Women of the Year 2021: Nia and Justice Faith Are Igniting Dreams with Révolutionnaire
From Olympic athletes and tech startup founders to social impact champions and business changemakers, our inaugural 2021 Women of the Year guide features 37 impressive leaders who are making a difference, both individually and as a collective. They’ve all navigated incredible obstacles to get to where they are (often on an uneven playing field) and yet, despite this, have still managed to summit their industries and change Canada—and the world around them—for the better. In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and the other women that inspire them in their own lives.
Nia and Justice Faith
What is your elevator pitch to the world?
Révolutionnaire is a movement to celebrate diversity and empower individuals to use their dreams to fuel revolutions through content, clothing, and community.
What was the impetus to starting your company or brand?
Nia: Révolutionnaire was inspired by my journey growing up as a Black ballerina never having access to apparel in my skin tone and constantly feeling alienated by my experiences in the dancewear store and studio. When I was 13, I met Misty Copeland for the first time and asked her to sign my pointe shoes. As she held them and the dye came off in her hands, Misty explained that she had the same issue with the dye coming off of her shoes. At that moment, I wondered what other young Black dancers such as myself were supposed to do when not even the top ballerina in the world had access to apparel in their skin tone. This is when I began thinking about creating a dancewear line catering to dancers of colour and launched Révolutionnaire several years later.
Justice: Révolutionnaire’s evolution was driven by Nia’s experience and the question of what it would look like if more young changemakers felt empowered to drive meaningful impact in their communities at scale. Our social network for changemakers was born in the aftermath of last summer, when unprecedented waves of online changemaking and youth mobilization served as catalysts of change. Acknowledging the challenges of existing platforms and the difficulty in finding a centralized source of information when wanting to make a difference, we wanted to create a space where young people can connect, learn, take action, and recharge with the network, tools, and information designed to scale impact across social causes.
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
Justice: We are building a movement and absolutely love the opportunity to meet and work with inspiring young people every single day who are driving change in their communities. The fact of the matter is that with so much going on in the world from racism, to climate change, a pandemic, and more, our generation cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. Instead, we are jumping into action and leveraging the unprecedented tools available at our fingertips and building community to drive the development of urgent solutions that are needed now and in the future.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your company and community?
In building Révolutionnaire, we have had the opportunity to impact communities around the world. With members from across the globe working on projects to create positive change within their communities and countries, the impact of Révolutionnaire has been able to scale exponentially and globally. From donation drives sending over $1M worth of essential supplies to people in need in the Caribbean, to book drives that establish libraries in Sub-Saharan Africa, community cleanups, and more, we look forward to building on our progress to continue to chart impact in Canada and beyond.
What does progress mean to you? How do you measure it for yourselves?
Justice: We look at progress holistically with the intent of pushing forward and expanding our platform for community and collective action. As we build this coalition, we do so understanding history. We do so with reverence to the sacrifice of our heroes. To ensure that our work remains relevant and forward-looking, it must be grounded in history—for history informs the future.
History has taught us that we achieve more when we come together; we achieve more when we defeat cynicism and we embrace hope. What history has taught us, we have learnt. And so, we are here at this defining moment, also understanding the demands of the future—and who the future belongs to. Alongside traditional KPIs and markers of success, we define our progress around stories of impact and incremental change that advance the cause towards something meaningful and sustainable.
What kind of problems are you trying to solve?
Nia: We set out looking to address a core need in the danceworld—inclusive apparel for all. Since then our work has expanded to draw inspiration from our own experiences and those of our peers to help people better answer the question, “How can I make a difference and where do I start?”
Justice: With so much going on in the world, finding your place can be challenging and easily overwhelming. We like to emphasize the power of the collective performing individual actions. No first step is too small, and we want to create a world where more people feel undaunted by the challenges of today and dedicated to creating better outcomes for all.
What are you doing that no one else is doing?
Both: We have created a dedicated social network for engaged citizens to learn about causes of interest, connect with likeminded changemakers from around the world, take action on the causes that they care about and recharge with our self-care and mindfulness offerings. Révolutionnaire serves as a streamlined platform for new changemakers and seasoned activists alike to drive change in their communities and beyond without the intimidation and fragmented experiences of other digital platforms used for changemaking.
We help those wanting to make a change every step of the way, from learning through our curated content hub with issue briefs and step-by-step guides to take action, connecting with like-minded people and supporters in the community, taking action (e.g., signing petitions, making donations, finding volunteer opportunities, leading service projects, organizing protests, and engaging with decision makers). We also have a Recharge Library with mindfulness, and self-care content for all members to take a step back and focus on self-care.
Was there ever a turning point in your career that fundamentally changed your business for the better?
