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The Hustle

Name: Maria Aller (ShapeShifter Fish and Friends)

Posted By Keara McGraw

ShapeShifter Fish and Friends, Maria Aller explains, is an active lifestyle clothing brand created to inspire friendship, support diversity and motivate folks to get outside and get moving. "ShapeShifter Fish and Friends manifested from our love of being outdoors, fishing, and many talks about our own childhoods and how life is so different now for kids," she writes on the company website. "Our mission is to create something that promotes less screen time, more play time, reiterates how important being outside and getting Vitamin D is (but safely), and to embrace diversity through friendship."

Years in Tampa Bay

10 (20 in Florida)

Hustle (job)

Cofounder, Creative Engineer, Shape Shifter

What do you do?  

Everything! Literally. When you start a business your hands are on every aspect of your company. It has been an exceptional learning experience.

Why do you do it?

Friendship is the foundation of a healthy childhood, successful partnerships and thriving communities. No matter what shape, color, or size, we all desire the same thing, and that is to be a part of something. To not be alone. To have fun, to be curious, to be creative, and to connect with one another!

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

Covid gave me a gentle nudge away from 15+ years in corporate advertising, so I decided to start my own creative shop, and ShapeShifter Fish and Friends evolved from a design concept for another project. The trout was the first design, and I just started shifting shapes to create new animals. Now I have over 35 designs, with nine available for purchase.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

Some people think our shirts are just for kids, but we just focused on school-age kids for launch. They are the most bullied age group, and we really want to help spread the message that friends come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. However, this is something WE ALL can take value from, no matter our age. We now offer adult sizes, so our fish and friends’ designs can be sported by everyone. Plus, we chose UPF50+ fabric so you can wear them outside, where many friendships are established and nurtured!

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

Getting visibility in the community. Thankfully there are a few in-person markets we can attend, but we want our friends to see and feel our shirts in person! Our goal is to partner with other local businesses to help each other grow our audiences/customers through each other’s followers and customers.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

Relationship capital is like a good credit score! When you build it, you can do anything.

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