Megan Banias is a Filipina-American clothing designer in Chicago and Founder of Chicago For Keeps, her own embroidered clothing company that donates a portion of its profits to non-profit organizations within the city. She’s been featured on Good Morning America’s 2022 Inspiration List: Celebrating AANHPI changemakers”, Forbes’ 2023 “Trailblazing Women Who Are Disrupting Industries & Advocating For Change”, and is often seen at local vendor and craft markets throughout the greater Chicagoland area.
As a fellow Filipino, it’s always nice to see my kababayan doing incredible things and spreading their joy, especially within our city. Anyone who’s ever met Megan at vending events can attest to her being an absolute ray of sunshine, but also that her warmth can be felt through the clothing and her mission with it. In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it’s a pleasure to talk to her and feature Chicago For Keeps.
What does the phrase “Chicago For Keeps” mean to you?
To me, the phrase “Chicago For Keeps” means reinvesting into Chicago through donations to organizations really pouring time and energy into the communities in need. It’s a phrase that embodies a love and pride for our city and I feel like it is a saying or phrase that resonates with all people who have ever called this city Home.
What organizations have you been able to donate to so far?
It’s one thing to create a business, but it’s another to use that business to give back. Was there anything specific that inspired that mission?
I started Chicago For Keeps as a business that made giving back as a part of its normal business operations because I was really curious to see if it would work and also to prove that other big name brands out there definitely have the capacity to do the same–it’s all about intention. I also believe that a regular habit of small efforts lead to a big impact one day. It’s not easy as a solo small business owner to give away as much money as we do at times, but I am super fulfilled knowing it’s helping sustain a small organization’s work.
There are some nods to your Filipino heritage in your designs. Do you feel that being visible as Filipino-American/Asian-American is important?
I think it is super important to represent my Filipino heritage and have that culture be visible in my pieces. I think that it is important to normalize Filipino symbols and cultural signifiers as a fashion aesthetic. It is important to me that I create pieces that not only nod my Filipino background, but are also super wearable for people of all cultures and backgrounds. My happiest moments are when non-Filipinos choose to purchase and enjoy pieces that have Filipino representation. I love sharing the meaning of the design and it’s nice to share that exchange of cultural knowledge with them.
What are your favorite things about being FIlipino?
My favorite thing about being Filipino is honestly the people. I love how welcoming and positive Filipino/Filipino American people are. We all have our many talents (singing, baking, dancing, designing, sports, building cars, saving lives, etc.) and we’re typically very good at them! I also love how we all instantly become friends or related once we find another Filipino in the room.
Owning a small business can mean a lot of highs and lows. At your low points, what motivated you to keep striving forward?
I’ve had a lot of lows in owning a small business, but what motivates me to keep striving forward is the thought that every shirt or sweater makes an impact in its own way and that one shirt or sweater has helped this business donate close to $9k so it’s a nice reminder that it’s a marathon not a race!
Any advice you have to others who are looking to start their own business or looking to help their community?
My advice for someone looking to start their own business would be to surround yourself with like-minded people. Even if they are pursuing different business ideas or if they are further along, having a support system of people who understand what you’re trying to achieve is so helpful and helps keep you going when things get tough.