Kinsey Powell is starting a rebelleution. That’s the name of the clothing company the 20-year-old launched in January, while only in her second year of a Bachelor of Commerce at Sauder.
She describes rebelleution as an avant-garde fashion company that appeals to your intelligence, as well as your sense of style. Powell has already been featured on national TV, and is looking forward to a packed summer as the clothing orders pile in.
Learning entrepreneurship in and out of the classroom
Having a business in tandem with working on her BCom has changed the way she looks at her classes. “Take managerial accounting,” she says. “At first, I really didn’t care about it. But now, I use it literally every day. Taking these classes as I’m setting up a company has been hugely beneficial.”
Powell is quick to point out Entrepreneurship 101, a brand-new course offered at Sauder, as being especially useful. The rebelleution business plan was her final project in what she says was “obviously” her favourite class. And she was excited to learn recently that Sauder will be offering a new specialization this fall that’s tailor-made for her: Entrepreneurship.
“I heard about that, and just thought, sign me up! The timing was perfect, right when I need to declare my specialization,” she says.
She plans to continue leveraging the entrepreneurial skills she gains in class to scale up her business. She says many young entrepreneurs drop out of school when their businesses take off, so she’s glad she won’t need to make that decision.
One of the biggest advantages will be the network of budding entrepreneurs in her classes who share similar goals and can bounce ideas off one another. “Those classes will be recklessly fun,” she says.
Connecting with fellow entrepreneurs is a big part of what attracted Powell to Vancouver from Toronto in the first place. She’s pleased that UBC is ramping up its commitment to training young entrepreneurs. “The fact is, if you want to stay in Vancouver after you graduate – and really, who doesn’t – your chances will be seriously improved if you have the skills to work for a start-up, or build a start-up yourself,” she says.
A love for creating value
“I’ve always wanted to create a business – it’s in my blood,” says Powell, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs, including both her mother and grandfather.
“The exciting part for me is the learning curve – every day there are 15 totally new challenges to tackle. I always want to be doing something new, and I love creating value – whether that value is financial, social, environmental, or whatever else,” she says. She’s planned her business to align with her own values, striving to use ethically-sourced materials, from environmentally-responsible suppliers.
She’s always had a keen interest in fashion, and homed in on T-shirts because of the potential for self-expression. “I love graphic shirts with cool messages or images,” she says, “but what irks me is that so many shirts don’t express positive messages.” So Powell and her designers seek inspiration from fine art, books, and bright ideas. They initially just did their own designs, but after helping a friend out to supply shirts for an event, word got out and Powell seized the opportunity to branch out into commission work.
Now rebelleution is poised to get even bigger, partly thanks to being featured on CBC’s The National in April. The video was about students and graduates struggling to find jobs. Powell was highlighted for making her own job.
She says it was “super cool” to be interviewed by news anchor Peter Mansbridge himself. “I was really scared at first, but he’s such a nice guy, it quickly turned into an easy conversation – it was actually a lot of fun,” she says. “Not to mention the fact our online presence has since gone through the roof!”
Tapping into the knowledge network
Powell credits her network for helping her get through the interview. “As soon as I heard I’d be on the National, the first thing I did was call a Sauder alum, saying ‘Help me, what should I say,’ so we figured out a game plan together,” she says.
She says connections with peers and professors are among the biggest benefits of going to Sauder. “We have these world-class professors with amazing knowledge and experience, and so many people don’t take advantage of them because they’re intimidated. No, come on, they’re just people – go talk to them!”
She came to Sauder filled with dreams, and says her time at Sauder has done nothing but fuel them. “Now I have the tools to go out and make it all happen.”
She’ll have her hands full this summer as rebelleution grows, while also working full-time in sales and marketing at a wine company. She’ll certainly be busy, but she’s not concerned. “I’m passionate about what I’m doing, so hopefully that passion will get me through the next few months,” she says with a laugh. “It’ll be a great summer.”