Steamboat Springs Cassie Wilhelm's got style, and she wants to share it.
The 11-year-old rocks a streak of blue dye in her blondish hair and has a soft spot for lime-green shoes. Cassie also has a social conscience: A couple of weeks ago, she started selling homemade jewelry at Steamboat Springs' weekly Farmers Market for charity. Her profits will go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the American Heart Association.
She sports her own beaded hemp creations, which she says she can whip up in about five minutes apiece. Cassie lets creativity be her guide. Rules? She's got only one: "It kind of has to match. I wouldn't put something on that didn't match."
Cassie learned how to make the necklaces and bracelets at her birthday party in December. Before she started selling the accessories at the market, she and a co-entrepreneur tried to market their wares.
"A friend of mine comes in every now and then from Tennessee for the summer," she said. "We would go around our neighborhood with a wagon - door to door - and that didn't work so well. We kept trying to find a better way to sell it."
She decided to go the charitable route.
St. Jude's was a favorite cause of Cassie's grandmother, Patsy Wilhelm, who died nearly a year ago. Wilhelm often participated in Saddle Up for St. Jude. The horseback ride raises funds for the hospital, which is in Memphis, Tenn.
Patsy Wilhelm "had a special place in her heart for St. Jude's," partly because it doesn't turn children away if their families cannot pay for care, said Cassie's mother, Rebecca Wilhelm.
Cassie also chose the American Heart Association because she had heard about it through the Jump Rope for Heart program at her school, Strawberry Park Elementary School.
At the Farmers Market on Sixth Street, Cassie has done well, Rebecca Wilhelm said. She has set up her booth only once so far, on July 19, but raised nearly $40. Her jewelry sells for $1 to $3.
"We have a very generous town," said Rebecca Wilhelm, who accompanied her daughter but said she stayed in the background.
Better all the time
Cassie calls her business Little Art DBA (doing business as) Tangles and Knots, and she also sells decorated picture frames, canvas bags and other crafts. Tracy Barnett, program manager of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, waives the $35 booth fee for Cassie.
Cassie's first day was a hot one, Barnett recalled.
"She didn't have a tent or an umbrella, so she bought one of these giant floppy hats," Barnett said. "She was so cute."
Cassie, who intends to take along an umbrella next weekend, also accepts donations at her booth. Her family planned to spend this weekend at Steamboat Lake, but she said she would set up shop next week. The market runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and goes through Labor Day weekend.
The soon-to-be-sixth-grader said she buys her supplies at Wal-Mart, practically for peanuts. The craft aisle there is one of her favorite spots.
"Hemp and beads come pretty cheap," Cassie said. "I can get 100 yards for $3 or $4, so I usually take about $15 and get all that stuff."
She constantly is improving her craft.
"I have found better ways to tie knots, better things to put on, better ways to invest," Cassie said.
"She's my little entrepreneur," Rebecca Wilhelm said.
Cassie's interests go beyond fashion. She spends her spare time on the family ranch playing mandolin, violin and piano; reading; riding horses and playing with her pets. The family has horses and dogs, but Cassie's eyes lit up when she talked about the reptiles - though her dad, Rick, won't let her get a snake.
She loves her bearded dragons, Elvis and Jimmy, and Poseidon, the family's banana snail. Poseidon originally was supposed to be food for the blue-tailed skink that belongs to her 8-year-old brother, R.J.
R.J. isn't interested in being a part of the hemp jewelry industry.
"R.J. is a bona fide cowboy," Rebecca Wilhelm noted.
"And boys don't wear bracelets," Cassie chimed in.
But Cassie loves what she's doing and plans to stay involved in philanthropy.
"I really like making the things," she said. "That's my favorite part. And the charities, of course. It makes you feel good."
- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234
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