Nia: The first turning point was meeting Misty Copeland. That introduction enabled me to recognize the limitless potential of a dream and planted a seed of inspiration that flourished years later. That meeting laid the foundation for Révolutionnaire.
Justice: Last summer represented a critical point for us and our journey. Nia and I have been involved in community work and changemaking since we were young, but the energy of last summer and the potency of youth voices drove our conviction to commit to doing this work full time. So much so that I decided to leave my job as a management consultant in the middle of the pandemic and dive in headfirst.
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve built your organization?
Justice: We have been raised to believe that there is no challenge that we cannot overcome—no dream too big to realize and this journey represents a proof point of that philosophy. Whether it is leaving my job in the middle of a pandemic to follow a dream, or Nia juggling dance, school, and running a company in pursuit of her dream—we welcome and embrace the challenges that lie ahead.
Nia: This experience has shown us our resilience and the fact that we are united in a deep sense of purpose. But it’s not just about us. It’s not just about our dreams. As our digital community continues to grow, we are even more confident that a united community working together; striving together can achieve the dreams and aspirations of a new generation of changemakers.
What has been the most challenging part of building your business?
Justice: Finding balance and pacing ourselves has been an unexpected challenge.
represents our shared passions and purpose and it is so easy to get wrapped up in the building process and become truly obsessed with what you are creating. We are fortunate to love what we do, but we realized early on that even long nights spent doing what you love can take a toll over time and it is important to keep up healthy habits and also find other sources for energy outside of work.
Nia: We live, work, and play together—and have evolved into sisters, best friends, co-founders, and accountability partners. We look after each other and are the first to remind each other when we’re going too hard and work to adjust accordingly. But that balance did not come overnight, and it’s something we are still working on.
What has been the most rewarding part of building your business?
Justice: The most rewarding part of building Révolutionnaire has been creating something that makes so many people feel included, reflected, and celebrated. We have seen these emotions captured in young dancers and their parents’ reactions to our original collection of products, our Révolutionnaire by Roots collaboration and the overwhelming comments and emails from people sharing how they felt seen and represented by our partnership with Roots, and in the sentiments of our community members who are excited to be part of a platform dedicated to them and the causes they care about.
Nia: It has been a bit surreal to see how our brand’s founding values have created a launchpad for so many extensions of our work through content, clothing, community and change and we are excited to say that we are just getting started.
What questions do you think all leaders should ask themselves before building a company?
Justice: What is your “why”? What do you think you want your company’s “why” to be? And do those two answers align? While the extent to which those answers mirror each other will vary by leader and the space they operate in, I do think these are critical questions to ask early, test often, and explore ways in which they complement and reinforce one another.
Nia: How do your lived experiences inform the development of an authentic solution to the problem you want to solve?
In your experience, what has proven to make for a great brand experience?
Justice: Authentic connections are core to our brand ethos and have shaped our brand experience since the beginning.
Nia: We were born out of my experiences and found community in bringing to market a collection designed to solve a problem felt by many. There is nothing quite like walking into a store and being faced with a sea of beige and nothing in your shade. That constant emotion of alienation can be damaging and we set out to revolutionize the landscape. Today, with our platform we’ve taken our lived experiences as young changemakers with dreams of a better future to inspire connections among and between people from all over the world to support their commitment to driving lasting change.
What is the mission of your brand? The bigger picture?
Nia: Our mission is to empower individuals to use their dreams to fuel revolutions. We aspire to incubate a generation of changemakers by equipping them with the tools, information, and community they need to accelerate and amplify their impact.
How do you define success? What does it mean to you?
Justice: I think it is crucial to define success on your own terms and optimise for it, rather than try to maximise it. Although things can get hectic, take the time to reflect and figure out what makes you happy and fulfilled, and what you need to be more of your true self. Cultivating a sense of purpose will provide you with the fuel to persevere and overcome any roadblocks you may face, now and in the future. Success for me is not about external validation, but rather how I feel when I am living my purpose.
What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away with when engaging with your brand or from your work?
The power of community to realize the biggest dreams we envision for ourselves and our world should never be underestimated.
Who is a woman in the community that you admire?
Our mom, 1000 percent. Our mom shaped our worldview to be grounded in a belief in what is possible, inspired our commitment to service and raised us as leaders from the very beginning. From working with us to prepare meal baskets for those experiencing food insecurity during the holidays instead of buying us Christmas gifts, to introducing us to cultural theory and an incredible canon of writers before we were preteens, and constantly supporting us to achieve the standard of excellence we set for ourselves, we would be nowhere without our mom. Her name, like our shared middle name is Faith and the faith she has in us to chase our dreams offers constant fuel to push forward and dream bigger.