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My Mercer Island

Your guide to life on Mercer Island, WA

youbeyou Launches to Celebrate Individuality

July 9, 2018 By Naomi Tomky 

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A sign in Carmela Wood’s yard announces to passersby that her family welcomes all races, religions, countries of origin, sexual orientations, and genders. But that wasn’t enough for her, and she wondered, “What would a wearable version of that look like?” That question, coupled with the individuality of her own four children – particularly her second son, Jasper – inspired Kind Ties, the first product from her new company, youbeyou.

The colorful ties, which can be worn as bracelets, on zipper pulls, in hair, or wherever, are a celebration of everyone’s individuality. They cost $5 a pair, and come in only even numbers, to inspire a “wear one, gift one” mentality. Of the four designs, each pack comes with the original design and one named for (and designed by) each of Wood’s three children besides Jasper, the seven-year-old who inspired the company.

 

“As long as I remember,” Wood describes of her second son, “he wore heels, wanted to dress in princess outfits, sings, dances, sparkles.” When he was two and three, nobody cared, but now, she — and her other kids, their family, and their friends — needed a way to show they supported him even as the world around him might not. At the same time, they saw their neighbors, immigrants from Iran, experience racism, and it doubled down their commitment to show support. “What can we do to make a message?” the family asked. Kind ties became their way to, Wood puts it, “Let other people know your beliefs, that you’re a safe person to talk to, that you won’t judge them.”

Wood modeled the ties after a bracelet her sister designed to raise money for autism. She brought on board not just her own immediate family, but a whole network of local friends and relatives — her kids are fifth-generation Mercer Islanders – and much of the business was driven by their desire to put positivity out into their own community. Reaching out has been one of the toughest parts of starting her first business, Wood says. She struggled to find the confidence to put it out there wondering, “How much do we want to expose our family life to the public?”

But the more they considered it, the more they realized that fear of being bold in public was the whole point of the company. “We shouldn’t be ashamed that we’re different, but rejoice in that,” she says. And so they set out to create a bigger, kinder community. While the company began with designs by her own four children, she hopes to expand with new designs by other kids, to empower kids to create their own designs, and then to continue to push their message through donations of their profits to programs that empower kids. “I don’t know if we’ll sell 5 or 5000,” she admits. “But we want to put it out there that we accept everyone as who they are.”

To learn more about the youbeyou mission and story and to purchase Kind Ties, visit: www.youbeyoudesigns.com.

Photo credit: Carmela Wood / youbeyou

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