Categories
Open Series

Open: CandleTherapy

This week, we spoke with Rachel Nelson, founder of CandleTherapy for our Open series; highlighting LGBT+ businesses and founders. 

Want to feature your LGBT+ business or know of one you think should be featured? Email us at businesses@joindaylight.com

Tell us a little about your business? What steps led you to where you are now?

I make 100% plant-based clean candles in San Francisco. CandleTherapy candles are made with zero toxins and zero synthetic fragrances, and instead are scented with pure, organic essential oils – the aromatherapy has healing benefits for mind, body, and spirit.

I’ve had chronic illness for 11 years, and was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease two years ago. Through seeing various doctors and alternative healers, I learned about clean living and wellness early on, as well as the healing benefits of essential oils. I actually started CandleTherapy during quarantine while I was finishing up a 5 month long at-home IV antibiotic treatment.
The average candle comes with many harsh toxins, from the wax, to the synthetic fragrances used, and even the wick! I used candles a lot during meditation or to just set a zen atmosphere in my home, but it was hard to find candles where I could trust the ingredients. Having chronic illness, I try to limit the amount of toxins that are in my home, plus the synthetic fragrances used in standard candles were just too overwhelming. So I started making candles for myself, friends, and family, and the business grew from there!

I truly have chronic illness to thank for this small business. That is my silver lining. Before going on medical leave two years ago, I was in a high-stress corporate banking job at a big bank. My priority was work, and health came second, and the culture at my job rewarded that. However, it was making me sicker and sicker. My body checked out before I was able to mentally. I finally decided I had to go on medical leave to heal, and medical leave ended up being my greatest gift. I was able to step out of the toxic environment I was in, and work on myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I started meditating regularly and working with a life-coach, which opened me up to healing past traumas, and the mind-body connection. The creativity I had been pushing to the side all these years finally surfaced during quarantine when I started feeling a little bit better towards the end of my IV treatment, and decided to try making a clean candle for my home. I now have a creative outlet, an at-home job that makes me happy, and I get to bring a little piece of Zen into peoples homes.

Is community important to you? How has the LGBT+ community impacted your business? 

Community is extremely important to me. Without my community, I wouldn’t have started this business. I originally was just gifting quarantine candles to friends and family to lift their spirits during the COVID shutdown. My community told me to start selling the candles, and my community showed up once I did!

The LGBTQ+ community has showed up in particular. I’ve made so many friends during this short time I’ve been in business in the community because queer people want to support queer people. For instance, my first retail location is a lesbian owned business. When I approached them to sell my candles in their store, I didn’t know what I was doing! They helped me and guided me through the process and I am now selling candles at Crystal Way in San Francisco.

Do you feel that being an LGBT+ founder has had an impact on your journey? What challenges and benefits have you experienced?

I definitely think being an LGBTQ+ founder has impacted my journey. As we all know, it’s a double-edged sword. Now more than ever, people who care about diversity want to support small, diverse businesses – whether its womxn, BIPOC, queer/trans, disability owned, etc. That has helped a lot because not only am I a queer-owned business, but I am also a woman-owned and disability-owned business. With a more conscious culture, people like to know the people they are supporting and their stories. And those people who care, and value diversity, will go out of their way to support you and lift you up, and help spread the word. Just like how Daylight is now!

At the same time, there are still people out there that not only don’t value that, but are ignorant and hateful. I’ve noticed I lose followers when I post politically about social justice issues, especially those that impact the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t mind because I don’t want those people in my network anyway – that’s not a lost sale to me, it actually saves me some hard work and time that I wouldn’t want to spend on someone who’s beliefs don’t align with my existence. I’m only just beginning to grow my instagram following, and I still have received hateful comments on pictures of me and my fiancée kissing, for instance. I know LGBTQ+ brands and influencers with even more of a following receive much worse. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory, but I don’t let it bother me – I just report the comment, block the person, and move on. Overall, the benefits of being an LGBTQ+ founder far outweigh the challenges, because this community is LOUD and PROUD and the future is just getting browner, gayer, and more gender fluid so you better get on board!

What are you excited about for the future?

Wow, I’m so glad I’m answering this question after the election. I was worried there for a sec (aka 4 years). I am so hopeful now for our future – but we still have a lot of work to do. On a big scale… I am excited for criminal justice reform, I am excited for trans rights, I am excited for gay rights, I am excited to combat climate change, I am excited for love over hate. I’m excited for diversity in the highest offices of the land.

I’m excited to marry my fiancée in July of next year. We were supposed to get married this year, but COVID had other plans…

I’m excited to keep growing my business and meeting amazing people along the way. If you would have told me two years ago that I would be running a small batch candle business today… I would have laughed! So really I’m excited to keep surprising myself with what comes next. I’m excited to look back on this, two years from now.

Categories
Open Series

Open: Alder New York

This week, we spoke with David J. Krause, co-founder of Alder New York for our Open series; highlighting LGBT+ businesses and founders. 

Want to feature your LGBT+ business or know of one you think should be featured? Email us at businesses@joindaylight.com

Tell us a little about your business? What steps led you to where you are now?

