Maryland women’s basketball forward Alaysia Styles hits the ground running as soon as her morning alarm goes off.
She rolls out of bed and starts her day by transferring designs onto anywhere from four to five shirts for her newly launched clothing company. Once Styles feels good about those, she’ll move onto reading for homework. Then, when that’s done, it’s back to shirt designing.
After that, Styles switches gears from a small business owner to a college athlete. She finishes classwork and gets to practice. Between spending time with teammates and eating meals, Styles will squeeze in a phone call to her mother, Ra Russell, and then at 11 p.m., she goes to sleep to wake up early and start the cycle over again.
“Nobody told me how hard [running a business] was,” Styles told Testudo Times with a laugh. “If playing basketball and going to school at the same time didn’t keep me busy enough, [this] definitely keeps me busy, and it makes me happy and I am glad I am able to do it.”
The typical day for Styles is far from what a college student’s average day may look like. But, this California native is far from typical. Since she founded, MyOWN, a clothing brand that donates a portion of its proceeds to single-parent households, Styles has been balancing the life of being a Division I athlete, business owner, friend, teammate, daughter and student.
On June 18, 2013, the Miami Heat were down three points against the San Antonio Spurs with 19 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. As the seconds ticked down, LeBron James caught a pass outside the arc but couldn’t sink the three. Chris Bosh jumped over the defenders to pull in the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Ray Allen on the right side of the arc.
Allen jumped, put the ball in the air and stumbled backward as his shot sank perfectly through the net to tie the game at 95 with 5.2 seconds to go. As the crowd went wild in Miami, Styles was doing the same on the opposite side of the country in southern California.
She was living in a Motel 6 at the time with her older brother and mother. When Allen’s shot sent the game into overtime, Styles’ mother, Russell, was sleeping but her two kids were doing anything but that.
They were sprinting around in circles, running outside screaming with excitement, and when Russell woke up from their cheers she called them back inside where they all started jumping around and celebrating together.
“I was 13 so I was like, wow, like we don’t have anything, but we have each other,” Styles said. “And that’s really all I’ve ever needed.”
Styles grew up in San Diego. The same year Allen hit the shot to send the game into overtime, her family was living in Section 8 housing. She was in eighth grade at the time.
After being evicted when Russell was pregnant with Styles’ brother, Bryson, the family moved around from hotel to hotel. Despite being pregnant and not having a stable living situation, Russell made sure her children were always getting what they needed.
When it was time for Styles to start high school, Russell made sure to send Styles to the school she felt most comfortable in, even if it meant driving to the other side of San Diego. But, the family didn’t have enough money for gas to commute multiple times a day. While on maternity leave, Russell would wait across the street in a Starbucks parking lot with Bryson from 8 a.m. until school was out of session or practice ended during the season.
“This was a time where I didn’t get anything, not that I wanted anything. I didn’t really need anything but I had my mom, my brother that’s all I really needed,” Styles said. “But I realized that in that time all I could do, all I was capable of doing was giving to other people because that’s all I could have done.”
And that is how Styles discovered her purpose, which ultimately led to the creation of MyOWN— a clothing brand that allows her to give back to single-parent households in need.
In November 2020, Styles was sitting at her desk brainstorming how to make positive change regarding racial and social injustice issues. With her childhood experiences in mind, she came up with the idea to start MyOWN.
“I created it to basically empower people and let them know that they can do anything on their own, and that goes for anything in the world,” Styles said. “It goes for clearly raising children by yourself, it goes for conquering anything by yourself. You can literally do anything on your own.”
At the beginning of January when Styles moved to College Park, Maryland, she got to work. Styles does it all herself when it comes to MyOWN. She founded the business, makes the designs, creates all the clothing, ships it out and runs the social media account.
Before the website launched, the grad transfer used a single piece of notepad paper to write out ideas for font colors, sizes and fabric colors. The first design she came up with was “I define myself, no need to explain.” To Styles, this means everyone creates their path and no one should allow anyone to tell them what to do, what is right and wrong for them.
Styles then reached out to her friend, a tattoo artist, to help create a logo. Styles’ vision was to have the text “MyOWN” on top of the Earth. From there the ideas continued to flow.
“When she came up with the clothing line [I was] like, that is crazy...but it works,” Russell told Testudo Times. “...did not see this coming at all. I thought [she would give back] from a professional perspective.”
Even though she is interested in streetwear fashion, Styles never pictured herself creating a clothing brand and running her own business either. She was searching for a way to help and empower others directly and she felt this was the best way to accomplish that.
Since the website opened on March 1, Styles has been flooded with orders. Just a week after the launch, she posted on the company’s Instagram page explaining how she would get to all the orders as soon as possible and that although some may be shipped later due to high demand, she was appreciative of all the support.
Now, as the Terps prepare for the NCAA Tournament, Styles has paused clothing production while in San Antonio.
