Local female business owners use their work to empower themselves and others through mental health awareness.
Ever since she was a little girl, Carrington Haley had a passion for the arts. In high school, she began selling her work, and in college, she was asked to design a floral tattoo.
“I was honored that this person I didn’t even know would trust me with a permanent piece,” Haley said about this opportunity.
She honed her skills further by majoring in fine arts with a concentration in graphic design at Louisiana Tech University. Fast forward two years, and she has turned her side hustle of selling art into her full-time career, opening her shop Flower Moon, which features many pieces inspired by personal art therapy and her mental health journey.
Getting to this position was a challenge she struggled with physically and emotionally.
“When I was still working full-time for a company, I hit a cloud of being uninspired and honestly just worn out,” Haley said. “It got to a point where my tired body was screaming at me that something needed to change.”
When talking to a friend about her situation, she was given the advice to not wait for the perfect time, which pushed her to finally leave.
Similar to Haley, Kaitlyn Maestas, owner of Raw Eddy’s Snacks, fueled her businesses by drawing on her experiences with mental and physical health. She struggled with gut issues in high school, which inspired her to create protein bites.
The aspect of mental health within her business connected to her experience of feeling anxious and suicidal at a young age. Understanding that many people struggle with their mental health, she desired to do something about it.
“I want to create a safe community where we can talk about these subjects and validate our emotions. It is normal to feel down but we need to be able to pull ourselves out of sad places,” Maestas said.
Focusing on these key aspects of health, she started her business in memory of her uncle Eddy, who struggled with mental illness and died at a young age.
The process of developing Raw Eddy’s Snacks did not occur overnight. Maestas shared how her passion and knowledge for food and community began with her first job on an urban organic farm eight years ago. It then progressed when she became involved with a youth entrepreneurship program, which inspired her to start a business based on her interests.
Her journey continued with a variety of twists and turns, including launching a homeless youth arts nonprofit, launching a jewelry business that never took off, working for five years at a holistic nutrition bar, attending college, dropping out and graduating culinary school.
Maestas launched Raw Eddy’s at the age of 19 in 2018, knowing nothing about running a business but having a burning passion for food and health. She got her business license in 2020 and made Raw Eddy’s Snacks her full-time job.
Unlike Maestas, Veronica Aragon discovered her passion later in life, leading to the establishment of her company, Known Jewelry.
After having her second child three years ago, Aragon became interested in working with polymer clay and making jewelry out of it. This was during a period when she was experiencing postpartum anxiety and needed an outlet.
Aragon returned to what she knew she enjoyed as a child: crafts. She found joy in it and was encouraged by her husband and close friends to turn it into her business.
Aragon pursued her new interest in polymer clay by learning and teaching herself through YouTube videos and trial and error. When she compared where she started to where she is now, she acknowledged the factor of growth.
“You live and you learn and you learn how to get better at something. It’s a never-ending cycle but a good cycle. If I’m not constantly growing, how am I going to get better or be successful?” Aragon said.
There are a variety of challenges women face every day when owning a business.
Haley and Aragon open up about how they and their work are sometimes not taken seriously.
“Our work is valuable and not a cute hobby,” Haley said.
She also talked about the pressure of being perceived in a certain way, especially in a time when social media plays such a large role. Focusing specifically on her work, she emphasized the rawness of her art and the push she makes for authenticity.
Throughout the ups and downs of her business, she has to remind herself of her progress.
“If there are ever moments of frustration or feeling stuck I simply say, ‘I’m on my way.’ Either way I’m here working hard and pursuing a dream that little Carrington would be so proud of,” Haley said.
Discussing the difficulties of running a business as a woman, Aragon said her role as a stay-at-home mom contributes to the impression that her work is merely a pastime activity.
Overcoming such comments required inner healing for Aragon, which consisted of reminding herself of her worth as a creative and as a person.
She also learned to be patient with herself as she developed new skills, reminding herself it was okay to make mistakes and it takes time to become good.
Aragon also went through waves of dealing with imposter syndrome.
“I had to remember that I bring something unique to the table and so does everyone else. You have space in the creative world no matter what it is you do,” Aragon said.
Other issues women in business face include the struggle of being a minority and a lack of exposure to opportunities.
For Maestas, it was nerve-wracking having a food business when the industry is dominated by men.
Looking back at her upbringing, Maestas shared her experience with intersectionality as a Hispanic woman growing up in a lower-middle-class family. However, she also drew attention to the positive experiences she had, such as attending a science charter high school, which sparked her interest in food, health and business while also providing her with unique opportunities.
Another challenge she faced was overcoming the stereotypical roles and expectations of women in the workplace that she observed as a child. Maestas wanted to do something different and reaching for that goal forced her to work hard and not give up.
“I grew up being a perfectionist,” she said. “Being an entrepreneur has taught me to do the best I can do but don’t get distracted from growth.”
All three business owners strive to spread encouragement. Recognizing how their work makes them feel, they make an effort to connect with others in order to make a difference.
“Dissociatin” is one piece made by Haley that allows the world to view her in a more vulnerable way. “It’s one of my most genuine expressions of sorting and growing through feeling. It’s basically an inside joke with myself from when I realized a period of my life where I dissociated as a form of coping — almost like a diary entry,” she said.
Much of Haley’s work is based on the belief that everyone deserves to be seen, loved and accepted. Hearing how her art has made a difference in the lives of others is what empowers her.
The sense of making a difference in someone else’s life is similar to what Aragon hopes to accomplish with her jewelry. Known Jewelry empowers women by helping to build their confidence and reminding them they are valuable.
Supporting and networking with other women-owned businesses has become more convenient because of platforms like social media, local markets, companies that specialize in women-owned businesses like Utah Women’s Business Center and the traditional method of word-of-mouth.
This evolvement has done wonders when making waves of change for the future of women. “I believe that sharing knowledge is the most important thing to do. Women are incredibly powerful and we want our younger generations to be taught this as well,” Maestas said.