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August 6, 2020

Fashion Merchandising and Web Development students have far more interest in “being the change” than changing their outfits!

Two young women entrepreneurs have built a business that fits them to a “T.” One has a passion for fashion, and the other is inclined to web design. Alexis Headrick, Fashion Merchandising and Marketing student, and Ali Spann, Web Design and Development student, have merged not only their first names but their humanitarian values and savings to launch Al-Lex, a local awareness-based T-shirt company. This quarter, 10% of Al-Lex sales will benefit JCCC’s Basic Needs Center.

Ali and Alexis use their artistic ideas, homegrown compassion and knowledge from JCCC courses to market and design collections that speak to their generation’s ideals:

  • Affordable, fun clothes 

  • A way to “be the change” by giving to others

  • Local causes

Commitment to Community

Alexis and Ali have a love for Kansas City and a conviction to serve people who need a hand up. Their company donates at least 10% of its profits to humanitarian efforts. With so many worthy causes to champion, it can be difficult to choose just one nonprofit. So, every quarter a different collection is designed to highlight each organization’s mission.

From launch and early traction in the first year of business to braving a global pandemic, the duo have remained firm in their conviction to give. They turned recent crises into opportunity by pivoting their marketing and designing the 1/8 Collection to benefit those dealing with food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 1/8 refers to 12.5% of Kansas Citians who have a consistent need to use food pantries. Early on, Harvesters reaped the benefit from Al-Lex’s 1/8 Collection. Some days 100% of Al-Lex profits went to this citywide outreach that strives to end hunger.

To support their alma mater and its next student body, fourth-quarter profits will benefit JCCC’s Student Basic Needs Center.

“When we thought about the people in KC and at JCCC who are struggling to put food on the table, we knew we could help,” said Ali. “We wanted our customers to know when they purchased an Al-Lex tee, they were helping feed a family or a student.”

Current events can also play a part in the choice. Recently, Al-Lex’s Kansas City Collection has raised support for Urban Christian Academy, a free private school in the heart of the city where students are nurtured and inspired to become effective leaders in their inner-city communities.

Running a business, working regular jobs and taking a full load of classes – it’s hard to believe these entrepreneurs also find time to volunteer at each of the organizations, too.

“We strongly believe that through so many local organizations, everyone can ‘be the change,’” said Alexis.

Friends 4-Ever

The young women met when they were 3. The early years of their friendship withstood countless entrepreneurial ventures, from an in-house “tattoo parlor” (using markers) to saving baby seals. But when they started drawing paychecks from “grown-up jobs,” they knew they were primed to kick-start their greatest idea yet – Al-Lex.

The viability of the idea came together when Alexis drafted a business plan for a sustainable clothing line in an online retail course. Ali got deep into web design coursework and was challenged by James Hopper, Professor and Chair.

“I think we both would have regretted it if we didn’t give it a chance because we knew we were bound to start a company someday,” said Ali.

The duo love running Al-Lex, but it has been an eye-opener. “The ‘back end’ work can be exhausting,” said Alexis. “But we agree it’s worth the time and investment.”

JCCC’s fashion merchandising, economics, marketing and web development coursework gave them an understanding of how to run a business. What they learned, along with encouragement from faculty at JCCC, made them confident enough to seed their own capital and create environmentally friendly packaging, too.

“It’s not just making designs and fulfilling orders. It’s paying taxes, staying up to date on all expenses, checking analytics, pulling reports and posting exciting content every single day,” said Ali.

The effort has paid off. Al-Lex lines are expanding and are now available in stores at several metro malls.

Ready to Roll Out Your Business Idea?

Ali and Alexis have advice for entrepreneurs: “Take the leap of faith, do your research and enjoy the process.”

Check out JCCC’s Training for Entrepreneurs and Digital Marketing Continuing Education courses that can propel your success.