“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

BABE #39: KAIT PAYNE, Owner & Operator @ babe.wear

BABE #39: KAIT PAYNE, Owner & Operator @ babe.wear

Kait is one of those Babes I never thought I'd ever in a million years have the opportunity to collaborate with. I've been a fan of her work since I was in high school (you might know her and her daughter from her old blog, Dear Scarlet.) I SO admire her openness and vulnerability to speak up over the years about her everyday struggles and victories with mental illness and motherhood in such an raw, beautiful way. She's a mom extraordinaire and also a talented writer + photographer, and the list goes on. To my Babes in the Oklahoma City area (and also around the world) -- Kait is doing a really cool thing with babe.wear and I can't wait for you to learn all about it! Thanks for being here, Kait. You're a serious BWH. 

The Basics:

Hometown: Hamilton, IL
Current location: Oklahoma City, OK
Alma mater: Hamilton High School
Degree: High School
Job title(s)/Company: Owner/Operator @ babe.wear

The Interests:

Babe you admire and why?
I admire Maya Angelou for her perseverance through an unimaginable childhood trauma, and for her willingness to share her insight with future generations of women. Her vulnerabilities inspired me to start a company based on those same principles. 

How do you spend your free time?
I love to read and watch crime shows. I enjoy yoga with my daughter and hanging out with my dogs ( a yorkie named Washington and a pitmix named Agnes.) I love hanging out with my coworkers at my second job, which is a bar and restaurant, lounging, and sending silly gifs and memes to my friends. 

Favorite app and/or website?
I LOVE wedding websites. As a photographer, I'm so interested in wedding blogs. There’s something magic about weddings to me, so I love looking around on A Practical Wedding, Ruffled, The Knot and of course Pinterest. I could totally be a wedding planner in another lifetime. Snapchat is my favorite app because my nieces and nephew who live far are able to talk to me in silly and real ways throughout the day. I feel so grateful to be born in an era where communicating with people who live great distances from you is so easily accessible. 

Go-to coffee order?
Haha, ok, Diva Mode: Venti soy chai latte with no water and an extra shot of chai... at a kid’s temperature. 

The Hustle:

Tell us about your hustle:
I am the sole owner and operator at babe.wear - a body positive company/movement that strives to bring females together in a safe, supportive space. With the click of a few buttons you can find somebody to relate to when everyone shares their stories and utilizes the hashtags. That's powerful stuff. We break stigmas by exposing them and normalizing them. This is a company that was built on the concept that shame can only exist if we invite it in. We ward off the insults by owning them and quite literally wearing them on our sleeves. 

What does your typical workday look like?
I wake up and check my email to see if any orders have gone missing or for any big issues I can work on solving first and foremost. I check my bigcartel for new orders, writing them down in my notebook. I typically ship weekly, so on those days I pack orders and head to the post office where they know me by face now. I even gave the post office lady an UNAPOLOGETIC babe tee because she has been so patient with some of our larger orders. Being organized is the number one way I stay on top of my game. When I first began babe.wear, I was running it out of tupperware containers in my kitchen. We moved in June and now I have an actual office with shelves and a desk and places for things to go. It makes it much easier to be productive. I also have to stay on top of social media. People forget things exist if you don’t remind them. 

Was there a specific experience that inspired you to start babe.wear? 
I was reading Girlboss and listening to Mitski’s First Love/Late Spring on repeat. I ran the idea past my good friend Danika who made it seem super possible and was so confident in it. I wouldn’t have pursued it without her unwavering support, not only in the beginning, but throughout the entire venture. I remember pacing barefoot outside my tiny home and thinking about connecting girls through hashtags and creating the community I needed when I was younger. It was such a rush. I felt like I was on fire. 


What's your “dream job?"
I've wanted to be a writer since I can remember. When I was little, my mom cut out pieces of this book of a cartoon cat on how to be a writer, and wrote my name with the pieces and some glitter on a folder. I’d read and re-read it. That was second grade. I’ve kept journals since I can remember and blogged extensively throughout my entire adult life. Writing is the one thing that makes sense to me. 

How has the role of mental illness in your life played a part in your hustle?
It was hard for me to get a real education. I just wasn’t motivated. I would wake up and think “there is just no way for me to do this today.” I missed out on many opportunities because of both my anxiety and being bipolar. If it weren’t for the manic state I was in the night I first had the idea for babe.wear, it wouldn’t exist - so there are two sides to every coin. Sometimes mania has it’s benefits, but sometimes when I’m at an extreme low, my shipping time will be a bit longer. I try really hard to keep everything on a strict schedule because it helps me, but the roaring monster gets a hold of me more than I’d like the admit. I also have to prioritize my daughter over everything, so if I have nothing left at the end of the day after taking care of her, then that’s it. 

Do you have plans to expand the brand?
At this time I’m honestly not sure what the next move is for babe.wear. I’m currently looking for a new screen printer and trying to get rid of some of my back inventory. I’d really love to get more involved in the Oklahoma City makers scene, but there’s a lot of competition and I find myself feeling like kind of an outsider here. 

Are you working on any other side projects or jobs in addition to babe.wear?
I'm a server at a restaurant in the city that serves local food. It helps with my mental illness to have obligations and a schedule that I cannot ignore. I also would not get around people as much as I should without a job outside the home. In the future, I'd love to write a book.

Did you imagine that your digital presence would lead you to an opportunity like this? 
I had an idea that eventually my blogging audience would turn into something that I could make a job out of, but I didn’t know in what capacity. A lot of my followers have been with me for years and years and have seen a ton of ups and downs through the internet. It’s all very personal; I’m not a private person by any means. I believe my openness is what keeps my readers around and willing to support me and themselves by sporting babe.wear. 

