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Chico State

Alumna Takes Pride in Identity, Launches ‘Queer Gear’ Business

Alumna Sarah Weiss stands in front a rack holding folded T-shirts that she sells on her shop, Queer Gear.
Photos courtesy of Sarah Weiss

Sarah Weiss does a little dance every time an order comes in.

It has been almost five years since she started her e-commerce business, Queer Gear, but the excitement hasn’t died down.

Weiss (Music Industry and Technology, ’12) launched an apparel brand to create inclusive and empowering clothing and accessories for the queer community. Her entrepreneurship endeavor came from her experience trying to find shirts that represented her at a time when her sense of identity began burgeoning.

It took two decades to come out, Weiss said. When she felt comfortable attending her first Pride event, she began shopping for T-shirts on Amazon. There was no emotional connection as she browsed and made a purchase. It made her ponder where her shirt came from, whom she ordered from, and where the money was going.

“There was no community feel and I started looking around for shops,” she said. “Now, I have found that there are a handful of great small queer-owned businesses, but at that time I just wasn’t able to find what I was looking for. So, on a whim, we (Weiss and her partner of six years Alex Goots) jumped in and created a website and now we’re a full-fledged business.”

A person wearing a T-shirt that reads "IT'S NOT A PHASE" points their thumbs at themselves.
A person stands on the roof of a building with hands in their pocket and has a T-shirt that reads "THIS IS WHAT QUEER LOOKS LIKE"

She has a video of Queer Gear getting the first order and shipping label, which is now framed along with her LLC plaque.

“It was our first purchase, and it was within five minutes of posting on Instagram. I just lost my mind—we have a video of me jumping and screaming on the bed,” Weiss said. “We like to joke that we can assure you (Amazon owner) Jeff Bezos is not jumping up and down when he gets an order. But every order we get we do a little dance.”

There has been a lot of “grinding” and learning for Weiss since Queer Gear launched in 2018, but the main change is in how the brand persona evolved—which is reminiscent of her own story. Seeing other businesses and the LGBTQ+ community face hate on social media made Weiss initially avoid putting her face and relationship on her business page.

“I was very adamant about it being a brand and a business—it’s not about us as a couple. It’s not about our journey. It’s about Queer Gear,” she said. “We learned quickly that that wasn’t the right move. We started realizing that people wanted to know who we are and what our story was. And so that’s something that we work on all the time.”

The couple now routinely features themselves in videos on Queer Gear’s Instagram and TikTok accounts—and will take on detractors in the comments.

Queer Gear’s new brand identity is more in line with Weiss’ mission for starting this passion project. For her, it wasn’t about money, but about creativity and sharing an experience, as well as supporting the queer community. A portion of the proceeds go to various nonprofit organizations focused on LGBTQ+ causes, including The Okra Project, The Trevor Project, and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.

Operating out of a home office, Weiss said she feels privileged to produce high-quality products that look good and make a difference in individuals’ mindsets and confidence.

Weiss said it’s still challenging and upsetting to think that societal expectations managed the way she lived for the first 25 years of her life.

“But it also gives me a lot of pride,” she said. “I think that’s one thing that a lot of people don’t understand about why we celebrate Pride and about why it is important for the queer community to feel so proud. Queer Gear is about representation and awareness, and to allow people to be uniquely, proudly, and unapologetically themselves.”