Madeline Placido’s transition from student to student business owner didn’t follow a traditional path. Her company, Aisle32, grew from her desire to raise awareness about social causes. In June 2020, with COVID spiking all over the world and social unrest erupting over racial tensions, Placido decided to crochet tote bags to raise money for the Black Lives Matter movement. She was only 18 at the time and already navigating a busy university life.
“My sophomore year I transferred into a Communication [major] which really helped me learn to effectively communicate as a business owner,” Placido said. “I learned valuable skills about how to present myself to customers.”
Even though she was determined to start her business, Placido was unsure of its future success. “I never thought crochet would be as popular as it became.”
Not only were customer needs an initial concern, but so were finances. With raw materials ranging from $30 to $80 per bag, which take about four hours to make, Placido realized she needed to increase her prices from where they were when she launched the business. Each bag now costs $100.
Placido was unsure if she could sustain the business without acquiring a large customer base early on in her career. COVID actually proved to be a help in this case. Placido found herself with more time on her hands to dedicate to crocheting and even reconnected with friends from high school who became her initial customers. Placido was also able to effectively utilize Instagram as a sales platform.
Through collaborations with influencers and her boss, word of her business spread quickly, and at very little cost to her. Placido’s bags are made to order and sales range weekly and monthly depending on how many orders would come in. “I am planning on selling 20 units per month and I will probably cap production at 60 units but we will see,” says Placido.
With her evident success and rapidly growing business, it’s easy to forget that Placido is also a full-time student. “I made myself a schedule of time I would dedicate to homework and time I would dedicate to crocheting,” she says.
Because her brand is driven by social awareness, Placido was also tasked with constantly keeping up to date with recent news-stories. She needed to stay updated with the trends and news that was happening around her. Placido shares that “32% of monthly sales get donated to a different organization in the LA county to support BIPOC youth and La Casa de San Gabriel Community Center and Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA).”
Placido plans to expand her business during college and has even started custom pieces, something she hopes will keep the brand growing.
The process of starting her own business in college has taught Placido a lot about herself. “Nobody is going to do it for you…You need to be in the right headspace, and surrounding yourself with the right people is essential to staying inspired.” When asked who inspires her the most. Placido responded “my grandma Essie inspires me. Whenever I am going through something, good or bad, I see hummingbirds which remind me of her. I’ve been seeing a lot of hummingbirds lately so I know good things are about come… that sort of stuff keeps me going.”
Placido is currently in the process of creating her new collection.