For Dallas moms Allie Wardlaw and Bess Callarman, both former therapists, the idea to start Allie + Bess came about organically. “We were pretty burned out working in the medical field and wanted an outlet to express our artistic side,” Callarman says. Bracelets were a natural fit.
Wardlaw says their children influenced the decision to focus the business on bangles. “With young babies, we couldn’t wear big earrings or necklaces they could pull on.” Their collection features a mix of recycled and globally sourced beads (think multihued African vulcanite and gold Indian discs). Retailer Stanley Korshak took notice, signing them up following a successful trunk show. Then the pandemic struck.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs over the last few months,” Callarman says. “On one hand, we feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to work from home and to have seen such a great response during a time that is so difficult to so many. [But] we’re having the same challenges that everyone is facing right now: juggling work priorities, trying as hard as possible to keep our kids focused on school work — which certainly isn’t easy with little ones — and trying to work around limitations of social distancing and being at home.”
Although their product line has been flourishing, with many styles and sizes completely sold out in the last couple weeks, these businesswomen have been handling curveballs much larger than keeping their kids out of their work space.
“We’ve also had to take a crash course in learning about international supply chains,” Callarman says. “Most of our beads come from Africa or India, and the suppliers we work with are having major disruptions of their own. We have definitely seen some pretty significant delays that have made it more of a challenge to keep some of our most popular products in stock. “
But the pair is ready to deal with the challenges. Updates to their website have helped them attract more customers nationally as well as globally, and they are making plans to expand their line beyond bracelets.
“We’ve had such an amazing response,” Callarman says. “We really try to focus on designing bracelets that we’d like to wear ourselves. We both have very different styles, and we think that this helps us make sure that we have something for everyone.”