Kristin Salat has dreamed of owning her own business since she was a young girl, and now – at just 25 years old – she does. After graduating from Vanguard University of Southern California with a business degree, she brought her dream to Indianapolis, where her idea for a locally-sourced and socially-minded fashion business was born.
“I’ve always wanted to start a social enterprise, even though when I was younger I didn’t know that was the word for it,” Kristin says. “I knew that I wanted to run a business that supported people who needed a hand up. As for the fashion side of it, for the past six years I’ve been on a journey to shop more ethically and sustainably – and that’s what led me to create an alternative to fast fashion.”
Kristin’s alternative is Trace Fashion – a sustainable clothing brand that creates comfortable and beautiful wardrobe staples, all while providing jobs for Indianapolis women who are exiting the adult entertainment industry.
The meaning behind her business name is two-fold. Kristin believes that clothing should be able to be traced back to a transparent supply chain – one where the workers are treated fairly and with dignity. She also based Trace Fashion off of the idea that the things we do and the purchases we make leave a trace behind them, and we should be mindful of that.
“If I’m not paying the cost for a cheap piece of clothing, then someone else is. Ethical fashion takes a lot of research and you have to take it one step at a time,” she says. “It’s overwhelming to decide to change all of your habits at the same time. That’s not a sustainable lifestyle. It’s about making small changes – even just buying less clothing is a more sustainable way to live.”
Trace Fashion is wrapping up a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to help cover the cost of the fabric and materials needed to make their initial orders. They’ve launched with one product so far: a blazer created to provide both comfort and style to women in the workplace.
“Today, there is a big shift toward women’s empowerment in the workplace, and I feel like being comfortable is so much a part of that,” Kristin explains. “So often, just being a woman in the workplace can be uncomfortable. And I believe that your outfit shouldn’t have to be. We’re focused on creating comfortable yet professional work attire for women.”
As far as the social enterprise aspect of her business, Kristin is partnering with the local Indianapolis nonprofit Unconditional Ministries, whose mission is “to unconditionally love women in the sex industry with the love of Christ, to empower and encourage them on their journey, and equip them for a full and healthy life.”
The partnership includes a year-long program called Equip 360, which will provide support and guidance for women who want to transition out of the sex industry. “For women who want to get out of the industry, there are a lot of barriers they face, and there’s a stigma that follows them into the workplace that makes their experiences more challenging,” Kristin says.
Equip 360 will focus primarily on two components: internship experience and education. Trace Fashion will provide internships for the women to gain experience across all aspects of the business. From social media and marketing, sewing classes and production, to packaging and distribution, Trace Fashion hopes to give women the opportunity to develop the skills they need to transition into sustainable and financially stable employment.
The educational component will be based on four principles:
Financial Stability (includes professional development)
Mental and Emotional Wellness (includes self awareness and therapy)
Spirituality (optional) – “We don’t expect women to accept the Lord in order to be part of the program,” Kristin says, “But we will make it known that this is why we’re doing it.”
“We’ve found that lot of women in the industry are entrepreneurial,” Kristin says, “So it’s important for us to acknowledge that and say, ‘You have skills. Let’s use them. Let’s figure out what your dreams are, and let’s help you figure out a plan to get there.’”
Equip 360 is still in the development process, but Trace Fashion and Unconditional Ministries are planning to launch the program next year.
As a young entrepreneur, the lessons that Kristin has learned span far beyond the business itself. “One of the craziest things that I didn’t expect from all of this is that I’ve learned so much about myself,” Kristin says. “Starting a business has been challenging in a lot of weird ways. The practical steps you have to take to start a business aren’t actually that difficult. It’s the emotional pressure, the mental stress and the anxiety that comes with the lie, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing and I think everyone else does.’”
Knowing that she’s a 9 on the Enneagram (also known as the Peacemaker), Kristin is learning how to navigate the trenches of entrepreneurship by facing head-on the two things that Enneagram 9’s struggle with the most: conflict and laziness.
“My ‘deadly sin’ as an Enneagram 9 is sloth, which is a terrible combination for entrepreneurship because no one is there to motivate me… except for me. I just had to work through that aspect of my personality and realize that I don’t need to shame myself for struggling with this, because it’s part of who I am – I’m lazy sometimes!” says Kristin. “I’m also a major conflict avoider, but as an entrepreneur I’ve learned how important it is to be able to disagree with people, to be okay with it and to not feel personally attacked. I know that I still have so much room to grow, but owning my own business has taught me so much about myself already.”
Kristin joined EDGE as a mentee in the spring of 2018. Her mentor, Michelle, lives in California, while one mentee lives in Kansas City – but with the rest of the girls in Indianapolis, Kristin has been able to spend time with them in person. “The mentees in my group who are in the area have actually attended my events for Trace Fashion, and two of them came to a fitting that we did to develop our sizing guide,” Kristin says.
Her decision to join EDGE was sparked by her desire for a deeper community – something she was missing as a solo entrepreneur. “I originally joined EDGE because I felt, for lack of a better word, lonely. I didn’t have any coworkers, so there was always a lack of community there,” Kristin says. “I would go to networking events all the time, but it’s different because I feel like you’ve always got to be professional and put on your best face. With EDGE, it’s been good for me to have a community to grow with where we can learn about each other on a deeper level.”