Turning Passion Into Purpose with the Radiate Founders

If changing the world starts with a single step, Alyssa Rose and Kiera Maloney are already miles along on their journey. These two Fordham University juniors noticed a problem. Artisans in developing countries were creating beautiful products, but there was not a large enough market to purchase them. Instead of complaining about it, Alyssa and Kiera went to the drawing board and created Radiate, an e-commerce platform that brings these beautiful artisan-made products to the global market. Read on to learn about how you can turn your passion into purpose from these college change makers.

Names: Alyssa Rose & Kiera Maloney

Age: 20

Location: Bronx, NY

Education: Juniors at Fordham University

What you are doing right now?

We are the co-founders of Radiate, which works to empower artists in the developing regions by providing an online platform which will allow these creators access to a larger and more consistent market.


What is your passion?

KM: I am very passionate about people living happy and healthy lives.

AR: The ability to live a fulfilling and meaningful life.

How do you live out your passion?

KM: Many systems of oppression prevent people from living such lives. I am especially passionate about changing how mass consumption oppresses people around the world. First, because I think every worker deserves to have a job where they are safe and respected. Second, because, as a consumer, I don’t want to buy into those oppressive systems when I need a new pair of jeans.

AR: By taking every opportunity to have different and exciting experiences, meet new people, and learn as much as I can in whatever I’m doing. However, this isn’t an option for many people who are held back by systems of oppression. My work with Radiate is how I live my passion, because through it, not only do I get the opportunity to live a full and satisfying life while doing the things I love, but I get to create a tool that other people can use to do the same.


What motivates you to get up in the morning?

KM: The people in my life. I want to make them proud, support them, and love them the best I can.

AR: Usually the strong desire for a cup of coffee. ;)

How do you stay productive amidst so many distractions?

KM: An unhealthy relationship with my planner.

AR: By scheduling in time to be quiet and not work. I’ve got a lot on my plate, so I make sure to remember that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t give my all to the things that are important to me. Then, I’m ready to tackle whatever the day has to throw my way!


What have you learned from Radiate?

KM: So so much. Most importantly, it has taught me what I want out of my career and out of life.

AR: So many things that it’s kind of difficult to summarize. I’d say the most important lesson so far has been that truly following your passion, without reservation, is terrifying. I mean really, really scary. But it’s also incredibly exhilarating and fulfilling. It’s taught me so much about who I am and what’s important to me.


What advice would you give to other girls who want to pursue their passion?

KM: You have to accept that you can’t learn everything before you begin. We knew virtually nothing about business starting out, but if we would have waited until we learned everything, we would have never started. With that said, have confidence in what you do know. We have been overwhelmed by so many conversations and events throughout this journey, feeling like we didn’t know enough to do this. Looking back at the progress we have made since then, I wish we could have told our stressed out selves to be confident in what we do know and stick by that.

AR: A quote that I came back to frequently as we began Radiate was, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it," by Robin Williams. Like Kiera said, you’ll never be able to learn everything before you start. You have to jump in head first and let your passion for whatever you’re doing guide you, because you’ll figure out everything else along the way. Radiate has been a constant process of trial and error but we keep working on it, every single day, because it’s our “spark of madness” and we owe it everything we’ve got.

We knew virtually nothing about business starting out, but if we would have waited until we learned everything, we would have never started.

What does your typical day look like?

KM: On weekdays I have classes in the morning, a little window of time where I can squeeze in meetings or website edits to the Radiate site. Most days I work as a babysitter in the afternoon. Then the evenings are often filled up by a combination of schoolwork, other clubs, and Radiate work.

AR: During the week, most of my time is spent in classes, doing Radiate work, and at my job with the Fordham Public Safety Office. In my free time, I volunteer with various organizations on campus and around NYC. I’m also a team leader for an NGO called Volunteers Around the World, which sends college students on trips abroad to learn about global health, so I spend a lot of time leading and planning meetings/fundraisers for that.


What made you decide to start your own business?

KM: There are so many amazing people using business to make social change in the world right now. I think it was a blend of passion for these communities we work with mixed with inspiration from other social entrepreneurs.

AR: Throughout various travel experiences, Kiera and I have collectively noticed the need for a link between talented artists and a larger global market that Radiate now serves. We both feel so passionately that this form of empowerment can have huge impact. It was kind of a crazy idea for two college sophomores to start a business, but felt that we owed it to ourselves and the idea to see where it might take us, so we jumped in head first and have loved every moment of it!


