Young & Driven

From SRQ Magazine, by Abby Weingarten

ALEAH COLÓN- ALFONSO

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

She built two companies, all before graduation. Colón-Alfonso, an immunocompromised student who has always had entrepreneurial ambitions, is designing health-focused products to help people like her thrive. Three years into her studies at New College studying biological psychology and neuroscience, she has already created two companies: Aleah Wares (a line of patient-friendly sweaters)  with added openings to make it easier to put on or take off during long IV treatments and Stay Safely Away (wearable merchandise—from T-shirts to masks—that allows customers with immune issues to “stay distantly social” during the COVID-19 pandemic). Colón-Alfonso began working on the latter company (staysafelyaway.com) while in quarantine in the spring of 2020.

“I had been noticing the lack of mask wearing and social distancing in Sarasota, and I just wanted to wear a sign around my neck that said, ‘Please, I don’t want to be on a ventilator’ to try to encourage people to have better behaviors,” she  says. “Clothing became my wearable sign.” Colón-Alfonso has small fiber neuropathy, Lyme disease and accompanying secondary illnesses. She received these diagnoses before the age of 18 and was in a wheelchair for much of her senior year of high school. Her illnesses may be inconvenient, but she doesn’t view them as hindrances; Stay Safely Away speaks to that way of thinking. Colón-Alfonso’s website officially launched on July 20 and she has since shipped orders across the globe. Her most popular item is a face mask that asserts “Science Is Real.”  The growth of this company is so much more than I had expected. I made a map for myself to track where the orders were coming from and I quickly outgrew it,” Colón-Alfonso says. “I’m running the company by myself from my dorm, from the beach, anywhere I can. It’s a one-woman show. I already have people telling me that what I’m doing has a possibility of making a real difference. It’s so surreal and exciting.”