- April 23, 2020
Recognizing an urgent need during the pandemic — to remind people to practice social distancing — one area college student decided to find an entrepreneurial solution.
That student, Aleah Colón-Alfonso, a rising junior at New College of Florida in Sarasota, has launched the company Stay Safely Away. The business sells wearable items that remind people to keep their distance.
Colón-Alfonso, who is immunocompromised and has small fiber neuropathy, Lyme disease and accompanying secondary illnesses, tells Coffee Talk she started Stay Safely Away after noticing a lack of mask wearing and social distancing in Sarasota. It made her want to hang a sign from her neck to tell people to stay away.
Her solution? Create a company that sells merchandise with that message on t-shirts, masks, backpacks, shoes, bathing suits and more. “Clothing became my version of signage,” she says. Messages include phrases such as, “I’m not rude, I’m just immunocompromised. Stay Safely Away.” The words provide a gentle yet firm reminder, she says.
Colón-Alfonso, studying biological psychology and neuroscience, started working on Stay Safely Away in March. To find a manufacturer, she searched online, called companies and asked manufacturers for reviews from clients. She has a few manufacturers she rotates between, from Brooklyn to Europe. The manufacturers make items and ship them direct to customers.
She also designed the company’s items. “I took a couple of online webinars, YouTube classes — anything I could get my hands on,” says Colón-Alfonso. She kept sales top of mind during the process, researching the top 10 kids shirts from 2019 and 2020 and incorporating concepts from those shirts into her designs. She also kept in mind other demographics, thinking to herself, “What would my grandmother want to wear?”
Stay Safely Away now has over 130 products for sale, and Colón-Alfonso is still adding new items.
She plans to invest the money she makes from Stay Safely Away in another company she started — Aleah Wares. For Aleah Wares, she designed an infusion-friendly sweater with openings that allow patients to put on or take off a sweater during IV treatments. It was a need Colón-Alfonso, who has applied for a patent on the sweater, had herself after experiencing chills and hot flashes during treatments. She says, “I realized it was an important niche that had yet to be filled.”