“I knew I loved jewelry making and charity work, but I never thought I would create a career joining the two. It takes experience—and some bumps in the road—to get to that ‘aha!’ moment,” says Aria B. Grillo ’05. For her, that moment occurred when friends and coworkers started to request her custom-made jewelry. She decided to combine her creativity and her generous nature by creating her own company, Ciao Aria, which specializes in what she likes to call “gemerosity.” Ten percent of each purchase made is donated to a charity chosen by the customer. Her unique flair and charitable cause recently caught the attention of Marie Claire magazine, which spotlighted Ciao Aria bracelets in its December issue. Her bracelets were also voted one of the best 100 gifts of 2011 by popsugar.com. By day, Grillo, who graduated from Wheaton with a major in psychology and a minor in studio art, works at the NYU Langone Medical Center in the office of development and corporate fundraising, specializing in pediatrics, oncology and child life. Nights and weekends, she is busy beading and dreaming up new designs from her New York City apartment. Charity work is important to Grillo. In addition to donating profits from Ciao Aria, she also volunteers as a board member for Tuesday’s Children, a charity supporting children who have lost a parent to 9/11. Starting a small business was a challenge. As an artist, she found that “the hardest part was realizing I really needed to create a brand for myself, market the brand, and promote it. It can be very hard at first to promote a product when the product is really personal for you, or the product is you.” But Grillo has found the adventure to be deeply rewarding, saying, “Yes, it is possible to really do what you love to do as a career. It took me some time to figure out what I truly wanted to do, but if you have a passion, pursue it. We need more art and creativity in the world.” She says she is grateful for her Wheaton friends and professors, mentors whom she still calls for advice. To Wheaton students interested in selling their own fashions, she advises, “Wear what you make! I was approached by one of the editors at Marie Claire because she saw my bracelets and loved them.”
To see her jewelry and list of charities, visit ciaoaria.com.