Interview recap, with AIRI Founder, Maya Alia. Hosted by Side Hustle Saturday's Lisa Brown
Who is the Founder?
Maya Alia is the sole Creator & Curator behind AIRI Jewelry & Gallery. AIRI was her first official side hustle, which really began as a small Etsy shop during the height of the pandemic to sell her overflow of artwork. With a strong vision, Maya worked to nourish AIRI into something bigger, all the while maintaining a full-time job, obtaining a master's degree, and nourishing a career in public health. Unwavered, AIRI has since evolved into an official e-commerce business that sells handmade wire jewelry, original art prints, and apparel on an intentional scale.
Art is at her core. Whether it is hosting intimate paint nights with friends or making jewelry at the beach on hot summer days, she always uses arts and crafts to maintain mindfulness and productivity. Experimenting with a range of different mediums, including jewelry, digital illustration, photography, painting, and ceramics, she continuously pushes her creative abilities as a self-taught artist.
Maya does not describe AIRI solely as a jewelry brand. Instead, she elaborates that AIRI is “a conscious brand with a heart and soul centered on art”. There are many elements that drive the concept, but the strongest is the foundational purpose to provide intentional and feel-good art that people can connect with.
There is so much value in the exchange of art. An order means someone has expressed appreciation and connection to the art created, and that energy is really special. Therefore, as the artisan, Maya makes a conscious effort to ensure each piece is handmade with the same love and care. Infusing a personal touch to each order, Maya's aim is that the recipient knows their jewelry was made with them in mind. It is more than an order, it's a moment.
Read more about our brand philosophy here
What are some of the things you do to recharge?
As a creative, there are times when we get a mental block, or just need to recharge. Maya mentions the importance of her mindfulness routine; prioritizing sleep, health habits, reading, journaling, and meditation. These go-tos are essential to tackle the to-dos, keeping her energized and fully present with a healthier headspace to create and stay inspired.
What have been some of the challenges?
As entrepreneurs, we must wear a lot of hats. Maya very transparently shared her qualms with the most popular social media platform, Instagram.
In 2016, Maya left the Instagram app behind because she did not feel aligned with all the pressures associated with posting, likes, and popularity. However, when starting AIRI it was difficult to ignore all the immense benefits it has for small business exposure, branding, and awareness. In 2021, Maya reopened the app to establish a presence for AIRI — but has since used Instagram on her terms!
Maya has established various ways to preserve the genuine and transparent integrity of her brand on the platform, allowing the AIRI’s purpose to shine through:
- We welcome and introduce ourselves to new followers. Not selling anything, but just saying hi
- We follow all of our supporters back, it’s not a numbers game with us
- We keep our like count OFF. As soon as we post, we hide the like count so we (and our supporters) can just focus on the content and message. All in all, we are in it for the likes, but for the community the platform brings
The best piece of advice
Do not stall to launch because you are waiting for your brand to be perfect. If you are starting or thinking about establishing a business, just remember that not everything will instantly fall into place. Businesses are meant to be honed over time, so feel free to give your brand space and room to evolve organically.
“Any entrepreneur should keep in mind that it is okay to be a work in progress, and also a masterpiece all at once. Live in that moment, knowing your brand can grow”
Summary: If you feel you have a good foundation for a business, launch it now, and then refine as you go along. Inevitably your brand will evolve, and adapt to better serve your customer base and appeal to the right people.
Interviewer: Lisa Brown, Side Hustle Saturday