LAUNCH: Love Beads

As a boy, Jesus Villegas would always rip his rosaries — accidentally, of course. His mother grew tired of repairing them, so  she taught her son how to make the prayer beads without her help. Years later in a business class, the skill came in handy when Villegas’s teacher instructed the students to create a concept for a small business, and then implement it. “They told you to come up with an original idea,” Villegas says.” You didn’t need big capital to start with — just $50.” He formed Rosaries: A Gift of Love, winning first place in his class competition and going on to win first at a regional competition, where the blue ribbon came with $700. In a little more than a year, the Sunset High School senior has fashioned 200-plus rosaries, selling them to people at his church or the folks cutting hair at his barbershop, who know about Villegas’s trade. He sells them for $25 a piece — more than the $15 to $18 rosaries sold at bazaars, which are “plastic” and the “crosses rip off easy,” Villegas critiques, but much less than high-end jewelry stores, which sell rosaries for as much as $500. “Those are once in a blue moon,” he explains. “I’m right in-between — only I let you choose how you want to make it,” adds the business-savvy Villegas, explaining his custom color and cross options so that his customers “can feel a sense of style.” He works another job, so the rosary business is mostly a lucrative hobby, one that will likely be put aside when he joins the Marines after graduation. “It’s just a pastime, but it’s entertaining while it lasts,” Villegas says. “What they taught me in that class, I could take and use it in any other kind of business. That’s really what I enjoy about this — the knowledge that I’m getting from it.”

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