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How my experience with workplace bullying sparked my business idea

- December 20, 2019 4 MIN READ

Amber Wilkinson, founder of Kind is Cool shares the journey that led her to found her business and the role purpose plays in its success.

Bullying: so uncool. I’ve been subject to it. But it got a fire started in my belly!

I lost faith in kindness about 2 years ago, I believed there was no kindness left in the world. I was bullied by someone of authority that I worked with, it really affected me.

At first it was just subtle comments and remarks and I just thought he was an unhappy person. It then escalated to being excluded from things and even getting singled out, blatantly. He would degrade me, make me feel unworthy and openly admit that I would go no where in the workplace I was in. 

This is just a very top-level example of my experience. I felt sick every day before work, I felt anxious and it was affecting everyone around me. 

I eventually built up the courage to approach him about this. He disregarded the conversation and no action was taken. I then approached higher powers, no action was taken. Nothing was done. 

Where did we go wrong as a society. When did it become ok to treat others that way? Now, I’m not putting everyone in the same corner of course, but there are still so many of us that have no concept of ‘lifting each other up and not putting each other down’. Often kindness gets forgotten about, often it isn’t the initial way we choose to respond. But did you know that being kind takes less energy than being mean?

From my experience, I wanted to make a change. Do my bit in the world and also find my career purpose. I knew I could do one of two things, I could continue to allow my experience to affect me, or I could do something to bring more kindness into the world. 

Personally, I had always toyed with the idea of designing t-shirts with kind messages on them for my two sons, it was at this moment I decided that I wanted people everywhere, as many as I could get to wear my t-shirts to spread more kindness into the world.

My designs are made with love and kindness, in the hope at least one person wearing them will be kinder and/or inspire someone to be kinder.

Kind is Cool is a purpose led brand. To help fight bullying. We proudly support Bully Zero by donating $2 from every item sold, to help educate, empower and support people around bullying.

I have some advice for others starting a purpose-led brand or thinking about aligning your brand with making a change. 

Spark an idea: find what drives you 

If you want to know your purpose, first start with what you believe. I believe in kindness, for example.  

Your belief is your compass; it’s what drives you. It’s your differentiation in the market and the foundation upon which your purpose lives.

Perhaps your beliefs have been driven by a specific experience. Perhaps you have a charity close to your heart that you would like to support or perhaps there’s a specific way you’d like to make the world a better place. 

Purpose-led business owners are not only accountable to themselves and the success of the business, but their mission is what drives their passion too. 

Start with your belief and a business idea will spark. 

Tailor your messaging 

Surprisingly, this isn’t rocket science. 

If you know what you believe, your messages will become clear. Make your mission simple. 

Find your people 

Comradery and community are the keys here and it is so much more than just surrounding yourself with positive people.  You need to surround yourself with the RIGHT people. My experience with bullying has taught me that it is crucial to find people who motivate you, keep working towards your mission and also value what your purpose is. 

Find people who lift you up and cheer you on, or inspire, challenge and mentor you. You want a support team around you who help you to keep your fire lit and passion burning. 

Be more than just a brand, build an army of supporters 

We know change is most effective when there is a large group behind the movement. In today’s society, a successful brand is more than a commodity, it is seen as a platform to establish community. By establishing an audience whose values align to that of your own (and in extension, your brand) you are building a support network who will promote your message. This army become more than just your customers or your audience, they become your advocates as they invest in the essence of what your brand stands for. An army of supporters will provide you with an energy which you can leverage to keep pushing the larger message and have your business truly live its purpose.

Be authentic 

Nothing is more important for a purpose-led brand than to stay true to your original ambitions. When you are down in the trenches of your business looking at sales, marketing and profits it can sometimes feel counterintuitive to your value proposition and what you originally set out to achieve. Keep going back to what put you on this path to start with and re-calibrate if you find that you are getting off track. Humans crave meaningful and genuine interaction. We have established that your purpose starts with a belief or an experience. This is your story and you need to own it. Work on building quality connections over quantity by sticking to your guiding values and being transparent and be reliable in your business approach. 

Be active

Being authentic and active go hand in hand. It isn’t just enough to give lip service and tell your customers all the wonderful things you want to do. You need to show them. Today consumers are a savvy lot and beyond being engaged, they want to see action. Brand trust plays a crucial part in business success; it also keeps you accountable. You need to walk the talk. Leverage the energy and support of your customers by demonstrating the steps you are taking to instigate change.

Use digital influencers 

Find people of influence that align with your brand. Share your values. Perhaps they have been through a similar experience and want to help shine a light on the issue you’re trying to help change. You will find that their followers also share the same values. Use their platform as a way to tell meaningful stories to spark change. 

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