Often times when one thinks of a great business mogul, words like “cutthroat” and “cunning” pop into their heads. But what about an accomplished business person who has made their success by going down a different path?
Ali Matthews, vice president of 224 Apparel and co-founder of The Sorority Secrets, has not emerged as a successful businesswoman by stepping on any toes or stabbing any backs, but by using a different weapon— kindness.
“She cares deeply and has a passion for bettering her surroundings, both in her personal life and in her business life,” said Karen Okonkwo, another co-founder of The Sorority Secrets.
Matthews met Okonkwo at Arizona State University in 2003 during sorority recruitment. After dreaming of being in a sorority for as long as she could remember, Matthews joined the Delta Epsilon chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta.
“I was one of those girls that was dying to be in a sorority when I was in high school,” she said. “I couldn’t wait.”
She served as recruitment chair, a position that is responsible for planning formal recruitment to find new members for the chapter, while she was in Theta. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Matthews openly admits that she struggled with letting others help her with recruitment.
“I don’t like sharing tasks with other people,” she said. “[Recruitment] was such a great experience to learn that I can trust other people to help me. I always put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed.”
After graduating with a degree in communications in 2008, Matthews started a business to design recruitment packages for sororities. Although this venture was short-lived, she embraced it as learning experience.
“You learn so much more from failure than you do from success,” she said. “I would never say that my first business was a failure by any means, but I learned a lot from it. I try to learn every single day, and I challenge myself every single day.”
Sorority involvement led to Matthews’ next business venture when Okwonko approached her and another Theta sister, Sakura Considine, with the idea for The Sorority Secrets in 2012. The blog had its first anniversary in January.
“I think the best part, for me, about being a part of Sorority Secrets is that it is a platform to do good,” Matthews said. “We have an opportunity to help people.”
Although the website is filled with predictable content like beauty tips and baking recipes, The Sorority Secrets also shares an unique variety of content such as “Big Sis Tips” to help with filing taxes or inspirational stories about girls coming together to form a non-profit for a sister with cancer.
Despite her involvement in The Sorority Secrets, Matthews primary business endeavor is her clothing company that she started with her fiancé Jonathan Radow.
Matthews and Radow met during a business meeting for her first business venture. Following an instant connection, the two began to date. Radow owns BMSS, a lifestyle management company that offers private jet, credit card processing and real estate services. Radow wanted to add an apparel division to his company, and when he met Matthews on February 24, 2010 everything fell into place.
“He always wanted to do apparel, he met me, it made sense, so we just decided to go for it,” Matthews said.
Named after the day they met, 224 Apparel specializes in Greek and corporate clothing, ranging from sorority recruitment shirts to company uniforms. After founding this company just over 3 years ago, it has expanded across more than 50 college campuses solely based off of referrals. Although Matthews has a natural sense of style, the success of her company can be attributed to a combination of her hard work and personality.
“Out of all the other people I have worked for, she is so dedicated to her business and to her clients,” said Jacqueline Meyer, an intern for 224 Apparel. “She loves making her clients happy and coming back for more, whether it be more clothing or even someone to talk to.”
Matthews stands apart from other business owners because she not only takes on clients, but she forms genuine relationships with the people she is working with.
“Ali is professional, timely, creative, and also has awesome interpersonal skills,” Okonkwo said. “People gravitate toward her positive energy, because she sincerely cares about you.”
The company is currently moving into a bigger office to allow for more room to grow. The future of 224 Apparel is bright with Matthews’s drive, passion and charisma leading the way.
“You have to love it. You have to have the passion for it, and it’s like you’ll never work a day in your life, but you’ll never work that hard in your life either.”