According to the 2015 United States transgender survey, 31% of transgender people said that they were denied equal treatment, verbally harassed and/or physically attacked in a retail store, theater, restaurant or hotel when the staff or employees either knew or perceived the person was transgender.
When senior Sebastian Nemec signed up for a class called Foundations of Cultural Entrepreneurship, he had no idea that his final project would stretch farther than class. He also had no idea that this project would change lives.
After a great deal of time and consideration, Nemec decided to create an ecommerce store for transgender+ people. He calls his store “Folx.”
“The vision for Folx is to help transgender+ people live their best lives,” Nemec said.
A cultural entrepreneurship major and journalism minor, Nemec hopes that Folx will improve transgender+ people’s shopping experience.
In March, Nemec participated in the Acara Challenge, a competition that rewards student teams developing solutions to address global, social and environmental challenges. Nemec competed in the Domestic Division, where he won Gold and received $5000 in funding.
"They did not only invest in me, they invested in trans+ lives,” Nemec said.
In addition to the Gold award, Nemec won the Audience Choice award in the domestic division and was awarded $500.
"With this funding, I’ll be able to travel to several events and conferences that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise to market Folx,” Nemec said.
On the store’s site, Nemec will include several sections, including a section similar to Amazon where individuals can buy products, a section similar to Huffington Post where individuals can share their thoughts and feelings, and a section similar to Angie’s List where individuals can discuss services for transgender+ people in the area, such as makeup artists and surgeons.
“I’m a trans guy, so that’s my perspective, but I don’t know what trans women might need, so I wanna hear from them,” Nemec said. “The same goes for others.”
Everything on the store’s site will be made by trans+ people, for trans+ people. So far, Nemec has made a deal with a small business and a local author. He has been spreading the word about his business through various forms of multimedia, including a podcast.
“The podcast is to document my journey and show other trans people that they can do this too,” Nemec said.
Nemec’s goal is to produce one episode for his podcast each week.
In the future, Nemec plans to participate in other competitions. This week, he participated in UMD’s Shark Tank competition. It didn’t go as he hoped, but Nemec is still motivated.
He applied to participate in the Carlson School of Management MN Cup, which provides winning entrepreneurs with assistance and up to $450,000.
Nemec also plans to attend a number of conferences and events for trans+ people.
“The dream is to have it big enough so that I can support myself full time after I graduate,” Nemec said.
He plans to work on his business all summer.
“Someday, I hope that Folx will be a household name in the trans+ community.”