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Check Out Alessandra Thornton’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alessandra Thornton.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
It was 2015 and I was working as sales associate at Macys Escondido in the men’s department but an injure in my shoulder caused me to left the job to have therapy and rest, in the meantime of my break from work, I decided since my Ecuadorian background heritage (I was born in Ecuador) and the richness of my country in producing handmade knits and bags and eco jewelry and my love for fashion it was time to start my own entrepreneurship selling Ecuadorian Handicrafts in eBay.

Almost six months later, I applied to the farmers market closest to home in Scripps Ranch and three months later, I was showcasing handicrafts from Ecuador in almost every Farmers Market and almost every day of the week, From the Border at the Night Market in Otay Ranch to downtown San Diego and the North County Beaches like Oceanside.

In 2016, I was able to rent a cart in Wallach & Goldman Plaza in Old Town, San Diego. Dressed like a pioneer lady of the 1800, I needed to make my jewelry or any artisan work in front of the tourists, it was one of the requirements to sell in the Historic Park.

Then I traveled back to Ecuador and for one month lived in the artisan villages where the eco-friendly tagua jewelry is sourced from the mountains trees and handmade in jewelry, to learn the artisan techniques passed from one generation to other: crocheting, weaving, macrame, etc. in order to give the shows to the tourists. But that trip changed my life. First because I was able to understand how a simple nut like the tagua is very important in providing jobs to the whole family members, from the father, because men do the collecting and the carving, dying and polishing of the ivory nuts to the wives because women made the beading work. And at the same time was a work made from home, and the women were able to stay and work from home while making an income.

Also this nut, its harvesting from the rainforest, means no trees are cut down because these trees have an economic value, providing eco jobs close to home to the rural and rainforest communities. I was just amazed and started to think, we can save the rainforest just by promoting eco-friendly jewels. The same year of that trip was also one of the most destructive El Nino seasons, and the rain has covered the crops, the rice, the cotton and all the crops close to the ground but the Tagua trees like the Banana trees were still resilient to the rain and providing their crops to the farmers of these crops. Then, that was my Aha moment, I decided that Banana being after gas, the second exportation product, we can do the same with tagua nuts, and at the same time save the rainforest and provide eco jobs to rural communities who will have other source of income to survive rainy seasons.

Since that moment, I decided to dedicate my life to the creation and promotion of eco jewelry products made of rainforest seeds, palm leaves and tagua nuts, my jewelry is truly inspired in nature and ethically sourced from nature and since I learned how much time and effort and artisan puts in every item, my prices are fair because they take in account the time, and the love a person commits in each one of my designs.

I do not have the cart in Old Town anymore, I decided to have more time at home for designing, for creating and travel more to create wholesale accounts, right now our religious or catholic line of rosaries and scapulars and mini rosaries made of seeds is in almost all catholic missions in CA and Gift Shops in Nevada and Florida, and my Tagua Ecojewels under the name Organic Jewelry by Allie is sold in many art galleries in the East and West Coast. We have some resort boutiques as customers. We don’t want to overload or dominate the market with cheaper jewelry than our competition, we just need to be in the right places, in places where people have a sustainable living and want to wear jewels with a purpose and mission.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
There is no easy road, this pandemia opened the eyes of many people that decided the commute to work and to work for someone else was not for them and started their own entrepreneurships, I applaud every entrepreneur, but we will see how many of these entrepreneurs are still committed to their dreams after one year.

When you work as an entrepreneur, you rarely expend in yourself, everything is reinvested in materials, advertising, website designing, social media ads, models and photographers, you have to hire a designer for your logo, a web designer for a professional website, and so on.

Also, when your products are in a shop, but you are not physically there to push your product, you are competing with big brands, and your jewelry needs attractive tags, your earrings cards need to be big or high profile and your displays must look attractive to grab the attention of the buyer with your story. And that means a great graphic designer by your side.

