DALLAS – North Texas moms and entrepreneurs Allie Wardlaw and Bess Callarman entered the jewelry business with the world stacked against them.
Wardlaw and Callarman started Allie + Bess in August 2019 – only months before the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered shopping habits.
The jewelry-making duo met while working as therapists at Traymore nursing home in Dallas, and became fast friends, bonding over their shared love of fashion. They’re known for their signature bracelet stacks.
The bracelets “were intended just for ourselves, and then our friends started seeing them and kept asking us where they’re from,” said Callarman, 39, of Dallas.
The pair each invested $50 to buy beads and they began making stretch bracelets to appeal to busy moms.
“Pretty much all I wore was bracelets because … kids pull on necklaces when you’re holding them,” said Wardlaw, 36, of Richardson. “We started with stretch bracelets for the ease of it. I’m not going to take time, when I have three kids, to clasp jewelry. That’s not functional.”
When friends and family started buying what they made, they launched an Instagram account. Initially setting their sights on being sold in high-end boutiques, Callarman said they had “zero intentions” of turning the social media platform into a source of product sales.
“We were just kind of playing around and seeing what we could do,” Wardlaw said.
New followers started asking about buying the bracelets, leading them to launch Instagram-driven sales through direct messages for a six-month period, Callarman said.
They set out to find wholesale accounts, the first of which was a successful pop-up event at Dallas luxury retailer Stanley Korshak, Callarman said. But when consumer buying habits shifted during the pandemic, they opted to sell directly to customers.