Best friends in business: Two UA alumni launch their own businesses
A pair of Itzel Herrera's earrings she designed for her business, Wearing Confetti. Herrera also features her best friend, Sandy Trieu's business, Sis & Stitches, on her business account and vice versa. Courtesy Itzel Herrera
For some, this quarantine period brought has been a time of reinvention and innovation. This fact has been especially true for best friends Itzel Herrera and Sandy Trieu, two recent University of Arizona graduates, who have launched online businesses amidst the pandemic.
Herrera’s business, Wearing Confetti, creates colorful, hand-painted jewelry and accessories made out of polymer clay while Trieu’s business, Sis & Stitches, showcases custom embroidery and handmade personalized attire.
Both Wearing Confetti and Sis & Stitches launched this summer and made their debut on Instagram.
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Herrera and Trieu graduated from the UA with an undergraduate degree in Retailing and Consumer Sciences from the Norton School of Family & Consumer Sciences.
Herrera graduated from the UA in December and took up jewelry-making as a hobby and curating her business, Wearing Confetti, on Instagram before starting her position with GAP corporate offices in San Francisco, California, according to Herrera.
As long as Sandy Trieu, creator of Sis & Stitches, can remember, she has dreamed of launching her own business but did not think the opportunity would present itself the summer after college graduation.
Trieu’s embroidery business will remain a hobby at this time as she explores other career avenues that suit her interests and career goals but welcomes the possibility of expansion in the future, Trieu said.
Meanwhile, Herrera and Trieu’s new business ventures have added another dimension of support to their already long-established friendship.
According to Trieu, the pair met each other in middle school and became steadfast friends. The move to launch their online businesses in succession was purely out of coincidence.
“Itzel has been such a big part of my life, and I have always admired her. Essentially this is a friendship [within a business setting]. We support each other 100%,” Trieu said.
Since the beginning, Trieu and Herrera have maintained a clear channel of open communication and collaboration. As a result of their teamwork and similar tastes, it came as no surprise that their products came to compliment each other so well, Herrera said.
"[Sandy] is my best friend. She is like my sister. We want to complement and not interfere, our products go so well together," Herrera said. "We are always in sync and talking to each other about what [products] we should offer. These [conversations] come from a place of both of us wanting to flourish in whatever we're doing."
In addition to engaging and maintaining an open dialogue, Herrera and Trieu promote each other on their respective social media accounts, as well as referring clients to purchase each other's merchandise, Herrera said.
The development and execution of a successful business is no easy feat, much less during a pandemic. However, the turn to entrepreneurship for the pair came as no surprise to Olivia Niccum, a close friend and UA Alumna.
Niccum met Herrera and Trieu on the first day of class for the retailing program and the three have remained close friends ever since.
"Starting a business is something [Trieu and Herrera] would do. They are always cooking up something fun," Niccum said. "They gain inspiration and are both very supportive of each other. They have brought much joy in this depressing time."
According to Itzel Herrera, the initial idea behind Wearing Confetti came about through creating and designing a more affordable alternative to the polymer clay earrings made by Sigfús Designs.
Herrera created a few trial pairs of earrings to distribute between her close family and friends. Soon after, Herrera began to post them on her personal Instagram and received many inquiries from her followers to purchase the earrings. After seeing a desire in the earrings marketplace, that is when she launched the Wearing Confetti Instagram account, Herrera said.
To live life in the moment and to adorn yourself with any and all accessories needed to produce a single moment of happiness is what Wearing Confetti is all about according to Herrera.
"Confetti in and of itself is useless, and the only thing that it does for you is to bring you joy at the moment right then and there. [Jewelry] does not add any value to your life; it solely [exists] to make you happy. For me, that's what jewelry is. If you can wear your Confetti, it makes your whole outfit pop and makes it so much more fun," Herrera said.
Herrera's mission is to create a brand that creates a safe and uplifting environment for everyone, especially for women to be their most authentic selves. The brand is all about incorporating fun, feminism, maximalism and meaning into her creations, she said.
As far as production, Herrera has all of her products made to order. Every product pictured on Instagram is fair game and allows customers to create and order custom designs.
To purchase a Wearing Confetti creation, customers can direct message Wearing Confetti on Instagram or buy through Etsy. The shipping cost is included in the purchase price, and the starting prices for all products are $15 with the ability to customize, according to the Wearing Confetti Instagram page.
Though plans for Wearing Confetti are still up in the air at this time, Herrera plans to give Wearing Confetti space to grow and be a conduit for creativity without consequence or a set plan for the future.
"I am enjoying [making jewelry.] I want to pour my entire soul into what I do. It is really fun that I [have the opportunity to pursue] this during my free time. I want to attract women with the same mindset as me, and if someone doesn't like it, I don't care. I hope I can continue to make jewelry" Herrera said.
For Trieu to embroider is to embellish and give an article of clothing a new life, to make it more exciting or to personalize a piece as you see fit.
The bulk of Trieu's orders are custom orders. She once made a shark week shirt for a customer because he loved shark week.
"While embroidery is my primary business, I do like to make tops and bracelets, but it's all incorporated within the context of stitching, [hence] Sis & Stitches," Trieu said.
According to Trieu, the origin and inspiration for Sis & Stitches are tied in part to YouTube beauty guru James Charles and Itzel Herrera. Trieu's first recipient of her custom embroidery came in the form of a gift for Herrera, on her birthday.
"My professor and I were joking around one day, and he [asked me] about who James Charles was because his daughter was [a James Charles fan.] He said, 'What is this thing about the sisters?' Sisters [is] James Charles's catchphrase, 'Sisters,' which he uses as an alliteration. [The expression] caught on between my professor and me. But also my friends we were like, 'Okay sis' or 'Hey, sisters,' we would always joke around with that phrase,” Trieu said.
Trieu used this memory as a way to incorporate the play on words into her business, Sis & Stitches.
Trieu's brand keeps a fairy tale feel in mind, tending toward light hues with a touch of modernity. Trieu's vision draws inspiration from her love of fairy tales. According to Trieu, she wants to cater to every one of her customers' dreams, similar to how Cinderella's fairy godmother created a dress for Cinderella to wear to the ball.
In terms of finding inspiration for product design, Trieu found that this experience should be as collaborative as possible.
"For my sunflower shirts, I wanted something very vibrant, bright, and summery, but I also tried to get feedback from customers. I always try to create some engagement, like a poll to see if people are interested in the product before I invest," Trieu said.
Trends, colors, seasons and customer vision also impact how Trieu designs her pieces.
Trieu makes products on an order by order basis and usually has a sample item photographed on Instagram to promote the product. There is also the option to create and order custom creations, Trieu said.
To purchase from Sis & Stitches, you can direct message Sis & Stitches on Instagram with a vision or inspiration photos of what you would like to see on the product. Prices vary, according to the Sis & Stitches Instagram page.
Although the future remains uncertain for college graduates everywhere, Itzel Herrera of Wearing Confetti had some advice for individuals who may be interested in starting a new business.
“Fail fast. I know that if I would have thought about [starting], if I would have thought a long time, I would have been too scared," Herrera said. "Fail fast and fail forward because at the end of the day, you're going to grow and get better as you go and to find a good support system."
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