What keeps you anchored in Oklahoma? 
I actually do not have any family here, nor does my husband. My daughter is what is keeping me in Oklahoma. My first husband and I moved here when he was stationed in the air force. When I divorced him, I stayed so he wouldn’t miss out on his relationship with out daughter. Now he has a new wife and a baby and I have a new husband, so we are just kind of here. I miss Illinois everyday. 

Have you gotten flack since starting babe.wear?
I have. I’ve gotten flack for being “skinny” and promoting fat positivity. I weigh a considerable amount less than I did in 2013, so I do know what it's like to feel ostracized for your weight. I did experience it firsthand and I’ve battled with eating disorders my entire adult life. People say that the posts I make where I'm proud of my body are triggering. I’m working on trying to find a balance between openly loving myself and not triggering my customer base. I have also received some flack for not offering the shirts in extended sizes. I do offer fat babe in up to 6x, but I have never sold anything over a 3x and I cannot justify spending the money for inventory that I am unable to sell, as much as I would love it. My business is literally just me. Right now I’m still waiting tables to keep food in my child’s mouth. I’d love to be able to represent absolutely everyone and that’s a definite goal in the future, but for now I’m doing what I can, how I can.

What are some of your past jobs? What have you learned/taken away from them?
I worked at Blockbuster for five years, starting in high school.  A woman there named Deb taught me the power of a positive attitude and good customer service. I would not be the worker I am today without her influence. She had such a warmth about her yet, still worked incredibly hard and took pride in her work. Those are values that stick with me and I am forever grateful for them. 

Favorite/least favorite parts of this project?
Clicking through the hashtags and seeing the comments that my customers leave for each other is so cool. The whole girls-supporting-girls aspect of it is magic to me. I also love getting to experience babe.wear through hearing the stories of my customers. When they post photos wearing the shirts, I print them out and strew them around my office for motivation and inspiration. I think the actual launching of the site has been my favorite moment, though. I sold a lot of shirts in the first round, and knowing I was onto something that people could stand behind and made them feel better and more included made me feel on top of the world. I designed the shirts with my own handwriting. I shot the photos of the models. I wrote the descriptions. The entire idea was mine. It was rewarding as hell to see it come to fruition like it did. 

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
Fighting the lows of my bipolar disease with the demands of the job has been the biggest challenge. I have to force myself up a lot of days to get things shipped out in a timely manner. I’m still overcoming it. I’ve also experienced a lot of (10+) bloggers who I've sent shirts to in exchange for a guest post they promised would help me get exposure, and they didn’t end up doing it. It’s frustrating, but on the other hand I can also understand it because I can put things off as well. It’s just awkward to have to ask again, but I would consider that a challenge. Because of my anxiety, I am unable to drive a car, so I ship on my husband's day off. I'm so grateful that he's supportive of this endeavor and helps me out in this way. Often times my order sizes are too large to carry on my bicycle. 

What motivates you every day/from what do you draw your inspiration?
My daughter. Knowing I’m doing my part to help create a safer and more open environment for her and girls like her keeps me going. She wears her Four Eyed Babe tee with such pride, it makes my heart swell. 

What does success look like to you?
I haven’t gotten there with babe.wear yet, I do know that. I’d like to get into some stores in the city or even in other cities. I think I have had a very successful first year, but this is not where I’d like the brand to end up. There’s more I want to do with it. I want to reach more females and build the community into a much larger space. 

How do you find a work-life balance?
It can be difficult. Being a mother and a wife both have demands of their own. Obviously keeping my mental health in check is a full-time job that includes physical exercise, so I choose yoga and street biking. I try to maintain friendships - at least through the internet. It’s really about creating a system that works for you, and forcing yourself to follow that system no matter how impossible it seems. 

What helps you wind down / how do you manage stress?
I love baths. Since I was a child, they've been my go to de-stressor. Editing photos is relaxing for me, and writing can be very therapeutic. But there’s also a lot to be said about laughter. I think laughing and goofiness are probably my favorite part of life. It’s so human and raw to laugh so hard your cheeks ache. It grounds you. 

Any noteworthy work-related moments?
I think the most intense and funny moments are times when I actually wear some of my own inventory out in public - especially BIG NOSED BABE. Seeing people's reactions is the process at work, and I love it. Getting orders from faraway countries is always inspiring to me, knowing my shirts could have an impact on a global level.

What is your end goal with babe.wear? 
Community. I want to provide a safe space for women and girls to exist as themselves without apologies. I want to provide comfort and confidence to people who may have been insecure or at least unsure before finding babe.wear. I want to lift each other up. The most rewarding part of the job is seeing people in the shirts and reading their stories. It makes me feel fulfilled and full of purpose every single time. I’m so proud of my customers. 

Career and/or life advice for other Babes?
Do what you love and see where it leads you. Even if the thing you love starts out as part-time and you have to do some crazy other job to support doing what you love, don’t give up on it. Put all of yourself into your passion, and it will come back to you. You can’t make real change doing something you aren’t inspired by.

Connect with Kait + babe.wear!

babe.wear :: Shop // Tumblr // IG // Email
Kait :: Instagram

All photos belong to Kait Villegas.
This interview has been condensed and edited.

BABE #40: NIKKI GRAHAM,<BR>Operations + Project Manager @ RELEVANT Media Group

Operations + Project Manager @ RELEVANT Media Group

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