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Pacific Paradiso: Teen entrepreneurs’ new online business helps them stay close during pandemic

Longtime friends Rennie Anderson (left) and Nora Bitar started an online accessory shop during the pandemic.
(Courtesy)

Two local teenagers have started an online shop of handmade goods, turning their hobbies into cash and an opportunity to tighten their bond.

Rennie Anderson and Nora Bitar started their shop, Pacific Paradiso, on the Etsy e-commerce website several months ago after Nora, in eighth grade at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, got the idea from a schoolmate.

Nora, who lives in La Jolla and turned 14 on Jan. 18, said opening the shop “seemed like a good thing to do. I’d always enjoyed making jewelry and using beads, so I thought it would be a cool way” to earn money. “I suggested it to Rennie because she likes to sew.”

Pacific Paradiso carries accessories, said Rennie, who lives in Ocean Beach and turns 14 on Jan. 22. “I do a lot of the sewing. I make scrunchies and a couple of bucket hats. We’re thinking about putting a couple of bags on there.”

Rennie, an eighth-grader at Audeo Charter School in Kearny Mesa, said Nora “makes these really cool handmade beads and necklaces and sometimes earrings.”

The beads, Nora said, are made from paper rolled around a stick and formed with hot glue. “They stay together really well,” she said.

The teens opened Pacific Paradiso last summer. “We weren’t in school and we didn’t really have a lot to do,” Rennie said. “I was sewing just for fun. I thought it was a good way to make money.”

Nora said the shop has an environmental focus. “Over the pandemic, I’ve read a lot about how ordering stuff from big companies is detrimental to the environment, so we thought it’s better to have small businesses to support,” she said. “We also try to make some of our items eco-friendly or using reusable materials.”

A beaded bracelet and a scrunchy are two of the items available from Pacific Paradiso.
(Courtesy)

Nora said the beads are made from paper she already has, which “reuses materials.”

“I also have clay earrings made from clay that Rennie had,” she said.

Rennie said her sewn goods also are often from reused materials. “A lot of times the scrunchies are from scraps from old projects that I’ve had or are just leftovers,” she said. “I’ve been saving all the scraps and extra threads and pieces, and I’m working on either scrunchies or a hat where I use those little scraps as the fabric.”

As of Jan. 13, Nora and Rennie had racked up 58 sales on Etsy, with several additional sales made offline among classmates.

Running the online shop is a joint effort, Nora said. “It’s definitely hard, but I organize a lot of the money. Rennie does quite a bit of the social media. We just tried to split things. We will FaceTime a lot, we will talk about who’s doing what and make sure the workload is split evenly.”

Rennie said “we mix it around so we can both get different experiences from the different things. We’ve learned stuff about selling, how the pictures will look, what we want to represent. I think a lot of learning has come out of it.”

Nora said she’s learned to sew. “Sometimes I’ll make some of the scrunchies, and then there’s one bag that I made, too. I really didn’t know how to sew at all before this, and this is giving me an introduction to it. ... And sometimes I’ll do things for myself or other people, too. It was a cool skill to learn.”

Running a business, Nora said, “is also a way we could talk to each other more during the pandemic, since it’s harder to see each other.”

Nora and Rennie have been friends since they were toddlers in the same preschool class at San Diego French-American School in La Jolla. They separated for different schools in kindergarten.

“We’ve tried to do things together so we can stay friends,” Nora said. Running a shop together has “helped us get a lot closer. … Sometimes when we have a lot going on with school, we don’t get to see each other very often, and now we talk to each other all the time.”

“We’ve known each other for so long,” Rennie said. “It’s been fun to have your friend be your business partner.”

She said she hopes to make enough money from sales to get a new, “more advanced” sewing machine, which would enable her to make more items.

“We want to add new types of products,” Nora said, along with “more eco-friendly materials.”

Pacific Paradiso is at bit.ly/pacificparadiso.