Third-year psychology major Ariella Sharf has created a company called Heads Up for Charity, which has been able to raise awareness for several causes around the world by combining fashion and generosity. In January, she was presented with the Student Government Association’s I AM A Husky Award, which recognizes one student per month who has excelled academically and professionally and has made an impact on campus and in the community. Here, we asked Sharf to discuss her business and how Northeastern has helped her along the way.
What made you start your business and how did you get to where you are now?
I always dreamed of starting my own business, but it was a far-fetched dream. Before I actually started Heads Up For Charity, I remember asking my boyfriend at the time to help me start a business. I had no idea what it would be; I just felt in my gut that it was in my life story to start one. One night, during the spring of 2013, I was bored, so I took a penny out of a cup sitting in my room that held about 75 cents worth of pennies that I had found over time, or, rather, had followed me. I made a bracelet using that one penny and went to sleep. The next morning I woke up and the brand name came to me: Heads Up For Charity. I had no business plan, no nothing, just a bracelet and a name.
Next, I came up with the goal of my business, which was to create and expand a successful retail company while using philanthropy to change society. I formed the mission statement, which is: “We want to raise people’s ‘Heads Up’ to what is going on in the world and encourage them to give back in a fashionable way. It is simply fashion for a cause.”
The wheels in my head are always turning, and I always carry a notebook in my handbag so I can jot down every single idea that comes to mind. I got to where I am today by honestly following my heart and believing in myself, believing that I have the power to change the world even if it happens to be in the slightest way possible.
What were the biggest lessons you learned while trying to build your business?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far while building my business is to never turn down an opportunity. People often lose sight of what goals they are trying to reach. I created a vision board a couple of years ago with everything I hope to accomplish in my lifetime. I hid it under my bed, promising myself I would wait a few years before I pulled it out to look at again. One of the things I put on there was to be successful, but love what I do. If I turned down half of the opportunities that have been given to me, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have today.
I have also learned that you also need to create your own opportunities. Along my journey, I have reached out to many brands and been able to collaborate with some of them. These include a scarf brand called Donni Charm, a jewelry company called Frieda and Nellie, and an online selling platform called Fancy. Through these experiences, I’ve found that networking is more important than a lot of people think. For Donni Charm and Frieda and Nellie, we put a penny on their merchandise and donate a portion of the proceeds to a charity of their choice while creating custom pieces in the process. As for Fancy.com, we sell product through its website, with a portion of the proceeds going to the company as a commission and a portion going to Heads Up and a selected charity. Working with successful brands has not only helped mine to grow, but has afforded me a large number of learning opportunities as well.
How has Northeastern helped you along the way?
Northeastern has first and foremost provided me with the academic skills to be able to run my own business. Although I am only in my third year, I have tried three different majors and two different minors. I guess you could say I was extremely indecisive, but Northeastern has been very supportive and helped me feel comfortable in knowing it was okay to follow my own path and not to stick to a strict regimen. I was given the flexibility to really find my calling in school, which led me to find my calling in life.