Stephanie Christie ’00 looks over her yard where she has a “gazillion” raised garden beds and a new chicken coop—her first carpentry project—when we speak. Her keen enthusiasm for creating and building things, including community and brands, inspired her to launch WellesleyMade.com last fall, a 100-business-strong online directory that showcases the talented artists, makers, and entrepreneurs among Wellesley alums.
The idea came to her long before the pandemic. “I saw a gap, where we don’t know what your average alumna is doing and particularly what entrepreneurial alums are doing,” Stephanie says. So she reached out to a few Wellesley Facebook groups and found an outpouring of enthusiasm. She worked for three weeks straight to build the website. At launch, Wellesley Made advertised over 50 services, crafts, and goods. “So far, it’s been a valuable experiment … to see what we can facilitate as a community to encourage entrepreneurship,” she says.
Nine months later, the number of listings has tripled. The site is a growing directory of Wellesley’s alumnae artists and entrepreneurs, including small-goods makers, tech entrepreneurs, jewelers, and craftspeople, as well as alums providing services ranging from personal coaching to photography to legal counsel. Stephanie does most of the work herself so far: managing the website, creating email and social media content, interviewing makers for the blog and podcast, and providing a growing list of resources to help Wellesley Made participants, as well as facilitating connections. Makers and artists have begun to contribute articles and marketing materials of their own and interview each other for the podcast.
In this age of consumer activism and calls to shop at Asian-owned, women-owned, and Black-owned businesses, Wellesley Made allows the community to do just that and learn the story behind each small business. Promotional discount codes for Wellesley alums abound on the website, and anyone interested in selling their wares can contact Stephanie to sign up for free.
This spring, Stephanie launched the Wellesley Made podcast with an interview with Julie Singer Kerwin ’92, founder of I Am Elemental, a toy company that sells female action figures. Julie had moved from education to law to stay-at-home mom over 13 years, and finally to businesswoman. “It’s not a story that we typically hear. And I think it’s important to highlight the entrepreneurial path as one that many of our alumnae are pursuing,” says Stephanie.
Like many of the people she features on Wellesley Made, Stephanie’s career has also been a blend of corporate and entrepreneurial experiences. After majoring in political science at Wellesley, she moved to the New York City area and spent over a decade working in marketing at a variety of luxury and fine jewelry companies. With her husband and two sons, she moved to Connecticut, where she balanced raising her family with working jobs including retail, substitute teaching, adjunct teaching, and freelance marketing, while also volunteering heavily. She also earned a master’s in digital marketing at Sacred Heart University, during which she founded Alumnati Jewelry.
“I don’t even necessarily think of myself as an entrepreneur, but I have projects that I enjoy exploring,” she says. “I do intend to someday go back to a real marketing job working for a company.” In the meantime, “I’m trying to push myself to do things that are uncomfortable.” On the Wellesley Made website, she claims the simple title “organizer.”
In the future Stephanie hopes Wellesley Made can collaborate with existing organizations such as the young alumnae business group and the Business Leadership Council. But she’s not looking to do big-tech entrepreneurship. “Smaller ideas are what most of us are going to do, but they might also be very fulfilling for us and provide us a very nice lifestyle,” she says. Alums can create economic opportunities for each other, she says, and “know that we are resources to each other along the way.”