Denise Hazen created Aspire Accessories as an outlet for her son Nick- a young adult on the autism spectrum. The concept was created after seeing Nick’s potential while he was tutoring under famed Aussie leather craftsman- Peter Maine. Nick had been working with Peter weekly for four years and has since learned to stamp, sew and other general techniques used in the art of leather craftsmanship. Peter noticed that Nick has a keen eye for precision and was impressed with the fact that he was able to learn techniques that would normally take years (like the basket weave- using one stamp over and over again), only months to perfect.
Denise wanted to give Nick the chance to build a life-sustaining opportunity for himself. So they started creating leather bracelets. At first, Denise had to stain the leather, which turned out to be time-consuming. Thankfully, Peter found them some Italian leather, which was already stained. So, after eliminating the most tedious task, they were left with just cutting the leather, putting on the snaps and stamping it.
It wasn’t long after making their first batch of bracelets, when people started finding out about them. When Easter Seals heard about them, they ordered 300 at a time, giving them as gifts or incentives. News of the bracelets spread throughout the community. It wasn’t long until local schools, Camp Waldemar and The Children’s Assessment Center ordered a couple hundred at a time. The folks at the Houston Rodeo recently contacted them for an order. They already have a custom stamp with their ‘howdy’ logo made for doing badge holders, bracelets and more.
Feeling somewhat overwhelmed with all the orders (via the community and on Etsy), Denise thought it would be a great idea to speak with Nick’s teacher about hiring his classmates to help with pre and post-production. So far, it has worked out really well, as it’s helped them with job skills, how to manage their time, what they have to do to earn the money, what’s it like to get a paycheck, etc.
Denise also hired other children on the autism spectrum in the community. She’s in the process of forming a non-profit called Aspire for Success- a place where kids can learn job skills so that they can one day go out into the community and help in office situations, etc.”These kids want to work. They are incredible workers…but they need a safe environment. That’s what I’m trying to provide, a place where they can work and learn a skill,” Hazen stated.
They also do ‘Sundae Socials.’ It’s a fun event where the kids make sundaes and socialize.”They don’t know how to be social. They crave that human interaction and that sense of community. They just need someone to help facilitate it,” Hazen explained.
They are thankful for all the community outreach and support that has happened thus far. Once they get a bigger space, Denise wants to also bring in other special needs groups to work and earn a paycheck so that they can reach a bigger audience of the special needs community.
I was recently invited to check out the Aspire Accessories studio, tucked away in a temporary location in the lush Tanglewood neighborhood of Houston. Denise and Nick gave me a quick tour and then showed me how they make a bracelet. From inserting in the snaps to the final step of stamping his makers mark, Nick’s precision was on point. It was such a great experience to not only hear about this wonderful brand that is still new and how it’s impacting the community in the best way possible; but also to watch a piece of leather transform into a wearable statement piece.
Double-wrap bracelets are $20. Triple-wrap are $24. Bracelets with bling are $30. Bracelets are also customizable. They can have a stamp made with any logo or anything, as long as it fits the space on the bracelets. All of the proceeds of the sales go back into “Teens Mentoring Teens”- a program Denise started six years ago where she takes the kids to Camp Aranzazu. She takes fifteen kids on the spectrum and matches them up with local high school kids as their social mentors.
Please check out Aspire Accessories and support this wonderful small business. I’m really excited to follow along on their journey to continued success and can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future!