhelming amount of traffic on the site, so Cady launched her own website.

Since Jenna Bee Handmade began, Cady has expanded her brand from selling tote bags to a wide array of embellished vintage clothing and accessories. From jean jackets to camera straps and bohemian-style jewelry, Jenna Bee Handmade has made a seemingly effortless transition into a one-stop shop for all vintage-loving shoppers.

While Cady’s undeniable grace and easy-going nature is apparent when she talks about her work, running a business as a full-time student is anything but easy.

“I would say that’s the hardest part: trying to balance school with work,” Cady said. “On average I spend about twenty hours a week just on Jenna Bee. I hand make all of the bags myself, so I am always sewing. If I’m not sewing, I’m sending emails, doing outreach and marketing and brainstorming new designs and products.”

Though her business requires a lot of dedication and time, Cady said her passion for creativity and art outweighs the long nights in her bedroom turned studio.

“Life is too short to do anything but what you love,” Cady said. “You will be successful if you are doing something that you enjoy and are passionate about. Once you find that, run with it.”
After graduation, Cady plans to take some time off to explore future opportunities for Jenna Bee Handmade.

Within a year, Cady has not only attracted the following of customers online, but has gained the attention of boutique owners around California. Her designs can be spotted on display at Ambiance in downtown San Luis Obispo and along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, near Venice Beach.

To check out Cady’s merchandise, visit her website at www.jennabeehandmade.com or follow her Instagram @jennabee_.