#HowIMadeIt 2017

Kayley Reed, Socially Conscious Fashion Designer

FLARE #HowIMadeIt celebrates 100+ talented, ambitious and driven Canadian women with cool jobs. Want what Kayley has? Here's how she did it

Kayley Reed posing in a white t-shirt

Kayley Reed; New Brunswick; @kayley.e


Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?

I own a clothing line called Wear Your Label: we design positive products to start conversations around mental health!

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I went to Renaissance College at the University of New Brunswick. I graduated with a bachelor in interdisciplinary leadership studies (and a minor in French).

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

I co-founded Wear Your Label the year I graduated from UNB —and applied to a business accelerator program that summer. We received funding from the university to work on Wear Your Label full-time and build it from an idea into a real functioning business in three months.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

Starting Wear Your Label was my “big break.” But the company’s “big break” came in May 2015—we were broke, pouring all of our energy into this little startup after the accelerator ended, and were about ready to throw in the towel. As a final resort, I spent a month cold-emailing reporters and journalists, telling them our story. One day, I got a call from a woman at Today.com [the website for The Today Show] who wanted to write about us for Mental Health Awareness Month. After that interview went live, a dozen other international press outlets starting contacting us for interviews.

Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?

That week in May, which we now call “The Buzzfeed Era.” We received literally thousands of e-mails and DMs from people all over the world, sharing their own mental health stories and thanking us for starting the brand. It was an absolute dream come true (and totally overwhelming…but amazing).

What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

There have been many, but I try not to dwell on them. Failure is ultimately a part of growth. Overcoming my own mental illness while trying to grow a business has been extremely difficult —the two  are hard enough on their own. There’s been days when I feel like I’m failing because I can’t get up in the morning, when depression or anxiety will hit me like a boat, despite being “recovered.” Recovery is a journey; there’s no one pill or cure that will make everything “better.” You learn your triggers, and you learn to better manage them, but there will always be times when you feel like you’re failing—this is especially true in business, with the added pressures of being an entrepreneur. I’ve thankfully become very self-aware, and surrounded myself with an incredibly supportive community (online, and IRL). Self-care is key to bouncing back— and recognizing that taking care of myself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary to succeed as a leader.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

There is no such thing as an overnight success.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

“Stop wasting your time on social media.”

Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?

As an entrepreneur, I’ve definitely felt out of place as a woman. The startup industry is still very much a boys’ club, most mentors are men, most program organizers are men, most investors are men, and most funding goes to male entrepreneurs. Walking into a “startup event” and being the only (or one of few) women can be intimidating, and frustrating. It’s getting better— and there are some rad women who are paving the way in gender equality in this space—but it is still a barrier for many women who feel like they don’t belong, like they’re not supported, and can’t access funding as easily as their male counterparts.

Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?

As an entrepreneur, this is an interesting question. I’ve bootstrapped the business since day 1, and always believed in reinvesting in the company rather than taking a larger salary for myself. But I’m grateful that I get to have the lifestyle I do with the job that I have.  I’m also really entrepreneurially-inclined, so I’ve always got a couple “side hustles” on the go.

What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?

That millennials think they know everything. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

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