NFIB’s 2015 Dan Danner Leadership Award Winner: Stinky Feet Gurlz

Date: July 23, 2015 Last Edit: September 07, 2016

Asya Gonzalez uses her small business as a platform to advocate for victims of sex trafficking.

Asya Gonzalez is doing what many people—young and old—don’t
do in a lifetime: running a small business for a cause.

Gonzalez wanted to start a business at the young age of 13,
and with her parents’ help, she launched Stinky Feet Gurlz with a unique
mission in mind.

“My mom’s friend from high school had disappeared. A lot of
people were convinced that she was taken in sex trafficking,” Gonzalez says. “That
really opened my eyes.”

Her business focuses on her charity mission: selling T-shirts
and accessories to raise awareness and action against sex trafficking.

“Many people think it’s something that only happens abroad
or in third world countries, but a lot of [sex trafficking] actually goes on
here in America,” she says. “I really thought that this issue was not talked
about enough, and someone needed to step up and show everyone what this
horrible crime is all about.”

Gonzalez, now 18, started her business selling her 1940s
vintage-inspired T-shirt designs on social media, and since then has upgraded to
selling through her own website.
She’s also taken on a much bigger role with an organization called Independent
Youth
.  Through this group, Gonzalez speaks
to teenagers all over the country—up to 500 at one event— to encourage other
young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and pursue their business ideas.

“For some, building a business is really a passion, and if
you have that passion, go for it,” she urges. “Don’t let anything hold you
back, and definitely not yourself. Take that confidence that you have and do
something that you love.”

Gonzalez also contributes to a radio show, where she can
express her beliefs and talk with other teens about doing what they love. She launched
a YouTube channel with
videos showcasing her expertise in crafting, hair, makeup and all things
beauty.

While she may look confident now, the road to success hasn’t
been easy for the Stinky Feet Gurlz founder.

“The biggest challenge was people not taking me seriously,
and adults looking at me like I was just a kid who would think ‘she’s not going
to go any farther than she is right now,’” says Gonzalez. “As I thought about
it more, I realized you don’t need to be 30 years old to know what you’re
doing. Even when you’re 30 years old, you still don’t have all the knowledge
you need.”

Throughout her time as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Gonzalez
has found her own definition of success.

“You can have all the money in the world that you want, but
if you’re not happy in what you’re doing, I don’t see that as success,” she says.

Gonzalez plans to head to University of Denver next semester
to study business and fashion design. To appeal to an older market, Gonzalez also
thinks she will change the name of her company to reflect a more mature brand.

She says Stinky Feet Gurlz has been a great springboard for
her ambitions of becoming a fashion designer with her own clothing label.

“I’m really enjoying having the Stinky Feet Gurlz business
as a link to the fashion industry. Since I want to start my own label, I’m
going to need to have more knowledge than just drawing and coming up with
designs.”

NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation established its scholarship program to raise awareness among the nation’s youth about the critical role of private enterprise and entrepreneurship. Since 2003, YEF has awarded over 2,500 scholarships worth more than $2.5 million to graduating high school seniors who own and/or operate their own small business. Meet the other 2015 winners and learn how to get involved.

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