Community Heroes: La Jolla student Ariela Leff tries to bring happiness one bracelet at a time
With every bracelet bead she strings, tween entrepreneur Ariela Leff bands together her hobby and charity.
Ariela, 11, a sixth-grader at La Jolla Country Day School, founded Lulu’s Bracelets four months ago. She sells bracelets that she makes and donates half the proceeds to Pet Encounter Therapy, a program through the Helen Woodward Animal Center that trains dogs for visits to hospital patients.
The bracelets feature bright colors, beads, gems, charms and words and are priced at $5 to $8 each.
The Carmel Valley resident, whose mother grew up in La Jolla and whose father works in La Jolla, said that after she started Lulu’s Bracelets — named for her family’s nickname for her — she “ didn’t want to keep all the money to myself. I want it to be for a good cause, something that would make me happy.”
Ariela has grown her business through her involvement in Whatever It Takes, a nonprofit organization based in San Diego that works to provide entrepreneurship education to youths ages 11-18. WIT also has programs through UC San Diego Extension to earn college credit.
WIT founder and President Sarah Hernholm said the organization’s participants are encouraged to give to causes that matter to them.
Ariela said she chose Pet Encounter Therapy because she has two dogs herself. “I love them so much and they make me super happy,” she said. “So if there are kids that maybe don’t live a great life, I feel like having a pet that cares for them and makes them feel good would make them happy.”
So far, Ariela has made more than 150 bracelets and sold about 100. She has generated more than $250 for Pet Encounter Therapy after expenses.
“I want to raise over $1,000,” she said. “I really want [my business] to grow. I want to be able to send many dogs to people.”
Hernholm said Ariela’s focus on charity is important. “I feel like if we’re going to teach the next generation how to be entrepreneurs … they should be thinking about their wealth and how to give back to causes that they care about,” Hernholm said.
Ariela learned about WIT through one of her two teenage sisters, who was in WIT’s college credit program at the time. Ariela asked Hernholm if bracelet-making could be a business or just a hobby.
“I said, ‘It can be whatever you want it to be,’” Hernholm said. She added that she often coaches children to “just do the thing that you’re already doing. And then if entrepreneurship is intriguing to you, then we can work together to turn that into something.”
Hernholm said Ariela “keeps rising to the occasion,” taking on difficult tasks such as keeping a spreadsheet of expenses and communicating with Pet Encounter Therapy staff and customers.
Ariela works weekly on all aspects of Lulu’s Bracelets and is “open to learning, which is a very good quality in a human being, and open to feedback,” Hernholm said.
“I like the reasonable goals she set for herself,” Hernholm said. “I think she’s very realistic with her time commitments.”
Ariela is engaged in other philanthropic projects through her school and her family’s temple, and her work for Lulu’s Bracelets will be part of the community service component of her upcoming bat mitzvah.
She also loves dance classes and enjoys singing and playing cello.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get the bracelets done on time because of homework and after-school activities,” Ariela said. “But I always try my hardest.”
By running Lulu’s Bracelets, she’s “learned to be patient and spend my money wisely,” she said.
One of the biggest lessons, however, has been “to focus on what’s most important in life: to do what makes you happy,” Ariela said. “I think it’s important to look at yourself and think, ‘What do I want to do?’”
The La Jolla Light’s Community Heroes series for the holiday period highlights people who aren’t often in the news but make a difference in the lives of others. If you know such a person, email Editor Rob Vardon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please limit suggestions to people who live or work in La Jolla or otherwise have strong ties to the community. ◆
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