Arlette Adams: Jewelry, accessories from Asia and San Francisco 

The Etteniotna Handicrafts Collection is a narrow store at 248 West Portal Ave., with tall shelves lining all of the walls. There are white holiday lights strung around the front awning and the front counter is accented with a bamboo screen from Home Depot turned sideways.

Prior to the San Francisco store’s grand opening, owner Arlette Adams, 38, spent much of her time helping the contractors. "There were no architects, no designers," she said. "I just did it myself."

Now Adams sells bright hand-beaded necklaces from the mountainous North Cotabato province of the Philippines. She sells handbags woven from abaca fiber and sea grass. She sells engraved river stones from Indonesia, resin vases inlaid with mahogany seeds and papaya shells, and water hyacinth bowls from Vietnam. In addition to supporting artists in Southeast Asia, she also sells the wares of local San Francisco artists.

Adams began her adult life as an optometrist in the Philippines. After she married the American pen pal she had written to for five years, and worked as an ophthalmologist for 10 years in the U.S., she quit.

"I realized that I was just making my boss richer," she said. Having worked in sales for 15 years, she decided to try entrepreneurship. Adams, who lives in Daly City, spent eight weeks traveling to Richmond for business seminars and read many of the Nolo Press series of books about small business administration.

"If you’re a soldier, you don’t want to go to war without a weapon," she said. Even armed, it’shard work.

At this point Adams breaks even with Etteniotna Handicrafts Collection. If she’s lucky, she makes a little extra. Since opening the store last March, Adams has hired no employees and works seven days a week. In the next year Adams hopes to begin carrying products from Africa, enter the wholesale business and launch a Web site. Adams travels twice a year for two- to three- weeks to visit her suppliers. Often, her daughter Antoinette, 8, travels with her. After all, the store is her namesake.

The store name, "Etteniotna," is "Antoinette" backwards. Eventually Adams hopes her daughter will take over ownership of the store.

Adams is a board member of the West Portal Avenue Merchants Association and participates in community events such as Be a Santa to a Senior and the San Francisco Fire Department Toy Program. She graduated from De Ocampo Memorial College in Manila, Philippines, in 1990 with her doctor of optometry degree.

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