Entrepreneurial journeys on the road less traveled
By Nayantara Bhat
A leather goods store selling custom fetish wear for the LGBT+ and kink-friendly communities. A thriving group of female fans drawn by a manga comic set in a Nigerian university. A haute couture designer of of hijabs made from vintage scarves. All these stories and more can be found in Vanguard, a two-season podcast offering from Shopify Studios–the ecommerce platform’s signature content house. Hosted by writer and activist Anshuman Idamsetty, each episode gets to the heart of an unconventional entrepreneurial journey–be it the founding story or the greatest challenge overcome.
Idamsetty has a knack for getting guests to open up and comfortably discuss tough topics, often doing so by expressing his own vulnerabilities, such as his mental health struggles, and the challenges of representation he has faced as a South Asian man. Many of his sentiments are echoed by his guests, who have all built businesses to improve the lives of niche communities.
In an episode discussing Northbound Leather (the aforementioned fetish wear store), owner and proprietor George Giaouris candidly speaks of the death of his son, and overcoming his grief to continue running his business for the benefit of his customers and employees. As one of the only businesses in 1980s Toronto to openly support the queer community, Northbound’s journey has been equal parts heartwarming and melancholic.
Similarly, Jacque Amadi’s Adorned by Chi has grown from an anime-inspired lifestyle business to a fully-fledged content creator on the hunt for licensing deals. The manga, which follows five Nigerian college girls with superpowers, raised US$18,000, or $3,000 higher than the Kickstarter goal. Its popularity now sends Amadi to licensing expos around the world in hopes of expanding the brand into toys, makeup, and more.
What sets Vanguard apart is the attention it pays to thorny topics, and the warmth and respect with which Idamsetty discusses the nuances of unfamiliar subcultures. It’s all too easy for discussions of marginalized communities or rose-tinted stories of entrepreneurial success to become trite, overplayed, and laden with buzzwords that soon lose meaning. However, the well-researched episodes combined with Idamsetty’s compassionate and conversational style of interviewing make Vanguard an easy listen. –NB
Cover art courtesy of Shopify Studios.