Nikki Paige and the creative spirit of an artist-entrepreneur
By John Kregler, StartOut
When Nikki Paige’s (she/her) second-grade teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, Nikki boldly said, “I want to be an entrepreneur.”
The dream of being her own boss was always an inherent one. Nikki’s dad was a serial entrepreneur who she watched build multiple, successful businesses from the ground up. She watched him call his own shots, go into the office when he wanted to, and work tirelessly to support his family.
An artist her entire life, Nikki’s driven by creativity whether in physical or digital art, storytelling, film and production — you name it, she’s done it.
“I grew up in Washington, D.C., but knew I needed a more creative environment to thrive as an artist. When I was in college, the recession hit and my Dad told me I had to be proactive to get a job after graduation. I transferred schools after getting an internship in New York City and finally found myself in that creative, cultural scene.”
In New York, Nikki interned at Sony Music Entertainment during the day and took acting classes at Stella Adler Conservatory at night. Through all of it, she found a merger between her creative business sides that motivated her journey to entrepreneurship. She moved to Los Angeles in 2015 with the goal of creating her own studio. In her early years in the new city, she worked in costume and set design, shot commercials, and appeared in some of Netflix’s original films.
After a few years working in consulting and production, she launched Chad Kenzie Studios — an art technology company focusing on immersive multimedia art experiences.
Through her platform, Nikki creates art unique experiences that merge traditional practices with new technology and media. Her premiere collection, Lady Butch, is a sustainable luxury art, interiors, and lifestyle brand created by multidisciplinary artists at her studio.
“The name Chad Kenzie came from a story I wrote when I was an undergrad. The name means “defender of the bright ones” which speaks to our mission. We want to put a mirror in the faces of people who see the art we make.”
As a Black, queer woman navigating the entrepreneurial landscape, Nikki admits that biases have shaped the way she conducts business. Oftentimes, she’s the only person in the room that looks like her, and she’s fought to be taken seriously by her male counterparts.
“The amount of effort I have to put into things that have nothing to do with my business is sometimes frustrating. I can automatically notice a clear difference in how I’m treated simply by how I present myself. I don’t see that with my male peers. They can roll out of bed and right into a Zoom call and no one bats an eye, but if I do that, no one will give me the time. I’ve learned not to treat it as a challenge though. Instead, I find power in knowing the value of my different perspective and recognize that taking authority over my identity is my biggest strength.”
Part of the journey to embracing herself completely was joining StartOut. After doing research on organizations that serve LGBTQ+ founders, she found our community and reached out for support. Today, Nikki serves on our LA programming board supporting local events for one of our largest chapters.
Getting involved was an obvious choice for Nikki. She loves helping other underserved entrepreneurs because she knows how hard it is to get started. But through her journey, she’s found what it takes to succeed. To other female, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ founders, she offers a few pieces of advice:
- Never stop learning.
- Allow your vision to evolve.
“The best thing you can do is get all the information possible, even if you don’t think it’ll help right then and there. And then don’t be afraid to let your idea change. The vision I had for this company in 2012 is not 100% identical to what it is now and that’s ok because I’m not the same person I was in 2012. And in other ways, I’m exactly the same person I was. Entrepreneurship is a journey. Trust the journey.”
The official Lady Butch collection is launching this spring. Nikki’s first children’s book, Aunt Nansi and the Magic Mirror, is publishing next month with a complementing immersive art exhibit to follow.