Amber Hammond with Ciela Handmade products

Amber Hammond knows an entrepreneur’s motivation can strike from the most unexpected places. Maybe it’s an idea developed over a cup of coffee with a friend and scribbled on a paper napkin. Perhaps it’s a well-planned digital presentation for a classroom case competition.

For Amber (BSBA ’15), it came from a seed planted following a global experience that uncovered a whole new world through the eyes of a different culture.

On a whim three years ago, a college friend invited Amber to join her on a trip to visit her family in Colombia. To Amber, it sounded like an amazing, much-needed vacation; a few days later, she and her friend were on a plane headed for La Guajira, Colombia.

She spent her first night abroad getting to know children in the community.

“They had no toys, no fancy phones and were wearing tattered clothing, but they were so full of joy and so eager to learn,” says Amber. “It was humbling. I thought about all the times I found reasons to be ungrateful in my abundance of material things.”

Sunrise on Amber’s first morning in La Guajira brought tragic news. Overnight, a young boy in a nearby community had died from malnutrition.

Amber Hammond headshot
Amber Hammond (BSBA '15)

“I was devastated and it shook the very foundation of what I believed to be true — that we live in a fair world, that people who work hard will be rewarded,” says Amber. “But, before my eyes, I saw a group of people who worked from sun up to sun down but still weren’t able to afford something as basic as food. I wanted to make it right. That’s a lofty goal, and not one I can accomplish myself, but I couldn’t walk away from the experience and do nothing.”

Inspired to action, Amber did what she does best. She put her entrepreneurial spirit and her business skills to work creating, Ciela Handmade. Derived from the Spanish word for “sky,” the company embodies Amber’s belief that everyone born under the same sky should have access to the same opportunities.

Ciela Handmade sells fashion accessories made by La Guajira’s Wayúu women — 30 matriarchal clans making up Colombia’s largest indigenous group. The women are artisans, famous for their handmade woven mochilas (bags) which are used to tell stories and preserve cultural traditions that date back more than 2,000 years. Amber was drawn to the Wayúu’s rich culture and tradition and the value and importance they place on their community and family life.

A creator of possibility and potential, Amber’s goal is to help women and children in Colombia escape the cycle of poverty — to prevent starvation from taking another life. Ciela Handmade partners with local organizations in La Guajira to provide education and entrepreneurial training to women and at-risk youth in the country.

"When you help a woman start a business it creates powerful ripple effects that impact the entire community,” Amber says.

‘Playing business’

Amber’s entrepreneurial spirit is one that comes naturally.

As a child, she created one startup after another. Sure, there were lemonade stands, but the memory that stands out the strongest is going door to door selling homemade art to neighbors. With the encouragement of her grandmother, Amber remembers netting about $20 in sales.

She was six.

Amber Hammond with children in the Wayúu village.
Amber Hammond with children from the Wayúu village. 

“That was a lot of money to a six-year-old,” says Amber. “I thought ‘playing business’ was fun!”

Her dad, a business consultant himself, nurtured his daughter’s enthusiasm. He bought her a book about child entrepreneurs, and she’s been hooked ever since.

 Her original college plan was to attend New York University in New York City. But as any entrepreneur knows, successful outcomes depend on the ability to adapt.

After her freshman year, she transferred to Fisher and began her sophomore year with a focus on international business with a minor in fashion.

“With one of the largest student enrollments in the country, it sounds strange to describe Ohio State’s Columbus campus as ‘a small college experience,’ but at NYU, all of New York City is your campus,” says Amber.

She credits her involvement with student organizations with helping her figure out her skills, focus and confidence.

“When you graduate, a lot of people have degrees. But it’s how you differentiate yourself — it’s the volunteerism and the experiential learning at Fisher that enriches your education and sets you above the competition,” says Amber.

“It’s one of the advantages of Fisher.”

Business Leader

Amber believes wholeheartedly that “how firm thy friendship” is the most enduring aspect of being a Fisher graduate.

“Buckeye alumni are everywhere,” she says. “The connections and networking that come from being a Buckeye are unparalleled.”

Amber Hammond in graduation cap and gown by Ohio State sign
Amber Hammond on graduation day.

A Buckeye connection paved the way for her current full-time position at Allied Mineral Products (Allied), a global manufacturer of industrial ceramics. Her boss, also a Fisher alumnus, tapped into Handshake, the Office of Career Management’s career and recruiting tool, to fill the open position.

After five years with the company, Amber is a business intelligence coordinator for Allied. The role didn’t exist until 18 months ago when she created it after recognizing an opportunity to improve the company’s use of data analytics.

“With 12 plants across the globe, everything was specialized and localized. We had no unity — no centralized way to make sense of our own data,” says Amber. “I love data. I see it as a form of problem-solving. Whereas before we might have had to rely on a gut feeling or anecdotal experience, data gives us something concrete. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of decisions and makes them more predictable.”

Having created her unique role at Allied, Amber is now tasked with building and leading an entire department around data intelligence and analysis.

“It’s been really fun to build this area — it’s like being an ‘internal entrepreneur,’” she says.

Having carved out roles as an employee who recognizes the value of thinking outside the box, as well as one who successfully launched a passion project that matched her skills, Amber says the crossover between the two has improved her understanding of successful and empowering leadership.

“Establishing Ciela while working full-time has helped me build a better business. There’s not enough time to do everything in my business by myself, so I’ve had to learn how to delegate, to build efficiencies and implement processes early on,” says Amber.

“It’s not perfect, but it has definitely helped me be a better leader.”

Photos courtesy of Amber Hammond

Amber Hammond works with a woman weaving
Amber Hammond, right, in the Wayúu village during a recent visit to La Guajira, Colombia.


When you help a woman start a business, it creates powerful ripple effects that impact the entire community. 

Amber Hammond (BSBA '15)Founder, Ciela Handmade