When they were living together as freshmen, Alyssa Rose and Kiera Maloney never thought they’d end up running an international business while also attending classes full-time. They just knew they wanted to make a difference.

They’d both done service trips throughout high school, and in that first year at Fordham they talked a lot about sustainability and ethical consumerism. Then, during a summer service trip to the Dominican Republic, Rose spoke to local merchants who planted an idea: “They said, ‘You should take some of our stuff and go try to sell it to your friends.’”

Today they’re doing that and more, selling the merchants’ locally produced jewelry all over the country through Radiate Market, a web-based business that reflects their belief in changing current consumption patterns to benefit the developing world.

And they’re running the business in the midst of junior-year coursework, maintaining an inventory and handling all the bookkeeping and shipping themselves.

Photo by Dana Maxson

“We spend a lot of time at the Fordham post office,” Rose said.

The two have sold dozens of items since launching the business in August, driven by a belief in helping developing-world artisans earn sustainable incomes in ways that preserve and celebrate their cultures. With startup funds raised through Indiegogo, the crowdfunding site, they’ve bought three wholesale orders of jewelry and have a fourth in the works.

They’re finding a ready market for the handcrafted items—bracelets, necklaces, Haitian metal art—that evoke the personal story of a merchant whose life was tangibly improved by the purchase.

“The ultimate goal would be to have people feeling fulfilled by the work that they’re doing,” Maloney said. “If we’re able to give someone the feeling that they can be creative and work hard at something that they actually get satisfaction out of, and provide for their family, that’s the most satisfying thing.”

Neither student is a business major; Maloney studies economics and Rose, anthropology. But they’ve picked up business savvy with help from the Fordham Foundry, which connected them with a business coach and a student who provided accounting help.

And their business approach was informed by their service trips with Global Outreach, Fordham’s cultural immersion and service program. Last summer they made an extended trip to the Dominican Republic to build connections and show their commitment; they also worked through a few nongovernmental organizations to find out which artisans would be most receptive.

“A huge part of our model is definitely being aware of what’s going on in the communities that we’re working with,” Maloney said. “We don’t just want to come in with a set structure and say, ‘This is going to work for you.’”

Maloney and Rose both love the feeling of providing opportunity to Dominican artisans, one of whom used the income to hire neighborhood boys to help fulfill the orders. The two students plan to return this summer to learn more about how the artisans’ communities have benefited from the business.

They might expand the business to artisans in Guatemala or even in the immigrant communities of New York City, and they hope to work at it full time after they graduate.

The company name comes from a conversation they had on the 4 train as freshmen, Rose said: “We were talking about people that radiate these qualities that we really admired, and we really enjoyed meeting people who we had felt lived in a way that radiated things that they love.”

Launching the business has changed their lives. “(Because) we’re doing this thing that we love, people want to share the thing that they love with us too,” Maloney said.

The Radiate Market project was the subject of a recent news video here.



Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].