Story, photos, and video by Lawson Martin.
Allie and Bess first met in 2010 when they worked together in the medical field. Allie was an occupational therapist, and Bess was a speech pathologist, and the two became fast friends. One day, Allie and Bess were having coffee together when they discussed what both of their next chapters of life would look like. They were both feeling burned out of the medical setting and wanted a way to express their artistic and creative sides in a way that was different than therapy.
The two women realized they both loved fashion and wore many bracelets. They noted they didn’t really love what was on the market but loved the vinyl beads they recently used in one of their own bracelets, so they concluded they could create more bracelets themselves.
Allie and Bess began by teaching themselves how to make bracelets using a mix of beads from all over the world. They quickly fell in love with certain beads, specifically vulcanite, a higher-end African bead available in a rainbow of colors. They also loved adding Indian gold discs to their bracelets to create a chic-looking bracelet.
They also received business advice early on that they took to heart – create a trademark for your pieces. The women included five black vinyl beads in their first bracelets, representing their five children. That symbol has carried on in today’s pieces as each piece consists of a black bead or element.
Bess says she and Allie created an Instagram page for their jewelry in 2019, thinking that only a few people would see it, but once a few influencers found the page, their business, Allie + Bess, started gathering attention and interest.
“When we originally started, our dream was to be in Nordstrom or a big department store,” Bess says. “In February 2020, we made our first big wholesale purchase and thought we had made it. You think you know, but there’s always a bigger plan, right?”
Around that time, the COVID-19 pandemic started, and the retail concept completely changed once stores closed their doors during lockdown. Allie and Bess changed their business model and flipped their focus to direct-to-consumer sales on their website.
While their business was initially known for its bracelets and bracelet stacks, Allie + Bess quickly grew to sell over 1,000 pieces, including necklaces and earrings.
“When you’re looking at our product, you would mostly see that it is layered and bright and colorful, playful and fun,” Allie says.
As Allie + Bess grew, they included and employed local refugees.
“When we first started growing, and Bess and I were unable to make the bracelets ourselves anymore because just of the quantities, we decided that we’d be very intentional about who we hired,” Allie says. “There is a large refugee population here in Dallas, so we employ refugees who handmake many of our products.”
Allie and Bess allow the refugees to pick up their assignments, take them home, handmake the products, and bring them back to be sold. The two women expressed their heartfelt desire to create opportunities for refugees, ensuring they can secure meaningful employment, even in the face of challenges.
Another way Allie and Bess have used their business to give back to the community is by creating a relationship with Genesis Women’s Shelter, a shelter built to give women in abusive situations a way out. Allie and Bess worked with children at the shelter to create gifts for their moms.
“It was probably one of the most rewarding activities we have done as a company,” Bess says. “Just seeing these kids, they wanted to give so much.”
Bess says the kids would list 15 people they wanted to make bracelets for, and the excitement on their faces was a meaningful moment for both her and Allie.
“We loved the mission of what Genesis was doing, and every single person we’ve met there and the kids there and everyone involved has been so wonderful,” Allie says. “And then we’ve continued the partnership with them.”
In July, when Allie + Bess released its gameday collection, Allie and Bess held a back-to-school drive where they asked their followers on social media and community members to donate school supplies they could give to children at Genesis Women’s Shelter. Allie + Bess hosted a Game Day Pep Rally at the end of July, where customers who brought school supplies to the pep rally received a discount on their purchases.
Bess says she hopes the school supply donations they gave to the shelter could provide happiness and support to mothers and children in need.
Additionally, in certain months of the year, Allie and Bess will choose a philanthropy where they will donate a portion of proceeds from Allie + Bess sales to the philanthropy’s cause. For example, in October, Allie and Bess wanted to recognize and honor the women who have or are currently fighting breast cancer. They created a pink edit (a stack of bracelets containing pink beads). They donated 20% of the proceeds from that collection to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“We actually had a customer who would stop by our office on her way to chemo,” Bess says. “And so we thought honoring her would be a special moment.”
Another time they donated a portion of their proceeds to a cause was during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some of you might not know that we met while working in a nursing home with the elderly, and both have a huge heart for protecting them right now,” a post on Allie + Bess’s Facebook page stated on March 18, 2020. Allie and Bess donated 25% of all Allie + Bess proceeds for the remainder of the month to Meals on Wheels. This organization addresses senior hunger and isolation.
“The heart of giving back is at the heart of what we do,” Bess says. “We try to focus our efforts in meaningful ways.”
According to Allie, their business is more than they ever imagined.
“I think the fact that we touch other people, not even through our donation, but our customers, means more to us,” Bess says. “Like it’s bigger than us.”
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