How I’m breaking the binary and building my own LGBTQ-owned business
Column By NiK Kacy
Living with intersectional and multi-cultural identities has made me keenly aware of how fashion is a personal, but instrumental, way of presenting oneself. For me, it starts with shoes which ground our feet and carries our whole body. I’m a trans, non-binary, queer person of color and immigrant, and for most of my life, shopping for shoes felt like an existential quest (if not, crisis) to find something that feels and fits right.
I’ve developed a sense of resilience after a life-long journey of overcoming obstacles. But, creating my own line of gender-equal, gender-free luxury footwear and accessories was my latest step toward an Empowerful feeling.
It wasn’t easy, though. I questioned my decision to start a small business. As someone who isn’t classically trained in fashion design, I wasn’t confident that I was the right person to lead this charge. I grew weary from waiting for someone else to rethink the way shoes are designed and worn and for people like me to feel included and represented. So finally, I decided to take the leap and built my own brand.
My ethos is simple: What you wear should not be limited to your identity nor your gender. I wanted to break the mold (literally) on how shoe designs were made within the gender binary and to give people like me a way to be themselves.
I encourage others within the LGBTQ+ community to feel empowered to reach new heights, to be visible, and to take up space – starting your own small business is one way to do that.
According to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, LGBT-owned businesses contribute $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy. However, figuring out how to start a small business can be a daunting challenge, especially for someone who’s LGBTQ+.
My advice: Look beyond financial partners that will only support your personal financial endeavors and find someone with a marked history of contributing to our community. I personally work with Wells Fargo, who has a strong track record of LGBTQ+ support through acts of charitable giving, offering LGBTQ+ employee resources and financial education for small business owners. These resources help the empowered become empowerful.
In fact, through the company’s new Empowerful platform, Wells Fargo is celebrating and inspiring people to turn their dreams into reality! To learn more about how Wells Fargo is working to champion and celebrate the achievements of small business owners like me, you can visit www.wellsfargo.com/empowerful.
Outside of determining a strong financial partner, the best thing you can do if you’re interested in starting a business of your own is to feel that you’re empowered every step of the process. As queer people, we face unique challenges when working toward a secure and happy future. Overcoming those obstacles can be a hurdle. But through self-empowerment and the support of a strong community, and partners like Wells Fargo, we can walk our way on the path to success with shoes that fit our needs.
NiK Kacy is the Creator and Executive Producer of Equality Fashion Week, the 1st LGBTQ+- focused Fashion Week in LA, as well as the Founder and President of NiK Kacy Footwear, an LGBT-certified business, and the first gender-equal / gender-free footwear and accessories for genders and identities in all spectrums. As a gender non-conforming, transmasculine individual who identifies as nonbinary, Kacy’s designs are inspired by both their personal identity, style, cultural background, fashion and activism. Their hope is to provide a solution to individuals who have been seeking footwear alternatives that fit not only their feet but also their authentic expression of self. Their mission is to utilize fashion as activism in a way that inspires change so that gender is no longer a force that limits or restricts and EQUALITY becomes the vernacular that ALL individuals speak.