For Coon Rapids resident Alaiesha Safarae-Jean, design is all about making something out of nothing and using what you have.
Safarae-Jean started as a clothing designer in 1992 and said she has since acquired a wide variety of skills in design, from jewelry to decorating to space design. She now owns and operates Handy Ma’am. Previously, Safarae-Jean worked with the Minnesota Film Board doing set designs and touring with her clothing line.
Safarae-Jean has worked with over 100 people since starting Handy Ma’am. She said she started the business by filing a certificate of assumed name with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office and worked slowly up from there through word-of-mouth.
She said has worked with many funerals, weddings and parties, working on a small budget or providing the materials from what she already had. Safarae-Jean said she has even been able to re-use flowers in some cases.
Safarae-Jean also likes to teach people how to design with a low budget and offers a price break for anyone who works alongside her.
“It’s getting people to feel worthy of something, that’s the huge challenge,” she said. “There’s a lot of women out there that can’t do anything, we need to teach them.”
Safarae-Jean said the biggest challenge of her business is not having enough help, because it is usually her doing most of the work. She sometimes works alongside her family members and their skill sets in cabinetry, sewing and more when those are needed.
The other challenge is the diversity of the projects, according to Safarae-Jean.
“You just never know what you’re going to get,” she said.
While Safarae-Jean said she usually works on a basis of whatever anyone can afford, she also has worked for free by providing her own supplies or for charities. She said she plans to send blankets to the mother of the boy who recently died from a drive-by shooting in Minneapolis. Safarae-Jean has previously made blankets or coverings out of chicken wire to place over the dirt mound at a burial.
Safarae-Jean said she came up with Handy Ma’am when she was wondering what her niche was and how she could make money.
She realized she loved to make people feel happy and that she got fulfillment out of helping with even the smallest things.
“I want to make people feel better than when I left them…feel like a million bucks for under a dime,” Safarae-Jean said.
Safarae-Jean said her favorite experiences with Handy Ma’am have included assisting families with design that can’t afford it by providing what they need for funerals. Another favorite experience was designing clothes for the senior king and queen at Osseo Health Care Center.
Safarae-Jean said she grew up with design talents and credits God for providing them.
“I feel like I’ve been blessed with many talents, it’s in my heart. It’s not something I can explain really,” Safarae-Jean said.
Bethany Kemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org