Alder New York is a queer and woman-own independent skincare brand that makes products designed to work for all skin types, no matter your age, gender, or ethnicity. Our collection of skincare essentials combines derm-approved actives with plant-powered ingredients to leave skin looking healthy and clear.

My business partner, Nina Zilka, and I started Alder New York because we couldn’t find a genderless line of skincare products that featured clean and vegan ingredients as well as appealed to our minimalist, genderless design sensibilities.

Is community important to you? How has the LGBT+ community impacted your business? 

Community is everything. While Alder New York was founded with a personal need in mind, it has been our customers and fans that really keep us going. Hearing that our products make someone feel great and feel seen is what drives us. I credit Alder New York’s success to the LGBTQ+ community and our allies. We designed a line of products with gender inclusivity in mind and have opted out of conventional gendered marketing which has really appealed to the community.

Do you feel that being an LGBT+ founder has had an impact on your journey? What challenges and benefits have you experienced?

As a queer man it can definitely be challenging in the skincare/ beauty space. So much of our industry is seen through a binary lens of male and female. Alder New York is constantly fighting to reshape this idea. It can be really challenging when many retailers still see products as for  men or for women.

What are you excited about for the future?

I’m excited for retailers and the industry as a whole to start questioning why we have men’s and women’s sections in stores. It’s a conversation we’re having often with national chain stores to small boutiques and it feels like change is coming.

I’m also really excited for Alder New York to break out into new categories-  to bring our clean, vegan, and inclusive ethos to all parts of your life.

Categories
Open Series

Open: We Are Fluide

We Are Fluide is a mission-driven beauty brand that creates vegan, cruelty-free and paraben-free cosmetics designed for all skin shades and gender expressions. We spoke with founder Laura Kraber about the importance of creating a beauty brand for LGBT+ people.

Want to feature your LGBT+ business or know of one you think should be featured? Email us at businesses@joindaylight.com

We believe that makeup is joyful and fun — as well as powerful and transformative — and nobody should be left out.

Through providing a platform and amplifying the voices of queer and gender expansive identities and through showcasing queer beauty, we hope to inspire others to create their identities on their own terms, opening up possibilities for everyone’s self-expression.

The company came together around the idea that makeup can be a tool of transformation and a powerful means of self-actualization, especially for gender expansive teens and people in the LGBTQ community. Although mainstream media may primarily portray people who fit a very narrow definition of beauty, promoting impossible ideals, young people today are making the choice to be themselves—to accept their bodies and embrace their uniqueness. We want to honor and celebrate that ethos of self-acceptance, experimentation, and freedom. We Are Fluide represents an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the shift in our culture regarding gender expression, and to create products, content, and an online community that validates and supports the individuals leading this important movement.

To locate makeup outside of this paradigm of cis-female beauty is liberating and it opens up the potential for makeup to be a creative, empowering means of self-expression for all. Representing queer beauty and self-expression opens up possibilities for all—in how we look, who we are, and who we want to be. For us, the future of beauty is gender expansive–where gender is understood as unique for everyone, rejecting a binary with “masculine” on one side and “feminine” on the other and instead, allowing for a multitude of experiences and expressions of gender. I think beauty will continue to be less prescriptive and more individualistic, and overall more enjoyable and playful.

We champion queer beauty and support our community by bringing underrepresented people to the table in every capacity for our brand—as art directors, photographers, consultants, stylists, and models. We seek to ensure that for every underrepresented person we have in front of the camera, we have as many or more behind the scenes. We donate product on an ongoing basis to fundraisers and other community events. We’ve partnered with Callen-Lorde, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, NYC Dyke March, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Stonewall Youth, and True Colors, just to name a few.

Categories
Open Series

Open: Kirrin Finch

Kirrin Finch is a conscientious clothing company, founded by Brooklyn-based couple Laura Moffat and Kelly Sanders Moffat, that meets the growing demand for gender-defying fashion by creating menswear-inspired apparel designed to fit a range of female and non-binary bodies. We spoke to co-founder Laura about their journey.

Want to feature your LGBT+ business or know of one you think should be featured? Email us at businesses@joindaylight.com

Tell us a little about your business? What steps led you to where you are now?

I founded Kirrin Finch in 2015 with my wife Kelly because we were frustrated at being unable to find clothing for our wedding that matched our design, fit and style preferences. We had always envied men’s clothing, but it wasn’t designed to fit our bodies. And womenswear always felt too feminine. So the shopping experience was always demotivating and left us feeling like we didn’t fit in somehow.  Despite the fact we didn’t have any experience in fashion, we felt compelled to start the business because we knew there was a huge unmet need for clothing that fell outside the traditional binary options of womenswear and menswear. 

We launched the brand with a button-up shirt and over the last 5 years have built out our collection to include a whole range of menswear-inspired clothing and accessories. Our motto has always been to perfect one product at a time and make sure it has the best design and fit possible before moving on to add new products. We were very proud to launch our first suit at the beginning of 2020 since this was the impetus for starting the brand in the first place. And now almost a year later, we have seen countless photos and received many e-mails from customers who have worn our suits to their wedding.  They have told us how happy and confident they felt to be wearing something that made them feel truly authentic. That feels very special and validating. 

