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Country crafting

Bette Howell (left) and Sinclair Burnau show off their display at the Visit Wabash County office in downtown Wabash.
Bette Howell (left) and Sinclair Burnau show off their display at the Visit Wabash County office in downtown Wabash. Photo by Amanda Redman

Bette Howell and Sinclair Burnau became fast friends when they met in kindergarten at Southwood Elementary. Riding the bus home together, the girls soon realized they are practically neighbors, even though Bette technically lives in Wabash County and Sinclair in Huntington County. “We can see each other’s houses from the end of our driveways,” said Crystal Burnau, Sinclair’s mother. Sinclair and Bette have since become as close as sisters, having discovered a mutual love for horses, all things country and crafting. Last year, when they were 11 years-old, they wondered how to earn enough money to buy a horse. With a little encouragement from their parents, the girls started selling handmade earrings and wreaths, forming a business they call the Rodeo Sisters. Bette and Sinclair have earned a couple thousand dollars each from their sales, they said during an interview at Visit Wabash County Welcome Center and Gift Shop, where they were checking the inventory they have for sale there. “We want to do some necklaces soon,” Bette said. The Rodeo Sisters have participated in numerous vendor events including First Friday, a local Turkey Banquet, a 4-H Horse and Pony show and will be featured at the Wabash County  Farmers Market in July. Their earrings are crafted with a variety of materials including turkey feathers, clay, resin, stone and western fringe.   Bette and her parents eventually decided not to  buy a horse so she is saving her money, Polly Howell, Bette’s mother, said during a telephone interview. “She’s a saver,” Polly said.. “Even though we’ve made the choice not to have a horse, we do enjoy watching Bette save her money and we’re looking forward to see how she decides to eventually spend it. It has been so fun watching the girls work hard at something they really enjoy and we can’t wait to see what it leads to.” Sinclair’s parents decided to buy their daughter a horse for Christmas and she pays for the horse’s upkeep with her profits. “My husband, Colt and I, watched how hard she worked,” Crystal said. “Over time, she really proved that she was willing to put in the work, and we thought she was ready to be a responsible owner, so we got her Dakota for Christmas. After getting him, Sinclair had used the money she earned through her earring business to pay for most of his tack, to pay for the farrier, his supplements, and anything else he may need.” Natalie Unger was the girls’ fifth-grade teacher and has been a helpful promoter, Crystal said.  Unger said during a telephone interview that she was impressed with the pitch the girls made with their business idea. She decided to help them by reaching out to her friend Gary Skeel, owner of the Copper Spoon restaurant in Fort Wayne. “They had mentioned in their pitch video that they wanted to sell their earrings in a restaurant,” Unger said. The girls gifted earrings to the servers at the restaurant who were featured wearing them in a professional photo promotion. “They were very impressed with the quality of their work,” Unger said. “The quality of the jewelry is so nice.” Unger encourages all of her students to find their passion. She has several students who have started their own businesses making candles, bracelets and even starting an origami club. “(Sinclair and Bette) are very fortunate to have parents that are supportive and nurturing of their goals,” Unger said. Bette said even though her aspirations have changed, she enjoys helping Sinclair with Dakota and hopes to continue working with her partner and friend in the future. “I want to be part of the Rodeo Sisters but I also want to be an anesthesiologist,” Bette said. Sinclair said she hopes to continue working with Bette, as well. “I want to be a business lady,” Sinclair said. Crystal and Polly said both of the girls spend countless hours crafting and making earrings. “She’s always in her room crafting something,” Crystal said of Sinclair. “She’s always been a creative person even growing up,” Polly said of Bette. “She spends a lot of time even when she is home relaxing making earrings.” To see the Rodeo Sister’s crafting page, visit