Paying It Forward Good For Business

Sophisticated Beads Owner


By Judith Spitzer

Someone once said there are givers and there are takers in life.
Lea McWhorter is definitely a giver. She is surely one of the most compassionate and giving people on the planet. A soft-spoken woman with a relaxed manner, McWhorter says her goal in life is to help others. “I love helping people. I think that’s what we’re all here to do is to help others,” she suggests simply.

McWhorter, a jewelry designer who lives with her college-age son and husband Rick in Happy Valley, is as passionate about her business as she is about the idea of giving back … of paying it forward as they say. Still, McWhorter says she gets back more than she gives.

McWhorter has combined her passion for jewelry design and giving back to create a very successful and benevolent career.

Her experience of helping to care for a family friend who was dying of cancer, as well as her own scares with breast and cervical cancer, have increased her empathy for people.

“I had known my mother’s friend who died from cancer since I was a little kid,” McWhorter says. “My mother and I and five other women friends took a day a week to be with her so we didn’t have to put her in a facility. We did that until she passed away which was about two years later. I’ve had two breast cancer scares myself and a cervical cancer scare. I’ve been fortunate. But I do know that awful feeling of waiting and not knowing.”

Designing for fun
During that phase of her life McWhorter started designing jewelry for fun. Soon friends and family started asking her to make pieces for them and eventually she started her own business. That was three years ago.

Today her business Sophisticated Beads has taken off and she is busy designing gorgeous jewelry for a variety of clients including the Rose Festival Princesses.

“I’ve designed the Rose Festival Court’s jewelry for the past two years. I went to their coronation which was really fun – I got to meet all the girls seeing those young women with their whole lives before them is great,” she says. She creates several different designs, then presents those to the Rose Festival wardrobe committee, who selects what they think would be appropriate. “They all have to be the same … so that’s hard for people to find – quality jewelry that’s exactly the same in different quantities.”

Her ability to produce quantities of the same jewelry also makes McWhorter very popular with brides and bridal parties. “I do a lot of custom work with brides, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride,” she says. “Lots of times they can’t find the right number (of necklaces or bracelets) for the wedding party based on the same stones. I’ve just been working with a wedding party of seven in Boston. I work with people all over the country.” McWhorter says she feels honored to be making something for a woman for the most special day in her life.

Distinctive jewelry
McWhorter is all about creating very exceptional, one-of-a-kind pieces using very distinctive stones. “I’m always on the lookout for exceptional stones. I love unique jewelry that have stories behind them and other women like that too. I generally buy stones that are very nice – different things – things you can’t just go and pick up at a department store. That’s my niche, which is very important because there’s so much competition in the jewelry business,” she says.
McWhorter proudly says that her unique treasures are made using Swarovski crystals from Austria, accented with a vibrant mix of semi-precious stones. She creates necklaces, bracelets, watches, earrings and anklets.

Part of her goal in giving back she says is supporting other women. Some of those women are halfway around the world in Kenya, where she buys beads from women in villages around Nairobi. “Many of the centerpiece beads in my necklaces, or beads in bracelets are made with clay from the Mt. Kenya area,” she says. “The beads are shaped by hand without molds or forms so no two are exactly alike. The beads are then polished and kiln fired, painted and fired again at a factory.”

Her designs also include “cancer” bracelets in which 10 percent of the proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for Oregon and SW Washington, Jessica’s Hope for Ovarian Cancer Awareness/Research and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

McWhorter is pretty well satisfied with life … owning her own business, having the freedom to make her own decisions and to control her own schedule. “I love that there are no boundaries,” she says. “I’m a pretty focused person. I’m also a very detailed oriented person so I can stay with something until it’s done.”

In her free time she belongs to a number of networking organizations like Ladies Who Launch, LeTip International, Women Empowering Women and several others. “Ladies Who Launch has been great for my business. And I enjoy helping other women grow their business. If I can help … I’ll really do just about anything. I really enjoy giving back that way,” she says.

Sophisticated Beads can be found on their web site.


Following is a list of events where you will find Sophisticated Beads and Lea McWhorter in the next two months.

