We had the good fortune of connecting with Denise Hazen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Denise, how do you think about risk?
I have always been a risk taker! One thing that is important to know about me is that I am not afraid of failure. I feel that if you can learn from your mistakes, it makes you a better person, personally and in business. I have had my share of ups and downs since I started Aspire Accessories but I try to use the challenges to improve the program. There were times when I almost gave up, but I was determined to provide a meaningful program not only for my son, but for others with autism and similar special needs. There were many times that I felt I was hitting my head against the wall, but my stubbornness and passion just wouldn’t let me give up. The pandemic has created many challenges for us. As a small nonprofit that relies on the sale of our products, my team and I have had to completely pivot to try to figure out how to keep our artisans engaged, how to improve our website sales and how to be relevant in this new world. I once again am relying on my risk taking and perseverance to help me navigate.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t creating! From the time I was a child, I was always making things with my hands, from Barbie dresses to hand painted rocks! When my son, Nick, was 10, one of his teachers noticed his fine eye for detail and recommended I find him an apprenticeship. We were blessed to start working with an amazing leather craftsman named Peter Main. Through Peter’s tutelage Nick and I began learning all about leather. This became the perfect partnership for Nick and I because he was precise and I was creative. We began making leather jewelry that was the catalyst for Aspire Accessories, a workshop that employs young adults with autism and similar special needs. In the beginning, I faced many challenges from how to start a nonprofit, to how to employ people with special needs to how to sell our products. Over the past 5 years I have learned how be flexible because you never know what life will toss at you. Hurricane Harvey was our first major obstacle. The city of Houston was devastated and our sales and donations were greatly affected. We persevered and got creative and were able to make our way through. Through the years we have continued to grow our sales and provide more employment opportunities for this community. However, the pandemic has greatly affected not only our sales but also our enrollment. We have been creative and proactive in providing online learning and at home art kits for our group so they are both productive and engaged. We just launched a new product called the Bizy Backpack that we are so excited about! We realized that parents were wanting more meaningful play opportunities for their kids. Our backpack provides toys that address sensory, creative and educational aspects of play. What I love about this project is that it is made in our workshop by young adults with autism and similar special. Not only is the Bizy Backpack a fun and educational product, but it also provides jobs for our community. A win win situation all around!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Without a doubt, I would start with the Menil Collection. The museum itself is so beautiful and the grounds are stunning. I would then walk across the street to Bistro Menil for a delicious lunch. The next stop would be to Cheeky Vintage to peruse their amazing collection of vintage clothing and accessories. I would then pop into Tootsies to check out their latest in women’s fashion. Weather permitting I would take a walk along Buffalo Bayou and enjoy the wonderful trails they have around the bayou. Dinner would be at my favorite locally owned restaurant called Amalfi. Run by chef Giancarlo and his wife Lisa, the food is divine! I would then have an after dinner drinks at The Rustic in Uptown Park.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
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