Since the launch of MyOWN at the beginning of March, Styles’ teammates have shown their support for Styles’ business by wearing the clothing and promoting the brand on their personal social media accounts.
great purpose, great person. y’all check out my teammates new clothing line! prouda u bird ✨ https://t.co/JYfNYnFg9w— Zoe Young (@Zoe_Young03) March 1, 2021
“[Alaysia] is a great person off the court. I kind of feel like she’s like me— very soft-spoken, she doesn’t talk much but she has been a great addition to the team,” sophomore guard Ashley Owusu said. “Not only on the court, but off the court.”
As Styles continues to gel with the team off the court, she has made some key contributions off the bench to help Maryland secure a No. 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The grad transfer averages 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, also with 19 blocks and two steals in the 275 minutes she has seen on the court across 18 games this season.
Against Northwestern in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Styles had a breakout game. She led the team in scoring with 15 points and shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the field.
“It’s a different type of basketball [at Maryland] and everyone is absolutely elite and everyone cares as much as I do about the sport, and that goes from the coaching staff to the support staff,” Styles said. “It’s easy to be around people who want the same goals.”
A perfect 7-7 from the floor, 15 points, 3 steals...— Maryland Women’s Basketball (@TerpsWBB) March 12, 2021
Bird BROUGHT IT today #FearTheTurtle x @alaysia____ pic.twitter.com/f4HxqdqXb7
Knowing the natural athletic ability Styles has, Russell was very passionate about her daughter giving back. Since she began playing basketball at 10 years old, Russell knew Styles was talented and understood at an early age that her skills on the court would be able to take her places.
Styles was given the opportunity to attend La Jolla Country Day, Cal Berkeley and now the University of Maryland.
“I’ve always told her I said, ‘look, there’s one thing, that if anything happens to me before you get to this point, there’s one thing you must do and that is give back,’” Russell said. “Because you would not be where you are if it wasn’t for people, you know, the blessings that you’ve had.”
Styles said she tries to make others happy and feel good whenever she can, and that means giving to others on any scale she can. The California native just wants others to feel loved, so if that means simply holding the door open for someone then that is what she’ll do.
Styles has brought that good energy to Maryland and it’s evident to head coach Brenda Frese that she brings the right attitude to the team, in addition to her skillset.
“She’s one of the nicest, very grateful and very selfless,” Frese said. “To have an addition, it’s risky in the middle of your season in December, January, but I can’t say enough about the team welcoming her in and then her just being a tremendous addition to our culture of the selflessness for one another.”
When Styles was making her initial decision out of high school, Frese and the rest of the staff made a hard push for the 6-foot-3 forward. However, with Maryland and Cal in Styles’ top two, she decided staying close to home was the best decision for her.
When searching for a place to finish out her college career after four years at Cal, Styles said all it took was one Zoom call to realize that Maryland was the best place for her to do that.
“To have someone as phenomenal as Coach Frese to offer her out of high school and still have that same interest in her four years later,” Russell said. “Most coaches will usually be like ‘no you’re done, you missed the train the first time around.’ But that is not a coincidence. Those are things that are supposed to happen in life.”
Now, as the Terps get ready to face Mount St. Mary’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Russell and Bryson are eager to get to San Antonio to watch Styles play in-person for the first time in a Maryland jersey.
A few days after watching his older sister and the Terps win sole possession of the Big Ten regular-season title on TV, Bryson broke down and cried to his mother that he just wanted to see Styles.
“Baby, we’re going to be going to San Antonio for March Madness,” Russell explained.
“But mommy, it’s COVID, I can’t give sissy a hug,” Bryson responded.
She tried to give him some reassurance that everything would be fine, but Russell knows that despite the 14-and-a-half-year age difference between her two youngest children, they are nearly inseparable.
“I’ve never went to a basketball game where I couldn’t give sissy a hug,” the 7-year-old said.
But, as she reminded him, this isn’t a normal basketball season. As Bryson gets ready to see his sister play as a Terp for the first time, she is in San Antonio quarantining with the rest of her team as they get ready to embark on the NCAA Tournament, the next step in their journey after winning both the Big Ten regular-season title and tournament.
Watching her mother take care of her and her older brother for about 15 years, and now all three children for the last seven, has given Styles a tremendous understanding and respect for what it is like being a single parent.
“My mom is absolutely unreal. I think she is the greatest person on the planet,” Styles said. “She taught that giving was all that really mattered and that goes for not even monetary reasons.”
Because of this, Styles is not set on helping just a few families, rather her goal is to help every single-parent household that reaches out for assistance. On the brand website, there is a section, “How to Enter,” that families can use to submit their stories.
When it comes to looking into the future, Styles is not sure where this business will take her. However the one thing Styles does know is that for as long as she is able to help people through selling her clothing, she will continue to do it.
“She’s my hero. She really is and I tell her that all the time… I’m so proud of her,” Russell said. “I’m so proud of everything she’s accomplished, and I’m so excited to see what else is coming.”