Pursuit of Purpose: Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with Kalani and Wolf Founder, Joanis Duran
September 15-October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. There are nearly 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States that contribute more than $800 billion to the U.S. economy every year. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 1 in 4 new businesses is Hispanic-owned and Latinos start businesses at a faster rate than the national average across several industries.
Despite the contributions of Latina/o/x/Hispanic small business owners, one report found that only 20% of Latino-owned businesses that applied for national bank loans over $100,000 obtained funding, compared to 50% of White-owned businesses.
Steven Brown, a research fellow at the Urban Institute shares: “I think the Latino story in some ways follows the story of why Black families have less wealth than white people. There is a lack of the same kind of resources that help build wealth.”
Supporting Latina/o/x/Hispanic-owned businesses is one way to contribute to community wealth access and distribution. It’s also a potent tool to support the redistribution of opportunities to local economies, businesses, owners, employees, and their families.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Joanis Duran (JD), the founder of small business, Kalani and Wolf, to share more about her small business and the importance of supporting Latina/o/x-owned businesses, not only during Hispanic Heritage Month, but 365 days per year.
gb: Joanis, for those who aren’t familiar with Kalani and Wolf, can you share the inspiration behind the brand and what motivated you to start your business?
JD: Absolutely. After years of working in the fashion industry, I often found myself code switching and in doing so, found that I’d lost my values and my creativity, and in their place had accepted humiliation and microaggressions— all at a cost to myself and regardless of how hard I worked. Amidst this chaos I found my pursuit of purpose creating a clothing brand where fashion, activism, and the environment intersect. Y como yo soy muy bocona (since I’m very vocal), when it comes to adversity, speaking my truth, my ideas, and setting boundaries, in 2017 I launched Kalani + Wolf out of my garage and I’m 100% unapologetic about it.
gb: You create such beautiful and powerful products. When learning more about Kalani and Wolf it’s so evident that the business’ ethos and mission extend far beyond the products themselves. Can you share more about the deeper meaning behind your brand’s mission: “Never Apologizing, Never Conforming™”?
“Never Apologizing, Never Conforming ™” has such a deep connection with our BIPOC and Queer Community. Due to a broken system that had no intention of including “US,” we wake up every day only to deal with hair and name discrimination, dress code violations, oppressive language, racist jokes, subtle-to-not-so-subtle racism, and hiding behind closet doors (just to name a few).
The phrase comes from the experience that no matter what’s going on in our daily lives, we’re no longer apologizing for who we are, and we’re never conforming to anyone’s ideology but our own. Our mantra exists to serve as a public service announcement to our community (and our team) to be no one other than themselves every day. It’s like what Beyoncé says in her song, “Alien Superstar:”
“We dress a certain way, we walk a certain way,
We talk a certain way,
WeWe paint a certain way,
We make love a certain way, you know
All of these things we do in a differentUnique, specific way that is personally ours.”
gb: Love that so much. As someone who identities as a queer, Afro-Latina founder, can you share why you believe it’s important for folks to shop with small businesses owned by individuals who hold intersectional identities and have been historically excluded?
Yes. As a Queer Afro-Latina founder, we’re [Kalani and Wolf] creating visibility for other Queer and Afro-Latina/e/x entrepreneurs. When you shop small, you’re investing in your local economy, validating our existence, tangibly supporting Queer and Afro-Latina/e/x communities, demonstrating solidarity for workers’ rights, and helping mitigate climate change— all while making an active choice to shop unique, exclusive items not found in big retail stores.
As a small business, Kalani and Wolf is decolonizing sustainable fashion with our Queerness, and embracing our Black and Latinx roots. When you make the decision to buy directly from BIPOC & Queer-owned businesses, 100% of these profits are made by these businesses who, in turn, are re-investing in their communities while advocating for equality. When our team receives an online order we’re thrilled because it means that someone has decided to invest their hard-earned dollars in our business and purchase products handcrafted for them by a Queer Afro-Latina designer.
I’ll add here that consumers are the driving force for change. Our biggest allies are those who value our labor and aren’t driven by instant gratification. Unfortunately, the majority of government funds are passed out amongst big corporations whose main interest is their bottom line and funding elected officials who are stripping away folks’ rights. Just visit www.opensecrets.org and research any mega-corporation to learn who’s funding what. When consumers make the choice to shop small, their money extends to support community-led organizations and real people making change for others and our planet, as opposed to funding corporate greed.
gb: Thanks so much for the critical reminder for all of us shoppers. As we continue to reflect upon who we actively choose to support with our purchasing power, and given that September 15-October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, is there anything you want others to know about honoring Hispanic Heritage Month?
Our Latina/e/x culture is our power. We’re a fearless and thriving community that embraces one another’s come up. Small businesses work long hours while also juggling many hats to provide a wide range of products and services. Don’t forget to show your solidarity by shopping all year-long– not just during September [and early October].
Beyond that: Continue to show up. Hold your elected officials accountable. Shift forward for change. Uplift future generations to be unapologetically themselves. Voice your dissent when institutions fail us, and continue to demand equality.
gb: Incredible, thank you. Okay, we have to ask… as a small business yourself— apart from Kalani and Wolf— what are your current small business favorites?
In no specific order, here are a few of my current favorites:
Viva La Bonita
Nola Skin Essential
gb: Thanks so much for sharing your time and experience with us, Joanis. We’re so grateful for our community of small business owners (like you) who are on a mission to make our world a better, more just and equitable place for all. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Immigrants pay taxes.
Cancel student loan debt.
Equality is our birthright.
Love is Love.