Updated: Jul 17
Sam Kelly was only 14 years old when he started his own business...
BY KIERSTY KELLY PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDY WRIGHT
Creator of the POSITIVE VIBES brand Sam Kelly, a high-school student in Ontario, sports a baseball styled Dakota 3/4 sleeve t-shirt (Trimark Sportswear )and a vintage washed mesh-back baseball cap (DML Creation/Cap America).
He was a fairly happy kid with friends, a solid B average in school, alove for singing and a newfound joy for playing badminton with his high school team. He was hitting his stride as a “regular” teenager and doing “regular” teenager things. He didn’t have a part-time job yet as he was still a bit too young to be hired by most businesses in the small town where he lives, but that didn’t stop him from thinking like an entrepreneur.
LIFE CAN BE GRAND Small town positive vibes can be found all along the Grand River in southern Ontario, featuring Sam Kelly.
Sam is a highly sensitive young man, very tuned in with the feelings and moods of those around him. He began to notice that many of his friends were often sad, discouraged, unhopeful and even depressed. It weighed heavy on him and he wanted to make a change. He felt that many of his peers were living in a negative place. They would often speak negatively about each other, the people they saw on social media every day and even themselves.
"I just realized that there was a lot of negativity among my peers. The environment that I was in just didn’t seem to allow for a lot of creativity and individuality, so I wanted to try and allow a space for people to express those emotions that they have and get out there and show people who they really are without constantly having the fear of being judged."
He decided to make a conscious effort to send out more positivity into the world. The world needs more positive vibes, especially among the younger age group. So, he sat at his computer one day and designed his own positive vibes logo. He wanted to create a symbol that he hoped would become recognizable throughout his high school and maybe even his community in general. He hoped that when people saw the bright, cheery yellow and blue colours and the plus symbol, they might be reminded to smile, be uplifted and feel and send out positive vibes.
Sam Kelly's POSITIVE VIBES collection includes a mix of comfortable fashions for recreation and self care accessories like a water bottle for hydration and journaling set for promoting good mental health.
Sam had a close connection to the promotional merchandise industry as his mom has worked in the industry for the better part of 20 years and her partner is also the co-owner of a successful distributorship of promotional merchandise.
He was no stranger to seeing the cool new promo items his mom would bring home from trade shows and the samples that would often be brought into the house as part of client presentations. He asked his mom and step-dad if they would use their connections in the promotional world to help him get his logo on some apparel items that teenagers might want to buy so he could promote his message of positivity in the most widely spoken language of teenagers…clothes and fashion.
Sam’s mom made a deal with him that she would partner with him in his business endeavour by financing the purchase of a small collection of branded apparel items, such as T-shirts, hoodies and hats, if Sam promised to be the sales rep and marketing guy. He’d have to promote his message of positive vibes and the apparel collection amongst his peers.
He went straight to work and posted pictures of his newly developed apparel line on his social media platforms and wore his own branded merchandise to school often. He would ask all his teachers if he could have a few moments to address the class and he would get up in front of the class and briefly tell the story of how he feels there needs to be more positivity among his age group and that’s what his apparel line was all about and that they should buy his apparel so they can help spread more positive vibes themselves.
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His line of apparel was an instant hit! He sold a bunch of T-shirts and hoodies to his friends and classmates and even some of his teachers and the vice-principal of the school placed orders. His friends gave him very positive feedback about what he was doing and this gave him the confidence to think bigger. He started thinking about designing a few variations of the logo and looking for more items that would appeal to the younger demographic. He even decided that once his small business became profitable, he would donate a portion of his profits to a local youth mental health support group he knew about and had a connection to. Sam was well on his way to expanding his product line and achieving his goal of sending out positive vibes.
Then COVID hit.
Being a teenager is tough. Being a teenager during the time of a global pandemic that rages around the world, disrupting almost every aspect of life as we know it, and cutting you off from the very thing that you value most in your world—your friends—is even tougher. The pandemic certainly took its toll on Sam and like many, many other kids his age, the online schooling, the complete lack of social connection from his friends and peers, the absence of a normal school routine, and of course, his badminton games, really put Sam in a bad place. He lost his ambition to promote his Positive Vibes brand because he didn’t feel any positive vibes himself. It was a chore to just do his online schooling and he had little energy or motivation for much else. Like so many others, he just went into survival mode for almost two entire years.
Sam Kelly discovered it's hard to feel angry or sad when you're singing, and pursued his own positive vibes by exploring his musical talents.
One of the few things that Sam found some enjoyment in while going through various levels of lock-downs and restrictions was singing. Sam found that music lifted his spirits and provided a much needed distraction from what was going on in the world and he realized it’s hard to be angry or sad if you are singing! So he sang in the car, he sang in the shower, he sang alone in his room and once he and his friends were all able to hang out again, he sang around campfires and in groups of other musically minded friends.
Fast forward to the spring and summer of 2022 and things are looking up. The weather is once again warming up, double vaccination rates across Canada are at well over 80 per cent and the restrictions are once again starting to lift. The general mood around the world is one of less anxiety about COVID-19.
Now Sam is 17, has a new part-time job, is in his final year of high school and is looking forward to spending a “normal” summer with friends before starting his adult life and choosing a post-secondary education and career. Still unsure what that career will look like, promoting his Positive Vibes collection to a broader audience is a really good place to start.
Like all of us, he is trying to get back on track after all the COVID-19 disruptions and sometimes it’s a struggle. For this reason, now, more than ever, he feels he needs to spread his positive vibes. He has chosen some new designs for his logo and once again he has partnered with his mom and step-dad to create a new collection of Positive Vibes branded merchandise and it will all be available to order on his own webstore.
And as for his singing? Sam doesn’t know if he wants to pursue a career in music or if he just wants to use it to keep his spirits up and his vibe more positive and be a star around some campfires. He did a cover of a popular Frank Sinatra song to remind himself and others that life happens and whether good or bad, you gotta just keep your chin up and keep going. Here is Sam sending you some positive vibes through music and hopefully it inspires you to keep your chin up and keep going too!
- as featured in marketingedge magazine April 2022 - click to open e-magazine