Individuality is something that makes each of us unique. Whether it is the color of our hair or eyes, or the way we talk or certain challenges we face, it’s those differences that help shape us.
Kaitlyn “Katie” Rodriguez, 20, knows all too well about overcoming challenges and embracing uniqueness.
Doctors never expected Katie to be able to walk or talk, her parents, Mark and Crystal Rodriguez, said.
Katie has severe scoliosis and has undergone an eight-hour spinal fusion surgery from spinal discs T-2 to T-12. Growing up, Katie would have to wear braces on her hands and feet.
Katie also has a learning disability and battles depression and anxiety.
It’s her challenges that have given Katie the motivation and inspiration to start her own clothing line to help others embrace their uniqueness.
“I’ve always wanted to do a clothing brand but I wanted it to be for people like me who have scoliosis, have anxiety or other things, and when they wear my clothes, it’s something they are proud to wear,” Katie explained. “That is what Ewnēk is about.”
Her desire to promote uniqueness is even seen in the name of her brand, Ewnēk, a play on the word “unique.”
“She came up with the spelling because she wanted it to be unique,” Crystal Rodriguez said. “It took a lot of Googling and research of putting it together.”
With full support from her parents, Katie launched her project by asking for the public’s help in determining a logo for the company.
Katie drew three different smiley faces, posted them on social media and asked people to choose which one they liked the best.
Once they had a winner, Katie and her mom began working on the design of the word “ewnēk.”
Sitting at their kitchen table, the two worked on different styles until they came up with the fun bubble lettering dotted with colorful spots and topped off with the winning smiley face design.
Once they had their logo set, the family submitted the design to the state for trademarking rights and began looking for local companies to help with screen-printing and embroidery.
“With everything going on, we wanted to support someone locally,” Crystal Rodriguez said. “Big businesses are doing fine, so we wanted to help the smaller businesses out.”
Katie has even contemplated opening up a small store front or stand to sell her products.
From a young age Katie exuded confidence and never let bullies cause her to doubt her abilities.
“She’s always been an advocate for herself. If somebody made fun of her, we were the last to know because she went to a teacher,” Crystal Rodriguez said. “She never stayed quiet and she never accepted being bullied if they tried.”
Throughout the years, Katie has participated in a variety of activities including soccer, cheerleading, track, Junior ROTC, volleyball and unified basketball.
“She’s always been self-driven. If she wants to do something we will be like, ‘OK, Katie’ and she would be like, ‘I already signed up’,” Mark Rodriguez said.
In addition to helping people embrace their own uniqueness, Katie plans to use some of her profits to give back to local charities within the community.
“I have a big heart and I like helping people,” Katie said. “Five percent of Ewnēk’s proceeds will go to charities.”
Ewnēk items available for purchase include t-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps and stickers. Depending on the size, shirts range in price from $15 to $34, hoodies are $25 to $36, hats are $26 each and stickers sell for $2 each. Clothing is offered in youth and adult sizes.
“I’m a t-shirt and hoodie person, so that’s more me. So that’s how we decided on what to do,” Katie said. “We have stickers that people can put on their cars or laptops.”
According to Katie, t-shirts, hoodies and hats are just the beginning of the Ewnēk empire. She is working on expanding the line to offer beanies, water bottles, dog clothes and other items.
“I don’t want this to just be a hobby and be, ‘Oh, I only got a couple of orders,’ and I’m done with it,” Katie said. “I want this to be like a business where it grows and people like to walk around with it in different states and continents.”
For more information on Ewnēk, or to order items, go to http://bit.ly/3sy6iZj or https://bit.ly/3uFTL8f.