Is community important to you? How has the LGBT+ community impacted your business? 

100%. We didn’t start the brand because we wanted to just be another clothing company making shirts and pants. We started the brand because we wanted to solve a problem for all the other people (like us) who felt let down by fashion, and were not able to truly be themselves because no-one had taken the time to provide a product or brand just for them. We are part of the LGBT+ community and we serve the LGBT+ community. We want their voices to be heard and their fashion choices to be seen and embraced. Lesbians always get stereotyped as being unfashionable, but that is not true. It is just that no-one has given us the opportunity to be truly confident in our own skin.

When we first shopped around our business plan, advisors told us not to target the queer community. They said it is too small. You need to go bigger. And definitely don’t use the words, queer or LGBT+ because you’ll just alienate other people who may want to buy from you. But we really wanted to serve our community and help make them feel good about themselves, so we didn’t listen to our advisors. We have been in business for 5 years, seen lots of our similar businesses start and fail and we’ve stayed true to the mission and managed to grow year over year to the point where we have healthy margins and profits. 

Do you feel that being an LGBT+ founder has had an impact on your journey? What challenges and benefits have you experienced?

I live in Brooklyn, NY, so I am just one among many of LGBT+ folks. It is a great community to be part of. I can easily reach out to other LGBT+ founders and get advice or tap into other LGBT+ business networks, so there is an advantage to being part of such a connected group. We are all looking out for each other and want to help in any way we can. But in many ways I am shielded from the realities of being out and proud in places where being queer or gay is not accepted. We hear stories from customers in rural parts of the country where you can be fired for showing your true identity.

What are you excited about for the future?

I am excited for our customers and people in our community to be embraced and accepted for who they are no matter how they identify or express themselves.

And for the pandemic to be over! 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, including us. We are ready for people (including us) to get back to wearing clothing to the office, events, and special occasions.

Categories
Open Series

Open: Industry 27

Industry 27 is a full service production company created by Gabrielle Meit and Shanna Sciara, a lesbian couple from Brooklyn, New York with a passion for anything visual. They specialize in photography, videography, and graphic design. They also travel the world together and document their adventures on 27 Travels. Their work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Visit Gay USA and more. We spoke with them about the importance of supporting LGBT+ businesses.

Want to feature your LGBT+ business or know of one you think should be featured? Email us at businesses@joindaylight.com

Supporting LGBT+ businesses is so important because when you support queer businesses, you are showing support for the whole community!

As lesbian business owners and customers ourselves, we love supporting businesses in our community because we know that those businesses support us.

LGBT+ people are still not welcome everywhere, and we want to make sure that LGBT+ businesses, which tend to be more inclusive, are ones that succeed.

Categories
Open Series

Open: Sharpe Suiting

Sharpe Suiting is a premiere suiting label in Hollywood, Los Angeles. They design and make body-appropriate dresswear for people who identify as butch, trans, genderqueer, androgynous, and anything else masculine-of-center. We spoke with Founder Leon Elias Wu about the journey of building this business, and funding LGBT+ businesses as a way of creating social change.

Want to feature your LGBT+ business or know of one you think should be featured? Email us at businesses@joindaylight.com

Supporting LGTBQ businesses is not just an investment in that particular business; it’s an investment in you and your community. 

It’s been a long and prosperous road together, Sharpe Suiting along with our loyal clients. We’ve been in business for almost a decade now; we could not have done it without the support of our community. When I started this company 7-8 years ago, I had a vision of putting people who identified similarly to me, you and all queer identities in the mainstream zeitgeist or public eye. Back then, I didn’t see a secure path or light at the end of the tunnel, especially since so many queer fashion pioneers in the past decade at that time had tried to no avail. Building a fashion brand alone in itself is challenging — how can one build a queer fashion brand or industry where none had previously and viably existed? Looking back, 95% of our peers or competitors went out of business or filed for bankruptcy within the first 5 years. Against all odds, Sharpe Suiting, a public benefit which is queer and POC-owned, has weathered the storm. We feel immensely grateful and lucky to have played a big part in history supporting marriage equality and LGBTQ / trans visibility into becoming a reality. 

Business and markets need capital to grow, either from investors or external markets or revenue capital. Investing in queer businesses infuses capital into queer fashion, this industry which we have created altogether. The business or economic cycle not only grows the business but it also allows us to put money back into empowering the community socially and financially. Over the years, we’ve put every penny back into our community, donating money or product to LGBTQ youth organizations, educational institutions and homeless shelters. We’ve put public figures, influencers and LGBTQ celebrities onto the runway and supported the careers and opportunities for these rising stars. In addition, we’ve been able to create dozens of new employment opportunities and business partnerships that continue to grow in their endeavors as well. 

Together we get to build a ‘change engine’ or locomotive that keeps filtering capital into all the right places while at the same time bringing justice and opportunity to our clients, constituents and community. 

Photo credit: Kelly Balch