Jane Fernando: "I wanted my actions to have a positive impact within marginalized communities"

COVID-19 has definitely made us rethink who we give our money to when buying online. Now more than ever, lots of people are making an effort to support smaller brands. Additionally, in wanting to be more socially-conscious, a lot of you are looking to buy from minority-owned companies.

Stupid Kitsch is an online store that sells quirky clothing and accessories all made by women, POC, or LGBTQ+-owned brands. Owned by Jane Fernando, the goal was to create one place to find everything you like, all while supporting small businesses.

Jane Fernando only recently launched Stupid Kitsch from her home in Pomona, California. As a wife, mother, and now female entrepreneur, this business has been a lot of work but her background in e-commerce and determination enabled her to keep moving forward despite the hardships.

We talked to Jane about why she started Stupid Kitsch, the difficulties she has faced, and most importantly, how she was able to navigate 2020 as a new business owner.

Honne: Why did you decide to start a business?

Jane Fernando: It has always been a dream of mine to start my own business, but I never had the money, I didn't have the know-how and I couldn't access the right products. Each year, I'd do a little research, obtain a little more knowledge, jot down my ideas and slowly build the framework for what I wanted my business to be. It wasn't until the pandemic, that I finally had the free time (and that stimulus money) to invest in myself and just go for it.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Stupid Kitsch is my side hustle. I work a 9-5 job Monday through Friday from home and dedicate my time after hours and on weekends to running my business. This mostly looks like me trying to squeeze in business activities into every inch of free time that I have. My nightly routine has been packing orders, writing my to-do list for the next few days, and managing my inventory. On the weekends, I get to spend a little more time taking product photos, planning my content calendar, reaching out to new vendors or influencers, and doing some laundry. I also try to drop off shipments at the post office during my lunch break.

Specifically as a female entrepreneur, have you faced any obstacles since starting Stupid Kitsch?

I have been fortunate to create a space where I work with a lot of like-minded women who get what I'm doing. There's been a social shift in the attitude of women supporting women. There was a time when women in the workforce had to have a cutthroat attitude. They had to be, in order to prove they had the guts to run things. It's a symptom of patriarchy. But now, women are realizing, it's not a competition. There's room for us all to bring something unique to the table and succeed. Without this sisterhood mentality, I don't know where I'd be.

How has COVID-19 impacted you and your business?

The forced isolation from the pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They say timing is everything and it all just lined up for me. This was the perfect time for me to experiment. Since I have practically no social obligations, there are zero distractions and that's been my greatest ally.

It's also been a double-edged sword. Because of the pandemic, people are not secure in their finances. It's hard to convince someone to buy a fun enamel pin or a pair of statement earrings when they aren't sure if they can afford their rent or are worried about getting laid off.

What mindset have you had since the beginning of the pandemic? Has it changed throughout the year?

When the pandemic first hit, I was scared and worried but as time went on I realized that this business saved me. It's given me something to place my focus on and something to look forward to!

2020 welcomed a massive recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement. As an online shop selling items made by POC (as well as women and LGBTQ+), how has that impacted you and your business?

Millennials and Gen Z are becoming more conscious of how they spend their money. We see huge corporations rake in billions of dollars that don't necessarily get passed down to those at the bottom who put in the physical work day in and day out to keep these operations going. On top of that, we see institutional racism in almost every aspect of society. This country has had a shameful history of destroying specifically black and indigenous communities that is yet to be fully acknowledged and rectified. We often see BIPOC communities having to take on the burden of creating wealth and opportunity without government support and resources. And to make matters worse, in many instances where black communities have flourished, white supremacy has destroyed them with either violence, legislation, or a combination of the two.

I've learned over the years that consumer spending can create more change than writing a letter to our representatives. I wanted my actions to have a direct positive impact within marginalized communities whether it's BIPOC, women, or LGBTQ+. That's what Stupid Kitsch is committed to doing.

What were some of the biggest difficulties you faced this year?

I could say not having a social life or not being able to go on the vacation I planned, but honestly, being able to pay my bills is a blessing enough for me. It eclipses everything that I could possibly complain about. A year ago, I was in between jobs and I've never experienced that much anxiety. Right now, my main family unit is alive and healthy. My kids are making distance learning work. With everything that's going on, it's more than I can ask for.

What has helped you get through this year?

I am so grateful to be gainfully employed and working from home, it's a privilege. Knowing that I am limiting my exposure to COVID-19 certainly alleviates a lot of anxiety. Starting this business has also been instrumental in keeping me level this year. Because of this business, I've built connections with people and learned a lot of new skills. It has truly been a saving grace for me as I try to survive the dumpster fire that is 2020.

What does the future look like for Stupid Kitsch? Any plans?

I'd like to eventually design products under my own brand. I'd love to do a few collaborations with some of the brands I currently work with. Honestly and most importantly, I'd like to break even. Truly, I always fantasize about growing to a point where I can hire employees and create good-paying jobs, not that minimum wage BS that certain companies pat themselves on the back for.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become an entrepreneur?

Find your passion and trust your instincts. If you're going to go for it, be ready to put in the work. Some days are going to be hard. Certain aspects might be discouraging but you’ve got to love what you're doing so much that the money is the icing on the cake. When you do something with pride, people recognize that and they're drawn to it.

Look at every opportunity to learn and keep your ears open for feedback. But most importantly, build a strong value proposition. You have to believe that what you're offering is so unique that only you can bring it to the table. Hold on to that confidence because people are going to want you to change but if you lose sight of what you're business is about, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and losing your overall mission in the process.

One last thought?

2020 has been the most trying year and the wildest roller coaster ride. The 289 000 COVID-19 deaths and counting, the murder of George Floyd, the election turmoil, losing RGB, and an important seat in the Supreme Court, this year has been one heartbreak after another. It's hard not to be pessimistic. But with adversity comes strength and I am hoping to come out of this year more resilient than ever.