T-shirt company CEO explains why she walked away from a six-figure job in architecture

Mess in a Bottle CEO Kalilah Wright explains why she walked away from a six-figure job in architecture to launch her own brand.

Video Transcript

KALILAH WRIGHT: Target was like, what's up, sis? That's what Target says. And they were like, we want to work with-- I won't say the numbers, but we are doing just fine.


Hi, everyone. My name is Kalilah Wright. And I am the owner of Mess in a Bottle. And we put messages on t-shirts. And they come packaged in a reusable bottle. It started in 2016 shortly after Freddie Gray, an African-American male, died while in police custody, causing an uprising in Baltimore. And though I could go out and protest and get my messages out that way and be loud and vocal, I realized that everyone isn't as boisterous as I am. And this was my way of creating messages in which everyone can connect and be a part of the same mission.

So I was an architect. And I worked for a large sports retail company here in Baltimore. I just knew that I had a bigger purpose. I let go of my 9:00 to 5:00 almost a month or two after officially launching Mess in a Bottle.

My son and I, he's seven now. And we went to IKEA. And I saw these bottles. And I just knew that this was the perfect packaging so put our message T-shirt. I use my architecture career and experience to now design these amazing bottles.

So one of the first messages that I created was a Black woman created this. Some people feel like it means a Black woman created this T-shirt. When my son wears it, it means my momma created this message. There's just so much pride in someone wearing a Black woman created this.

So one of my dreams have definitely been to get inside Target. I was just astonished to know that Target wanted to collaborate with Mess in a Bottle and especially for Black History Month. Right now, we are in over 1,400 Target stores across the US. They've been partner at major events that I have been in association with. And I've just showed up and did my best. And Target has noticed.

I have a master's in architecture. I did not have a business background. I am now running a company in which we have employees, full-time employees. And I'm now learning that management piece.

What's been easy is being my authentic self, having people love me for being me. In architecture, it's a very male, white-dominated field. And it is very difficult to feel welcomed. I'm now at a place where I don't have to fit myself in a mold.

We are actually coming up on our five-year anniversary of being an apparel brand. And so much has happened in five years. I'm just proud to know we've started this with less than $500. And we have grown the company to more than a multi-million dollar company last year.

So one of the things that we do is we give back to the community by creating T-shirt courses to help others to start their own T-shirt company. As a young Black woman founder and businesswoman, I would just recommend to start. You never know the amazingness that will come out of your fears. And for me, the security of a 9:00 to 5:00, making six figures, it was good. And I was terrified, knowing that I would be walking out that door. And I had no idea what was on the other side. I would have ran out the door if I knew this was on the other side of it.