Made by Caylea is Making Social Change


Annie Knowles, Staff Writer

For alumna Caylea Barone, graduating a semester early in December 2020 with a dual degree in environmental studies and art is just a fraction of her successes. She currently lives in Alexandria, VA balancing two jobs: one full-time position as a project analyst for a renewable energy firm and the other running her own small one-woman business selling hand-made clay earrings. She also makes time to study for the LSAT, which she plans to take in June.  

“My 9-5 is my solar job, and then after that is when I do my earring stuff or any other art project or commission work that I have going on. So I’ve tried to organize it where certain days are dedicated to making or trying new designs or creating stuff and then other days it’s crunching numbers on a spreadsheet. I have one day where I try to drop all the orders off at the post office and I’ve been trying to post content online every other day to keep up my instagram presence. Balancing that is my night-time job,” Barone reflected.  

Her earring business, Made by Caylea, launched in July of 2020 after Barone discovered that her “pandemic hobby” of making clay earrings could be used to give back to nonprofits doing important work in advancing social and environmental justice. 30% of the profits made by the small business are donated to these organizations. 

“I put out a feeler Instagram poll in early July to see if this would be something folks were interested in supporting. I think I got around 50 responses to that with people saying yes, this sounds so cool, etcetera, which was really encouraging. From there, I did a ton of research and planning on materials sourcing, logistics and creative design and then jumped right into listing earrings on Instagram!”  Barone said. 

When selling on her in Instagram, @madebycaylea, became too challenging due to high demand, Barone made her own website in February. 

Since the launch of the company, Made by Caylea has sold 245 pairs of earrings to more than 160 people, from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts, California, Texas and many other places across the US. These sales have led to a total of $1,521.26 in donations spread across 29 different organizations.

“From July to December 2020, I sent 100% of the profits to the organizations as donations. Since graduating and losing income streams from two on-campus jobs in December, my financial security has decreased. Since January, I’ve used 30% of the profits donation model and share the donation receipts/organizations at the end of each month. This allows me to continue the social impact mission of my business while also sustaining my own expenses as a small business owner,” Barone said. 

Barone revealed more about the social impact mission of her business and the way it helps facilitate the donation process.    

“There was such a push [this past summer] for everyone to start donating, but a lot of people won’t take the time to research or figure out what to do, so I thought if I could make something — which would be fun for me — and have people buy it and then a portion or all of the proceeds that they pay for that object go to a donation. This takes care of sending the funds. They don’t have to worry about finding out where to send the money or how to do it and they get something in return,” she said. 

Barone keeps a running list of organizations to donate to every month as well. She tries to focus specifically on those that support women and girls, as well as those with environmental justice in their mission. Barone’s Environmental Studies background has encouraged her to think a lot about the intersection between the environment and art, and she started to phase out all plastic in her packaging earlier this year.  

Barone has found a way to combine her passion for environmental and social justice with her passion for art. Since she was in middle school, she has done drawings, murals, paintings and tattoo designs on a commission-basis, and hopes to continue to grow her business and eventually transition to a life of art full-time after retirement. For now, she continues to use her talent to fight for social change and support the organizations that need help. 

“For March (this month), I’ll probably split donations to two or three groups that are working to stop hate against Asian Americans. It’s unfortunate that there is so much going on where groups keep having to ask for donations because something happens like a hate crime or something, but the flip of that is there are tons of places that need resources right now. So it’s really easy to find a place to send donations to,” Barone stated.