What scares and inspires me about starting an outdoor brand.
When it comes to starting an outdoor brand, I must confess that initially, it used to really scare me when I would see the puzzled look on people's faces when I would tell them about Conscious Gear. I'd rattled off my imperfect pitch about designing outerwear and outdoor gear for bigger-bodied folks but then that thing would happen and it used to mess me up. It was unsettling to realize that people really couldn't believe that I could be the next leader of a global outdoor gear and outerwear company. It would really piss me off when those looks of surprise quickly transformed into subtle nods of disbelief coupled with eyes slightly squinched with puzzlement. I suspect some of those individuals may have thought they were doing me some favor but they weren't.
Luckily I had attended the church of self-help which immediately allowed me to understand that those looks weren't my fault and had absolutely nothing to do with me. Haunting yet reassuring were the voices of Iyanla Vanzant, Marianne Williamson, Audre Lorde, Depak Chopra, Michael Beckwith, Lisa Nichols, TD Jakes, Elizabeth Gilbert, and a whole slew of other spiritual and self-help leaders. And before I could sink into the depths of despair, I began to really understand the truth of the matter. When it comes to images presented by the outdoor industry, rarely have they included images that look like me. Images of tall, bigger-bodied black and queer women were virtually nonexistent. So for me to come along and express my desire to be the next #Patagonia or #REI, things got lost in translation. In their (and my own) mind, I was the last person they would expect to be at the helm of an outdoor company.
The angst within these encounters created a tinge bit of doubt and I started to wonder if I would ever be taken seriously. Would I take my own self seriously enough to stick it out when the going got tough? Who was I to think I could do something like this given the limitations in my background? These were the kinds of questions that meant I was being visited by my old demons like imposter syndrome laced with unresolved issues with race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
The fear was clearly showing up as a huge crack in my armor and I channeled that energy in the best way I knew how. I simply allowed fear to take up space in my mind, body, and soul, knowing that it was only temporary. And after years and thousands of dollars of therapy, I've become skilled in nurturing the little girl in me. She's scared and my job is to validate the feeling and provide comfort through loving and supportive self-talk that leads me back to the truth.
Conscious Gear chose me and it's my calling. So when I think about the future, I've surrendered outcomes to an infinite intelligence who has my back and will co-create with me.
"Are you sure there are enough bigger-bodied people who want to be outdoors or are endurance athletes?" #WTF Did someone really say this to me? Yes, they did.
Luckily I'm not a super confrontational person and loyal to being non-violent but something started to rumble inside of me and I thought for way too long about putting up my dukes (cuz those were fighting words) but I remained poised. I was really shaken to the core and wondered for a long while, was this what most people thought? Or would it be the unconscious bias toward bigger-bodied people that would prevent me from creating a successful business? But honestly, the worst part was when I started to question my black girl magic which I have never, ever, ever-in-life done. If anything would be monumental to my success, it would be the unimaginable power of #BGM. #facts
Let's talk about the elephant in the room be honest, there are lots of things that black people are known for doing, and being out in some woods or climbing some mountains or even hugging on some trees, these things never top the list. Even so, I'm mostly inspired by the countless and often nameless black people that are avid outdoor enthusiasts and the many African Americans who have accomplished great things in the outdoors. You can find some stories at Joy Trip Project or connect with national organizations like Outdoor Afro for more information.
Yes, I'm your granola crunchy, nappy-headed outdoor nerd who may or may not jump out of a plane but in a heartbeat, I would more than love to reach the tip of the north pole or summit #Mount Everest. On the other hand, can I bring my full authentic self to this entrepreneurial venture and still make some coins? I mean what happens when a fat black queer woman decides to disrupt the outdoor industry with her bigger body shenanigans?
The truth is this, on those occasional bad days when my marketing plans seem more like anti-marketing plans or when manufacturing options make every bone in my environmentally conscious body scream, all I want to do is give up and give in. The struggle is deep, the struggle is real and I ask myself, why on God's green earth am I doing this to myself? Then that subtle yet loving voice reminds me that this is a calling and that through it all, a path is being laid for Conscious Gear.
It's scary #AF to start a business in the midst of a pandemic and even more terrifying as a black bigger-bodied queer woman to make her foray into an industry whereupon the surface, I am the antithesis. All I can say is God's got jokes and the humor is not lost on me.
What keeps me going are all the people, bigger-bodied, #queer, #BIPOC, #differently-abled and regular folk who love or want to be more #outdoorsy, then I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all is in divine order and I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.