This week we’re featuring the town of New Providence, Iowa and sharing some of the stories of rural revival happening here! Today’s guest blog post is from Ali Nelson, a lifestyle photographer and leatherist based out of rural New Providence, Iowa. Ali’s giving us a glimpse into her life as a farm wife, creative, and small town entrepreneur. Welcome, Ali!
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Hey there! I'm Ali Nelson. I'm a farm wife, momma, leather maker, and obsessed photo-taker. My husband, Alex, is a sixth generation farmer right here in New Providence, Iowa. We have one son, McCoy, and another boy on the way in March!
I grew up in Eldora and Alex and I met in middle school. We started dating in college and he made it pretty clear at that point he would never be living anywhere but New Providence. After a few years in Ames, with him attending Iowa State University and me doing online classes, we settled back down in Hardin County and he was right back on the farm in New Providence.
It's no secret I love to stay busy. I finished my master's degree in nursing education, and still work as a nurse three days a week. However, I needed something to fill a creative void in my life. I grew up with an artist for a dad. He would come home from his 9-5 and paint all night, get up and go to work again the next day. I needed that. I needed a side hustle. So here I am, working three days in the clinic, making custom leather, and running a photography business.
Here's how it started. My husband and I have always been real big fans of custom leather work. Custom anything actually! We love small businesses and since we started dating, we've always tried to find each other unique custom gifts to give one another for special occasions. Seriously, isn't it fun to give a gift with a story behind it?! I mean, I love me some TJ Maxx, but I'm gonna go for unique and handmade any day.
In 2016 I decided to make Alex a leather belt. Mostly because I was sick of him complaining about the "expensive" leather belts breaking down and wearing poorly. So I did it. Actually, we did it (I couldn't do it without him). We made the belt and launched our custom leather business. Last year we re-branded and it transformed into Dos Rios Leather Co. This was a big move! It opened all kinds of doors for us online and in small boutiques around the area.
I love creating custom pieces for people. We've done everything from men's shave kits, laptop cases, interior work on semi's, of course jewelry, and more. I also love free styling - just creating for me! I've often found myself frustrated with shopping because I can't find what I've dreamed up in my head in the store. Problem solved - I make it and thankfully people dig my style and wanna wear it too!
I would say my style is a little western, vintage, and boho. However, it’s always evolving and changing. I try not to be too trendy and make classic pieces, but work in a little of what's hot and out there at the time, too. I'm so excited for the future of Dos Rios! Of course, I want it to grow and continue to be a successful brand. But, I also want to keep it about quality - small batches, custom work, and getting to know our customers. The biggest compliment to me is a returning customer. Let me tell you I have the best!
This fall we built a house about five miles south of town. We love our town and are so proud to live and farm here. I listen to my high school friends talk about their big city lives and thank God for our small town. We are so lucky to be included in a group of entrepreneurs who are working to sustain the small town way of life.
Thanks for following along, leather lovers! Merry Christmas!