Teen business owner pays it forward


The meeting hall table was spread with colorful beads and string, while future jewelry-makers laughed, concentrating on their latest creation. With each touch of the string and a bead, Alyssa Minwell explained the ins and outs of jewelry making. Who is Alyssa? In some ways, she is a typical teenager. In others, she’s unique. Not only did Alyssa complete high school early and then teach weekly classes, she achieved these goals despite being blind. Impossible, you say? Not for Alyssa.

During Alyssa’s high school exit interview, the special education transitional coordinator was speechless. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that Alyssa had truly received needed assistance throughout her school career. The session, however, led to Alyssa assisting others.

The coordinator told Alyssa about Brookwood in Georgetown (BiG), a post-high school vocational program for those with developmental disabilities. Alyssa, owner of her own business, Alyssa’s Beads for Life, contacted BiG director, Erin Kiltz. Soon she was teaching weekly classes in jewelry creation, all by voice and touch. After only two months, she had taught the students of BiG the essence of jewelry making, and they were able to carry on without her guidance. “She is responsible for the launch of our jewelry enterprise,” says Erin.

The citizens of BiG were encouraged by Alyssa. If she could make beautiful jewelry, then so could they. “She is a beautiful picture of our interdependent community here at BiG,” adds Erin. “Alyssa can string beads faster than we can, and we have vision. I suppose that’s because she’s been doing it since she was three years old,” says Erin with a laugh. “She is contented and always has an over-the-top, optimistic attitude. Many people may not know that she’s a pianist and graduated as valedictorian of the 2012 class of Richarte High School.”

Why did Alyssa feel that helping BiG was such a worthy cause? Allysa points out that extended assistance is available for people with disabilities until age twenty-one through the public school system. “After that, their welcome is up,” Alyssa notes. Teaching them a trade they can use for a lifetime fills a need. The adornments are trendy and come in all colors. Plus, they’re made of durable, quality supplies. People can purchase the pieces at the BiG shop inside Ironstone on 202 Austin Avenue (open 10 to 6 Thursdays through Saturdays).

Last August eighteen-year-old Alyssa entered the business college at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the entrepreneurship program and is taking classes in management and technology. She didn’t know a soul on campus when she arrived, but she’s finding her place, fitting in and, of course, running Alyssa’s Beads for Life on the side. Nothing, it seems, is impossible for Alyssa.

By April Jones
Photos by Megan Fox

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