Kayley Reed knew she was destined to be a leader. Planning events and leading fundraising campaigns at her high school in small-town Alberta, Kayley always wanted to contribute to her community.
When Kayley discovered UNB’s Renaissance College, the country’s first interdisciplinary leadership program, she fell in love with the program, moved to New Brunswick and never looked back.
Yet the co-founder and CEO of Wear Your Label, an internationally renowned clothing line with the goal of promoting mental health and ending the stigma around mental illness, couldn’t have predicted where enrolling in Renaissance College would take her.
Renaissance College is the first university program to offer a required course in social entrepreneurship. This, combined with the overall experience of the interdisciplinary leadership program, provided Kayley with the knowledge and confidence to start a social enterprise.
“The most important things I learned at Renaissance College were how to critically assess situations, decision-making, and presentation skills. These little things are so vital when it comes to building a start-up.”
Mental health awareness became the business’s focus through her own personal history. During university, Kayley struggled with depression, self-harm and an eating disorder. She kept it to herself, reluctant to even share with her family, until she decided to open up to two Renaissance College professors about her challenges. It ultimately changed her path.
“They were incredibly empathetic and supportive. In my third year, I started a co-op placement with a local mental health organization. I finally met others who ‘got it’ – people who were open about their own mental health struggles and were passionate about ending the stigma,” she said.
Until that point in her education, Kayley had planned on pursuing a career in the fashion industry.
“But a friend, who became Wear Your Label’s co-founder, realized there was an opportunity to create something of our own – to combine fashion and mental health.”
Using her leadership skills and personal experiences, Wear Your Label was born. Since 2014, the company has been promoting mental wellness and removing the negative connotations associated with having a mental illness. The business is known around the globe for its stylish pieces and its message.
“To me, social entrepreneurship is the ability to make money, and do good. It’s a sustainable way to create an impact, fueled by what the market wants and cares about,” she said.
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