Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

ABQ could be the HQ for global nonbinary brand

Finnegan Shepard

Editor’s Note: Throughout 2022, New Mexico Angels’ members, investors and start-up owners will be writing columns on economic development and start-up opportunities in the state. The Angels unite individual investors to pool their resources, providing seed and early-stage capital to startup companies.

If you have been reading the news, you’ve probably noticed a wave of coverage around transgender issues.

The latest study of Gen Z shows a shocking shift in relationship to gender identity (25% believe they will change their gender identity at least once in their lifetimes, 78% know someone who uses they/them pronouns), the topic is heated and top of mind

We are on the edge of a paradigm shift in thinking around gender identity. In the next five years, Gen Z will command 40% of global spending power, and they (and the generations that follow them) have radically different views around gender, which in turn changes their profile as consumers.

It is for precisely this reason that entrepreneurship and the startup world exist. We are here to envision the future before it comes (not too early, not too late), and to build the companies that ride that wave into the future.

I founded Both& the summer of 2020, with $5,000 in savings and no background in fashion. What I did have was 27 years of experience navigating the world as a trans man, always trying and failing to find clothing that fit. Watching the rise of the plus size movement and the recognition within the fashion industry that different body shapes require different fit and sizing systems, it struck me as a no brainer that someone ought to develop that system for the exploding trans and nonbinary populations.

Both& grew out of deep research: I interviewed thousands of transmasculine and nonbinary people to understand what they struggled with and what they wished existed, and I did extensive market research to understand why none of what currently exists works. Two years later, my company is a globally awarded brand with an evangelist following, an elite design team in New York, and an army of industry veterans from brands like Nike and Lululemon backing us as we raise our seed round.

I built the company from my Albuquerque home, using my office (until recently) as our fulfillment center. New Mexico is the perfect place to build this brand. We have one of the highest populations of trans people by state (a fact that surprises many people I talk to, but which makes total sense when you think about the diversity here, the cost of living, and the general attitude of live and let live ), but perhaps even more fittingly, we are a space of becoming. There is a long history of queer people living, by necessity, in more affordable places. There is also a long history of queer people being trend setters: we are a big part of what made New York New York, what made San Francisco San Francisco. Increasingly, up and coming brands are born not from NYC or LA, but from St. Louis, Detroit, Raleigh.

As New Mexico’s entrepreneurial community continues to grow and feed the economy, it is important to diversify the industries we are known for — to not just be the state with scientists and a rising movie industry, but to also be a state that births a generation- defining brand. With recent investments from the NM Vintage fund, a partner fund of New Mexico Angels and John B. Strong, we are excited to be nearing the end of this raise and to enter our next phase of growth.

I encourage all readers to consider becoming an “angel investor”, “mentor” or “supporter” and help continue to grow startup businesses right here at home.

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