What does your favorite day look like?

KM: A lot less busy than my typical day. It would start with making breakfast–I love to cook! Then having time to sit around and eat it while I catch up on emails. The majority of my day would be dedicated to Radiate--packaging and shipping, website updates, brainstorm sessions. Then I would take the time to go for a run and do some yoga before making dinner and relaxing for the evening.

AR: About once a week I volunteer at a soup kitchen here in NYC, which I really enjoy. My favorite days begin there. In the afternoons, I’ll spend time working on Radiate–updating our Instagram feed, working with our brand ambassadors, brainstorming new projects and expansions, whatever the day brings me. Evenings are spent with friends, maybe cooking dinner and watching a movie, or on an adventure somewhere in the city!

What is your favorite thing about owning a social business?

KM: As far as working in social business, it is so cool to be surrounded by and working with people who want to be change makers. Radiate also falls into the field of ethical retail which is a wonderful industry to be in, as there is so much great style but also such beautiful impact.

AR: The coolest thing about this industry is definitely the people who’ve created it. The change makers we get to meet and collaborate with are some of the most interesting, well traveled, truly loving people I know; they constantly inspire me to challenge myself, work hard, and pursue my passions. Being a part of such a constructive and compassionate industry is truly a gift!


What has been one of your favorite opportunities or learning experiences while working with people from all over the world?

KM: We spent the past summer in the Dominican Republic working with our artisan group there. It was absolutely one of the coolest experiences. Many people travel to this community for a week-long service trip or to go to a resort, but to be able to live there for a month and meet so many people who lead all kinds of different lives was amazing. I love being able to create communities in different places.

AR: Like Kiera said, the past summer in the Dominican Republic has definitely been the greatest experience with Radiate so far. To be able to spend an extended period of time there and learn more deeply about the artists and their stories was incredible.


Who was your first girl crush? Who is your current girl crush? Why?

KM: First girl crush was definitely Avril Lavigne. Especially the "Complicated" music video. My third-grade self was obsessed with her care-free style. Currently, I’m in love with Rachel Brathen, aka Yoga Girl. She’s a yoga instructor, Instagrammer, blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has such great emotional intelligence and self-awareness, it is insanely refreshing. Plus, she works so hard to create the life of her dreams which is inspiring to see!

AR: First girl crush was a toss up between Hilary Duff and Hermione Granger, which is probably the perfect summation of pop culture in the early 2000’s. Currently, I really admire Chreyl Strayed, the author of Wild. She is so real. I follow her on social media and am constantly inspired by how down to earth she is and the raw emotion in her writing. I feel like there’s so much to be learned from her.


What online resources have you turned to to become a better version of yourself?

KM: I have a number of people and brands who I follow on Instagram who I am inspired and motivated by daily. My favorite online resources have definitely been TED Talks and RAW Beauty Talks. I’ve learned so many cool things from leading industry experts in less than 20 minutes thanks to TED. RAW Beauty Talks features interviews with some of the most amazing women totally makeup free and untouched. They’re all so wonderful and inspiring, and they are creating a community of strong women across industries.

AR: I run the Radiate Instagram, so I spend a lot of time curating the feeds we follow. Following brands and organizations with a similar mission to Radiate’s, and the people who started them, is an incredible push to be my best self and do my best work for Radiate. What’s so cool about brands like Radiate is that competition between us isn’t really a concern because the overarching goal is helping one another to inspire a generational change in the way people consume. I think it’s so cool that we can learn from each other and move towards important social change together!


What have you read or watched that has been the most transformational for you?

KM: Both reading and watching Wild (by Cheryl Strayed and starring Reese Witherspoon) were transformational experiences. Both were such raw accounts of such a spectrum of emotions. Watching/reading it, I was like “Wow, I know that feeling. I guess it is normal and ok.” That’s an incredible realization for an 18 year old.

AR: My all time favorite book is Love Does by Bob Goff. His view on life is incredibly refreshing, because he finds joy in every part of life and lets that exuberance move him to do incredible things. Every time I read it, I feel like I’ve become a better, more patient, more loving version of myself.

To learn more and shop their artisan made product, head to Radiate Market's website.