June 14
Cruisin' Sherwood Custom & Classic Car Show
Old Town Sherwood
Sherwood, OR

8:00 am - 4:00 pm ~

Start your engines for a fun filled day in Sherwood! Food, artisans,
DJ with 50’s & 60’s Rock & Roll music, beer garden and over 650
cool cars. Stop by their booth, say hi and enter to win a drawing.

June 28
Lake Oswego Farmers Market
Millennium Plaza Park at 1st and Evergreen streets
Lake Oswego, OR

8:00 am - 1:30 pm ~

A must-stop place on a Saturday! European style market that
showcases some of the regions finest agricultural products as well
as entertainment, dog sitting while you shop and much more! Stop by
Sophisticated Beads exhibit to see new spring designs that
compliment any wardrobe and enter to win a gorgeous pair of
Austrian Swarovski crystal earrings.
July 3
First Thursday in the Pearl
Pop Culture Frozen Yogurt
900 NW Lovejoy, Suite 160
Portland, OR 97209

4:30 pm - 7:30 pm ~

You have to stop and try the "Pearl Swirl" yogurt while getting
cultured in the Pearl. Sophisticated Beads will be on hand showcasing designs.

July 4 & 5
Duck Pond Cellars
23145 Hwy 99W
Dundee, Oregon 97115

10:00 am - 5:00 pm ~

Join in the fun! Duck Pond is celebrating in Dundee with an
Independence Day BBQ. Great food, live music and of course
awesome wine. Check out Sophisticated Beads own Sparklers.

July 9
Women Empowering Women (WEW)
Bullseye Pastries & Coffee Company
1980 Willamette Falls Drive #120
West Linn, OR 97068

5:30 pm - 7:30 pm ~

WEW promotes the success of women by offering a supportive
network of peers for ideas, leads and fun! All women are welcome
to attend! No membership fees - just $10 at the door which covers
everything from appetizers to beverages -- door prizes are also
included. WEW strives to pay it forward, therefore 10 percent of the $10
is donated to Friend in my Pocket --
Sophisticated Beads will be exhibiting at the event.

August 2
Duck Pond Cellars
23145 Hwy 99W
Dundee, Oregon 97115

10:00 am - 5:00 pm ~

Another fun one at Duck Pond you don't want to miss! It's their
Anniversary BBQ. Sip wine on the gorgeous patio while enjoying
great food and live music. Add sparkle with jewelry designed by
Sophisticated Beads.

August 7
First Thursday in the Pearl
Pop Culture Frozen Yogurt
900 NW Lovejoy, Suite 160
Portland, OR 97209

4:30 pm - 7:30 pm ~

Cool down on a hot summer night with a "Pearl Swirl" yogurt and
see what's happening in the Pearl during First Thursdays. Have
some fun getting cultured in a wonderful part of town. Sophisticated
Beads will be at Pop Culture displaying fun summer designs.

August 9
Lake Oswego Farmers Market
Millennium Plaza Park at 1st and Evergreen streets
Lake Oswego, OR

8:00 am - 1:30 pm ~

Fresh produce, flowers, food, local artisan crafts, entertainment and
more awaits shoppers at the market. A lot more fun than shopping at
a grocery store. Get a cup of coffee in the Plaza and enjoy a
summer morning with us. Stop by their booth and enter to win!

August 16 & 17
Arts Festival in the Forest
Mary S. Young Park
West Linn, OR 97068

10:00 am - 6:00 pm ~

You will have loads of fun at this beautiful West Linn 128-acre
heavily forested park. Browse the creative works of professional
artists displayed in booths lining forest paths; view a variety of
entertaining performers in the cool shade of a fir grove, including the
acrobatic AWOL tree dancers; and feast on fine picnic fare and
beverages. Parking is plentiful so have a relaxing day in the forest.

August 30 & 31
Duck Pond Cellars
23145 Hwy 99W
Dundee, Oregon 97115

10:00 am - 5:00 pm ~

It's another fun weekend at the Pond! Nobody is grumpy at a winery
so stop in one of the days during Labor Day weekend and enjoy
delicious wines and great company. Guaranteed you will have a
great time.

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