By Marcia Hunt
For best friends Alondra Martínez Geronimo and Ashley George, the best way to celebrate turning 21 was opening their own Etsy shop.
Ash and Alo’s Creations, which launched on Sept. 9, George's birthday, is a testament to the bond the pair have shared ever since meeting during freshman orientation at Purchase.
“Since that day, we literally became best friends,” said George, who is now studying criminal justice at the University of Albany. “She would come over to my dorm all the time. When COVID hit, we stayed in touch and after quarantine, we’d always go to each other’s houses. Overall, we’ve been through a lot together and our bond has been strong since day one.”
“Ashley is one of my biggest supporters and one of my closest friends,” said Martínez Geronimo, a junior double majoring in history and language and culture at Purchase. “She’s kind of like a sister to me. Her love for me is super genuine and I’m just happy to be doing this with her.”
While the two have always been interested in art, they began planning for Ash and Alo’s Creations this past summer, when George saw that bead necklaces and resin products were getting very popular.
“Ashley was the one who had the idea of creating a business,” said Martínez Geronimo. “We’ve talked about it before and she’s always had a passion for painting and creating. I guess she saw the potential in me and she said ‘You’re the only person I want to do this with, let’s do it.’”
Although neither of the friends had experience with owning a business, they didn’t feel apprehensive as they planned for their grand opening. In fact, they looked forward to figuring out the basics, including working with resin, curating products, deciding on a theme, and managing the shop’s social media.
“With COVID and us trying to find activities to keep us going, it made us go ‘whatever happens, let's just go through with it,’” George said. “This is fun, this is relaxing and we figured we could just put it out there and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we’re just having fun. We didn’t think it would become as large as it has.”
Since starting the shop, the pair said they received many orders, including one from the United Kingdom. Every time they sell a product, they use that information to see what people like and what people will want more of. This is a task they divide evenly between each other.
“When it comes to creativity, we really complement each other,” said George. “I can create things, but when it comes to the visions for products, I really lack that. But that's where Alondra comes along because she has a very artistic vision and knows how to put that out there.
“Now that we’re really hitting it off, we have an idea what people are looking for when they look at our necklaces,” she continued. “So sometimes she’ll say ‘well I’m thinking about this idea, what can we create that goes with it?’ and then, boom. We come up with something together.”
At the core of their shop is their shared heritage and childhoods soaked in art and culture.
Both Martínez Geronimo and George are Dominican and have spent much of their lives in the Dominican Republic, with George being partially raised there and Martínez Geronimo living there until she was 15. For both of them, has always played an important role in their lives.
“My artistic background comes from my mother and from my grandfather,” said George. “When I was a little kid, I remember my mom would create headbands and customize them to be so creative and so beautiful. She would have a little stand outside in the middle of the summer in the city, in Harlem, and I’d help her sell what she made. That courage of not being afraid to put myself or my artistic skills out there for others to see came from her.”
Likewise, Martínez Geronimo’s father also sold art during her childhood.
“In terms of art, my dad is a merchant and owns his own shop,” she explained. “He sells amber and larimar jewelry, paintings made by local artists, and sculptures and ornaments that represent our culture and the Caribbean.
“My aunt used to have a little box with things to make earrings, necklaces, and bracelets,” she continued. “When Ashley came up with the idea for the necklaces, I was like ‘I can do this’ because I remembered the colors I'd seen when I was a little girl.”
The friends plan on continuing to create products they feel represented by and are excited to expand the products in their shop. They’re getting ready to add paintings, stickers, and eventually even tote bags that represent their heritage and their passions.
“We try to always incorporate our language and our culture into our shop, like some of the names of our necklaces are in Spanish,” said Martínez Geronimo. “We’re just really proud of where we come from.”
“That's one thing about Dominicans: we are very proud to be Dominican!” George added. “So that’s always represented in everything we do. When it comes down to it, we want to see ourselves in what we do.”
In the meantime, Ash and Alo’s Creations will continue to stand as a project the pair enjoys and is proud of. They hope that as their business grows, they can inspire young women like them to achieve their goals and follow their passions, wherever they lead them.
“We come from backgrounds where our childhoods were not easy,” said George. “Just like other students like us, we are looking to strive and to do the best with whatever we have. We owe it to ourselves and to those around us.
“We want to inspire other people,” she continued. “Your background or whatever you’re going through doesn’t matter. If you have a thought, you can put yourself out there and you never know the doors that might open for you.”
Updates about the shop can be found on their Instagram, ash_alos_creations.