Jared Yazzie is carrying on a tradition of visual storytelling
Running a business

Jared Yazzie is carrying on a tradition of visual storytelling

Name: Jared Kee Yazzie

Location: Tempe, Arizona

Business: OXDX Clothing

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Tell us about OXDX Clothing.

OXDX Clothing is a Native owned and operated apparel company, specializing in graphic and clothing design that looks to carry on the tradition of Diné visual storytelling.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

I started my clothing label in 2009 while I was in college. I loved streetwear and graphics pushed towards skate culture, street art, and punk rock ideology. Native people have always had a rocky relationship with the fashion industry, and most of the offerings at that time didn’t represent someone like me. So I began making clothing for myself out of necessity, and the designs I created resonated with many others. My brand kicked off with a preorder to my closest friends, and that was enough money to invest in my first design. That design sold out within a week and funded the next, and so on and so on. Today, we have our own storefront in Tempe and create dozens of pieces every season. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

My big takeaway from starting a business that primarily offers screen printing apparel was how much I needed to learn about the process. I was working with a local print shop at the time, and that was a very bad first experience. That kind of business had no patience for someone that didn’t know the ins and outs of what they wanted to create. So I dedicated years of work to learn the entire process. I watched YouTube tutorials, interned with local printers, and eventually was hired at a high-volume screen printing company, where I stayed for three years. I learned from the lowest manual labor position and worked my way up to assistant art director, where most of my teaching came from.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

I am constantly surprised and motivated by the wide threshold of cash flow that sustains every business. We have amazing weeks at times and then are completely humbled by a slow week. It’s a constant battle with your time and stock to stay somewhat consistent but either way I’m always pushing to cover costs. It’s caused me to think creatively and venture out into unknown territories to grow.

How does running your own business make you feel? 

I am first and foremost an artist. All the business stuff is what I stumbled upon to keep doing what I love. I am still the best at making art, so the business side does make me feel stupid at times, but I’m never shy to ask questions. When I do find balance between these two things it’s rewarding as hell and I strive for that feeling constantly.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome? 

My partner and I are the two full-time employees invested in this business and what we struggle with the most is letting go of responsibilities. We have set ways in how we do things and don’t have much trust to pass that along to someone else, even though that would relieve us immensely from hours of busy work. So instead we work around the clock and tire ourselves out completely instead of delegating some of our tasks. I’m learning that passing on responsibilities will have mistakes but when you can train someone to be just as good as you, that will free up so much of your time to work on the things you are great at.

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Indigenous business owners overcome so much just to get themselves to the playing field that most people have the privilege to start at.

What challenges do you feel are unique to indigenous small business owners? 

Indigenous business owners overcome so much just to get themselves to the playing field that most people have the privilege to start at. It’s not only that our resources are slim, our locations are distant, and support systems nearly non-existent, but our ideology as Native people polarizes our community between traditional beliefs and capitalistic beliefs. I find myself struggling with these thoughts often and there are not many other Native-owned businesses to look up to. Our current generations are paving the way for the success of the next generation. 

How do you engage with the community and how do they engage with or help your business?

We know that our business would be nothing without the support of the community and because of that we are always finding ways to connect. We find connections through pop-ups, workshops, speaking engagements, collaborations, and our own events hosted in our store. It’s easy to be buried in work and to cut yourself off from society but I always find it rewarding to make people-connection part of the job.

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What are your proudest moments? 

I have always clashed with systems that have been branded “normal'' and exclude minority voices and underrepresented communities. Many major events operate this way and, instead of conforming to fit their expectations, I created my own events and opportunities to get my brand out there. I hosted fall release events for four years from 2014-2018, and gave myself a fashion runway to show upcoming OXDX drops. These events brought native artists, models, photographers, and community members together to enjoy a night of creative vision. This event branched out to Santa Fe during their infamous Santa Fe Indian Market, where I held this fashion show and Indigenous small business market as a totally separate event that I called “OFF-MARKET.” During our last year hosting this event, I showcased a couture collaboration with world renowned fashion designer Jamie Okuma, and I consider that night one of the highlights of my career. 

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

My partner, Allie Stone, and I have turned our attention into building a flagship location in Tempe. We want this space to serve as a storefront, office, and warehouse location where we can host events, pop-ups for small businesses, and educational opportunities for those interested in starting their own business or learning the screen printing process. We do these on a micro level at the moment, but really want to scale it up to serve as many people as possible. 

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

The creative energy of Native people is undeniable and a lot of the world is beginning to see that. There are friends of mine who have been working for years in their industry that I’m now seeing collaborate with amazing organizations and major level brands. They’re killing it! And that representation breathes new life in me always.

What advice would you give to other business owners just starting out? 

I want people to not feel ashamed or stupid for asking questions. Be a constant student, even into your old age. No one knows everything. 

What’s your “power song” and why? 

That’s something that’s always changing! But I’d say, at the moment, it’s anything from Indigenous DJ duo “The Halluci Nation”, anything from hardcore band Turnstile, or “Take Back The Power” from the Interrupters. 

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