“There’s a loyalty and trust that comes from really putting your heart in your team.” – Alyssa Kuchta
Not too long ago my friend, and former #WCW Spotlight, Taylor introduced me to the talented Alyssa. Not only is she the founder and creative designer behind eff.Y.bee, she’s passionate about making a difference.
With January being National Mentorship Month, I felt sharing Alyssa’s story is the perfect way to kick off 2017. Mentoring her brand ambassadors, both personally and professionally, is as as important to Alyssa as the jewelry she creates.
As this week’s #WCW Spotlight, Alyssa shares what inspires her to follow her bliss and why empowering women to pursue their own bliss is her heart’s passion.
Me: eff.Y.bee launched while you were still in college. What kept you motivated back then to pursue this passion, rather than following the more traditional college lifestyle?
Alyssa: eff.Y.bee was the result of having what I call a “mid-college crisis”. I was a junior at the University of Delaware pursuing a degree in Psychology and Chinese and hit a wall when I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. I was on the grad school path, working in cognitive science research labs and planning to move to China to teach English for a year when I realized it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I was spending my college years doing what I thought I should do, and not what I was passionate for. To be honest, I had no idea what I was passionate for. It’s something I think a lot of people can relate to – just that feeling of overwhelm and anxiety about whether they are doing something fulfilling, something to make a difference. That’s when I took a step back and took time to do some soul searching. I dedicated a whole notebook to making lists and vision boards- I was on a quest to figure out what I wanted and what inspired me. In my gut I knew I wanted something more than the traditional path.
I worked part-time throughout college at a women’s boutique called Bloom, was a member of Sigma Kappa sorority, and did volunteer work through Habitat for Humanity and Students for Haiti. It was within these three experiences outside of my academic studies where I realized my passion for wanting to start a fashion business with heart, soul, girl power community, and a give back mission. I launched eff.Y.bee on my bedroom floor at the start of my senior year. During my first trunk show I sold over $800! I couldn’t believe it. It made this dream of mine tangible and real. The feeling of support and excitement was euphoric. I knew then that eff.Y.bee could really be something if I give it my all.
Me: Has giving back always been a major theme in your life? Or something that came about later in life?
Alyssa: My passion for giving back really started back when I was 11 years old. After the attack on September 11th, my childhood friend Tiffany and I felt compelled to take action. Using the skills we had as little girls, we monetized a craft we enjoyed to raise money for the victims. With the help of our parents, we purchased bags upon bags of tiny seed beads and safety pins and crafted a couple hundred of these American flag pins. Our young minds went to work with ideas and full-fledged determination and desire to help. After hours of stringing these tiny patriotically colored beads onto each pin, we would sell them outside of grocery stores charging $5 for each. We donated all of the money we collected to the Red Cross.
I reconnected with this desire to give back in college, volunteering through Habitat for Humanity (building a home in South Carolina) and several volunteer trips to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
Me: Why did you choose to focus on creating jewelry where proceeds support a cause or fundraiser?
Alyssa: Being able to give back to organizations we believe in is one of the most important and core values of eff.Y.bee. I want to inspire our girls to use eff.Y.bee as a vehicle to get involved and explore causes they are passionate about. Every act, no matter how big or small, matters. I want them to feel empowered that they can make a difference.
Me: Traditionally, college grads look for a safe, stable job that checks all the boxes. However, you trusted your gut and pursued eff.Y.bee full steam ahead after graduation. How did you muster the confidence to go for it, despite all the unknowns and doubts?
Alyssa: I never let doubt in. It sounds crazy but in my gut I believed in eff.Y.bee so much, I didn’t see myself doing anything else. I felt so energized and inspired, I focused on what I needed to do to grow instead of dwelling on the what-ifs. I think if you have a good idea, you really just have to dive in and go for it and not let fear stop you. If you never try, you’ll never know. I also knew that if all failed, I could always apply for a job.
Me: In addition to giving back, you’re very focused on working with and helping college women become entrepreneurs. Why is this specific demographic so close to your heart?
Alyssa: I created our brand ambassador program taking inspiration from my own personal experience in college. I have incredible mentors now, but back then I didn’t. I wish I had that “big sister” mentor back then to help me navigate through not only career advice but also life advice – someone to be my cheerleader who was slightly older and wiser who has experienced what I have (who isn’t a friend my age or my mom).
Starting eff.Y.bee helped me in so many ways. It brought me out of my shell (I’m an introverted-extrovert and used to be very shy), built my confidence, and empowered me with life skills that I never could have acquired in the classroom alone. I wanted to replicate my experience for other girls and be there for them as their mentor, teaching them the things I wish I knew.
Our brand ambassador program is aimed at creating a community and providing one on one mentorship. by helping partake in every part of the business from the ground up, our girls are able to assess what their strengths and passions are to then follow their bliss in the real world, equipped with the experience, self confidence, and the resume to help them follow their own dreams.
Me: Obviously mentoring eff.Y.bee’s brand ambassadors is equally important to you as giving back and creating jewelry. Why go the extra mile to invest so much time and energy into each woman?
Alyssa: Our brand ambassador team is everything to me. I love getting to know them and building genuine friendships with them. It’s not about just hiring college girls to sell my product, but really being genuinely there for them as a mentor and friend. There’s a loyalty and trust that comes from really putting your heart in your team. That’s how you build an amazing company and brand.
Me: What has been the most surprising part of your adventures through eff.Y.bee? What about the most inspiring part?
Alyssa: Oh boy – there have been endless surprises through this crazy five year journey! When you’re building a start-up, everyday is truly different and you just never know who or what might walk into your life that can change everything. One of the most surprising things for me has been how powerful and integral social media has been for growing our brand. I’ve made some of the best friendships and hired some of the best girls to join our team through connecting on Instagram! It’s seriously incredible.
Me: eff.Y.bee stands for “Follow Your Bliss.” What makes you blissfully happy?
Alyssa: What makes me blissfully happy is just thinking about how grateful I am for everything I have. For my family, my friends, my boyfriend, my team, the ability to live in the greatest city in the world (NYC), and the opportunity to build my dream. Though its a roller coaster at times with many ups and downs, I wouldn’t’ change anything for the world.
Me: What is the one piece of advice you would want to share with someone who wants to follow in your footsteps of using their own unique talents and life experiences to give back?
Alyssa: Have confidence in yourself. Take the time to figure out what your passions are – don’t settle for a job you think you have to take. Make a list of who you are and create a vision board. Find what excites you and figure out how to monetize it or pursue a career in it. Life is short, we don’t have to time to waste on self-doubt or what-if’s. Surround yourself with people who inspire and support you. Following your bliss is really about following your gut. Trust your intuition, you always know what is best for you deep down.
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