Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Finnegan Shepard, the founder and CEO of Both&, an apparel company working towards gender equality.
Spiffy: Hey Finnegan! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your startup?
Finnegan: Thanks for the invite, Spiffy! If you're trans or nonbinary, products aren't designed with your needs in mind. Both& is addressing this gap by creating a brand that designs in direct dialogue with the community.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Finnegan: I waited my whole life for someone else to do it and no one did, so eventually I got tired of waiting and decided to do it myself.
Spiffy: That’s inspiring! Can you elaborate on how you and the company are working towards a more equitable world?
Finnegan: By creating products that are gender affirming, trailblazing a path as a trans CEO/founder raising venture capital, and by hiring and training other folks in the community.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community?
Finnegan: We did a pay-what-you-can pay it forward campaign in early December that enabled us to get free products to everyone on our list for the holidays!
Spiffy: Wow! Next, can you please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn from it?
Finnegan: I had to go through hundreds of nos on investment to get to a yes. It was demoralizing and extremely stressful, but I kept at it. What I didn't realize at the start is that there is a somewhat infinite potential expansion of one’s network—I thought I needed to already know rich people, but the truth is that you keep talking to people and then talking to who they introduce you to and so on and on until you get to the right person.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Finnegan: That our community tends to experience disproportionate amounts of imposter syndrome in this space, but that we have every right to be there.
Spiffy: Couldn’t agree more! Thanks for speaking with me today, Finnegan—it’s been an honor!
Finnegan Shepard is a trans writer, classicist, and entrepreneur with 1/3 of a PhD in Philosophy and 3/4s of a MFA in fiction. He is the founder and CEO of Both&, the creator behind Limns, and the author of Tilt and Runts. (First published on the Ladderworks website on February 13, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.