It is constantly reinvesting the money in the next show, the next electronic or virtual card, the new collection for the next season, and uncertainty like a wholesale buyer dropping from your accounts, or the pandemia and many of your stores customers closing the doors for good, can totally affect your business and your sense of stability. Definitely, entrepreneurship is not for somebody that is accustomed to having a fixed salary to spend every month.

Because when is a good month, it is better to save the money as a cushion to be prepared for the slow months. We live in the present but also thinking all the time in the future and as the people changes the way they acquire their things, your business has to evolve and be ready for Instagram stores, newsletters, venmo and even using TikTok for business, it is a constant relearning the business because what works now is not what worked in the past and either you take classes and hire mentors, or hire an assistant or a professional that dominates what you are ignorant and save you countless of hours of try and failure.

Also it is not easy to go out and about and to knock on doors at stores, introduce yourself and your product and hear the store owner say: Not this is not me, this is not my customer when you can see clearly you fit in the style of the store. So you have to be accustomed to driving around, to expend gas and sometimes in hotels and come back home with few leads or open orders. So if you can handle the nos, and say next, because the more nos you have the closer you are getting to a yes, then you can make it as a sales representative of your line. And be strong enough to accept rejection, the people are rejecting your style, not you. Making that difference keeps me strong, clear and focused.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
As my jewelry is inspired by nature and promoting rainforest conservation, every year I give myself the freedom to release a piece of jewelry that is not intended to be commercial but to create awareness about climate change.

On 2018 year was coral reef, a necklace of nuts shaped like coral chips with a big nut in the center that was inspired in the Pacific Reef, in 2019 was Glacier Bay that I designed after my trip to Alaska, and seeing the disapparition of Glaciers of thousand years during our visit to Glacier Bay, on 2020 was Wild Flower, an iconographic minimal representation of the flowers I saw during my trip to Cuyabeno in the Ecuador Amazonia, 2021 was: A Walk in the Forest, inspired in my visit to the Redwoods between Northern CA and Oregon and this 2022 is Butterfly kiss, the image of the Monarch butterfly, and endangered specie sitting over a leaf in a beautiful necklace.

My newsletter subscriber not only gets a monthly promotion but also tips about sustainable living, home gardening, disposal of our garbage in eco-friendly ways, the importance of green spaces in our cities, is like you are subscribed to a nature conservation ONG. I want not only to talk the talk but walk the walk about sustainable living and promote my love for nature, not only for nature jewels. Because we all have a small part to do in planet conservation but it is the sum of the efforts of like-minded people that can save the planet from climate change and our rainforest and woods from deforestation.

I am known for creating statement, unforgettable and colorful jewels, I do not design for the shy dove, but for the peacock bird, who loves to show up its feathers, my customers love the colors, the tropical, the vacation spirit of my jewels and I have the good luck to have made many commissioned pieces for Tiki Oasis queens, and candidates of this peasant contest in the Tiki world.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
Any time you go out and spend your money on a trip to another state, for a big show that is not cheap and you don’t know how it is going to end, you are taking a risk. So the most challenging risk is spending with the belief that if you don’t spend any money, you are not going to make any money.

Also, when you create some pieces like I do, giving yourself the freedom to produce artistry instead of commercial pieces and that piece has nothing to do with the trends in fashion now, you are taking a risk of creating pieces that maybe will be a loss. But I have learned by experience that my most successful pieces are the ones where I took the risk of being creative more than commercial, that uniqueness is admired by people that want something different.

During the pandemia, there were many gurus that offered you to improve your sales, your brand, your SEO, your social media conversion and many of those solutions were costly but you have to discern what you need or are more weak and invest in the solution that not only you need the most, but in the person that you trust the most. Because spending in your business may be a risk for others, but for me is the best investment.

Pricing:

  • Necklaces between $40 to $80
  • Bracelets $25 to $39
  • Earrings $20 to $45

Contact Info:

Image Credits:
Alan Greenberg, Photo of Allie the Artist at Old Town San Diego, Victorian Houses Robin Orenstein, Photo of the model at San Elijo State Beach

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