“I’m Nikki Hind. I am Australia’s first legally blind fashion designer and my business is Blind Grit. It’s a prestige fashion brand built entirely of and around people who live with a disability or mental illness. It’s something I feel very passionate about, releasing that potential of survivors and helping people with a disability who often find it difficult enough to have a job, much less a creative, aspirational job.
My biggest barrier to work was not being legally blind, as you might think, but was isolation. It can be very isolating having a disability. It can be very isolating being a single mother. I don’t drive, I was broke, I have a background of trauma and I live in a rural area – and all of that was isolating. Isolation is an absolute killer of creativity and energy.
I was lucky enough to be in the very first rural Sister School, in Albury-Wodonga. Getting together with women who were all at different stages of their ideas was a break from the isolation. It was really lovely starting to feel like you’re part of a group and to have that validation and support.
Sister School helped me to break down my idea into how to turn it into a workable business model. You genuinely grow into what feels like a business family, I know they are invested in me. I entered the IMG Dreamstarter scholarship the year after completing the program and it was their help to really pull my idea apart and put it together in a much more concise and powerful manner that allowed me to have something professional enough to win that scholarship.
I’d recommend Sister School because it works with the whole human, with the person who is a woman and who is often a mum, or a carer. They help you see where you’re at from a strength-based perspective: rather than thinking I don’t have enough money, I don’t have skills in this area, I’m not educated, I don’t speak English very well, I have a disability, I don’t think I’m an entrepreneur, they embrace the things that can sometimes be seen as weaknesses as strengths. These are your stories, these are the things you have worked through, this is what you are passionate about, this is what you can do.
Starting a business has connected me back to community and society. I felt really disconnected there for quite some time. Now, I get to travel and meet all sorts of people. I certainly haven’t reached financial wellbeing yet – fashion design is not an easy way to start making money! But to be able to support my family and not feel like I’m living week-to-week would be brilliant. I’d love to be able to take the boys on holiday, I’d love to not have to worry about whether our washing machine breaks down. But, more so, success means that I’m doing something that feels purposeful and that I’m proud for my boys to be watching me do. That’s what success feels like: being proud of what I put out there.”