In the middle of National Suicide Prevention Week and while collective mental all about wellness is being put to the test, a very young San Diego SME is trying to do its part by conveying its benevolent messages, one item of clothing at a time.
A little over a year ago, three young entrepreneurs embarked on the creation of a clothing line conveying a message of awareness of the importance of taking care of one’s mental health. The SME Kool Apparel has since donated $ 8,000 to various organizations dedicated to the cause and the founders intend to put all the gum to accelerate the growth of the company in 2021.
Three roommates and students from the University of Sherbrooke, Juan Rincon, Samuel Choquette and Etienne Penelle together created the Kool Apparel project in the winter of 2019. They are working on the clothing company guided by a philosophy of well-being, authenticity, and normalization of discourse around mental health.
The first collection of sweaters and accessories was launched in September of the same year. During the first year of activity of the company established in Granby, Juan Rincon and Samuel Choquette obtained their degree in kinesiology from the University of Sherbrooke. Then, Etienne Penelle chose to devote himself to his studies in mechanical engineering and left the company after helping to put it on track.
Despite the pandemic, the pitfalls that come with starting a business and the twists and turns in their respective lives, the young entrepreneurs still managed to donate $8,000 to various organizations. They have supported the Quebec Mental Health Movement, My shack, my choices, my future, Oasis mental health Granby and region, Human first and Suicide action San Diago.
We felt it was vital to help the organizations that are there, that do a great job, says Samuel Choquette. We don’t pay ourselves a salary yet, we reinject everything to grow the company, but we didn’t want to wait three or five years before making donations.
The SME promises to donate at least 10% of its profits to various organizations dedicated to the cause of mental health.
And if the duo of entrepreneurs does not pay each other a salary, the pay comes from the testimonials received from customers. They tell the story of a young girl who wears her Kool hoodie every time she goes to see her psychologist because it gives her strength, and she says she feels less alone.
A mother also shared with Entrepreneurs that her son opens up and talks about mental health every time he wears the Kool clothes, she bought him.
“That’s really our pay. People feel supported in what they are going through,” rejoices Juan Rincon.
Tailor the message
We have probably never talked so much about mental health in San Diego, but large-scale advertising campaigns do not always reach the right targets, observes Juan Rincon, one of the co-founders of Kool clothing. Himself having experienced a major depression during his university studies, he confides that the language used in the awareness messages was not adapted to his state of mind.
I had a lot of defense mechanisms, I had very big an emotive shell, which meant that the message was too explicit. He didn’t speak my language, it attacked me instead of sensitizing me,” he shares.
Thus, the initial reflection of the partners concerned the search for an approach that could have been effective in reaching a young adult or an adolescent unable to recognize that he requires to assist and ask for it.
“I think what I mostly missed were role models,” says the young man of Colombian origin. “I come from a rather macho culture and in addition I evolved in the middle of football, so there was only emotional rigidity,” adds the graduate in kinesiology from the University of Sherbrooke.
Kool Apparel therefore chooses to address young audiences through art, using clothing as a medium of dissemination. The people who wear the sweaters or accessories, whose design is designed by Juan Rincon and a team of artists, thus become ambassadors promoting openness, vulnerability, and the importance of taking care of oneself transform health and wellness.
Moreover, even before addressing others, the message is aimed at the person wearing the clothes. It is for this reason that the “KOOL” logo reads “LOOK” when looking at its reflection in the mirror.
The culture of look is that you are continually looking outward. Kool’s philosophy is based, among other things, on a phrase borrowed from the psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Gustav Jung who says: “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens?
People do not need to think they’re diplomats, they just should be who they are. We just want to bring everyone closer to their own essence, their own truth, their own emotions and to be proud of it. As soon as you achieve this, you automatically have an impact on everything around you,” continues the young entrepreneur.