Name: Stoney Michelli Love
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Describe yourself in three words: Lovely, Happy, Human
What is the name of your business and what do you do?
Stuzo Clothing. We make gender-free clothing and goods.
Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?
I wanted to see a brand that didn’t focus on gender but rather fashion for humans. I started sketching logos based on how I felt and the experiences in my life. Once I put it on a t-shirt, I was hooked.
In just a few words, how does running your own business make you feel?
It feels like the most powerful thing.
What are some of the hurdles or roadblocks you faced/face as an LGBTQ+ small business owner, specifically? How do you overcome them?
Being an LGBTQ+ business owner has been challenging financially. There weren’t many bold, and outwardly queer brands when I began so sales were not frequent. I overcame that by wearing my own brand with conviction, telling my story. That gave my customers confidence to express themselves through our fashion.
As an LGBTQ+ small business owner, do you feel you’ve been granted the same access and opportunities that other small business owners in your community have been given? How do you push past that?
I believe that resources, financially especially, are limited to LGBTQ+ small businesses. I’ve had to raise capital, take out loans, and work harder to fund my business. I’ve seen many grants out there that do not cater to us. I’ve had to remain strong and make certain sacrifices to sustain. Believing in yourself will always carry you through your business.
What unique perspectives do you feel you bring to the small business economy as an LGBTQ+ business owner?
I believe that self-confidence and security will ensure my success as a business owner. That said, the better I am, the better my business, the better the economy.
What are some of your major wins or accomplishments since starting your business? What are your proudest moments?
I’ve been blessed to dress some of the biggest celebrities. Some of which I admire. Lena Waithe hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live with my ‘Coco Butter’ sweater on is by far the proudest moment.
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What are the next big plans you have for your business?
We plan to keep expanding the brand and open another store next year.
When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?
When I’m having a tough day, I take time to meditate and eat good food.
How can LGBTQ+ business owners give back to their community?
Be a mentor, hire fellow queer people, and by donating anything you can to LGBTQ+ organizations when you can.
What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ small business owners just starting out?
Do your research and start where you are. So many people get caught up in thinking that everything has to be had before starting, ie: money, product, etc. Start small but make sure you start.
What’s your “power song”?
I’m a Winner, Baby by Rupaul!