- Jun 22, 2020
As 2020 dawned, Jackie Michie, HBA ’15, made a New Year’s resolution.
“I wanted to do something that would allow me to explore my creative side, and be proud of who I am,” she said,
Little did she know that 2020 would shape up to be a year for the history books – for all the wrong reasons.
As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, billions of people were placed in lockdown as the global economy ground to a halt.
With no job market to speak of, Michie figured this was as good a time as any to start exploring her entrepreneurial inklings, and she launched Lesbihonestly.com – an online store specializing in apparel for queer women.
As a member of the queer community, it was the perfect culmination of her resolution, providing an avenue both to express her creativity and embrace her identity.
The store carries fashionable wear, as well as apparel that injects humour into common queer stereotypes, carefully worded to celebrate the quirks within the LGBTQ+ community.
Lesbihonestly isn’t the first online clothing store targeting queer women, but Michie notes that many of the options out there are on two ends of the price and quality spectrum.
At one end, there are online stores with expensive high-quality apparel, and at the other end, there’s an annual explosion of cheap, festive attire that pops up during PRIDE Month.
Michie was eager to provide customers with a middle option. With Lesbihonestly, she sourced a collection to connect with the community.
But it’s not merely about making a fashion statement. The online experience also gives queer women a degree of safety and comfort that the storefront has not always provided.
“This was meant to be a space where you can explore your feminine side, or your masculine side, and feel no judgment,” she said.
Seeing business in a new light
Michie said she didn’t grow up thinking, I’m going to start my own business.
“It always seemed such an impossible task for me, such a big risk,” she said.
She did have a real love of nature and entering the Ivey Business School, Michie was eager to combine her passion for the environment with business.
That led her to apply to the Certificate in Sustainability, which introduced her to the world of social entrepreneurship.
For the first time, the idea of starting a business became an attractive, real possibility.
“[I wondered] what kind of business can I create that can also have a positive impact on the environment, and society? That’s where my entrepreneurial inklings began,” she said.
After university, Michie joined the corporate world but soon found a disconnect between her work and her passion. Almost three years into her role, the perfect opportunity presented itself through a joint project of the Canada World Youth (CWY) and Youth Challenge International (YCI) called EQWIP HUBs, which provided business expertise and assistance to young social entrepreneurs in communities around the world.
Michie spent close to two years in Lima, Peru, working with young entrepreneurs and their social enterprises.
It was really powerful for me because I was consulting with small businesses started by people from vulnerable populations who were creating long-term social, environmental, and economic changes in their communities. They didn’t have access to many resources, familial support, or financial support… and after working with so many entrepreneurs, I got the idea – why don’t I do something that can make a difference?
Back in Canada, and in the midst of job-searching, Michie’s efforts were scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic. It was one last push to help her take the plunge with Lesbihonestly.com.
One of the biggest lessons Michie has learned through her young journey, is the power of collaboration.
While exploring potential venture ideas, Michie had a strong network of friends and peers who were always willing to give honest feedback and support, for which she is grateful.
“Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off people, and don’t be afraid to ask for help... working with other people can (help) spark new ideas,” said Michie.
Additionally, her entrepreneurial journey has provided her with an avenue to express pride in who she is - something Michie has, at times, struggled with.
“Be proud of who you are, and be proud of what you are doing. Because if you can’t be, no one else can be. You sometimes have to be the first person to take that first step,” she said