Bailey Parnell is the Founder & CEO of SkillsCamp — an award-winning digital marketer, TEDx speaker, and businesswoman with a talent for helping people and brands tell better stories. Bailey frequently speaks publicly about social media, personal branding, and media and mental health. She is currently working towards an MA in Communications and Culture, part-time at Ryerson University, with research, focused on social media’s impact on mental health. She proudly grew up in Brampton, though the rest of her family is from Nova Scotia and she has 5 sisters and four parents.
When I was younger I wanted to be… A singer.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… A problem presented itself and I thought I was the best person to solve it. There is a need for soft skills, yet a noticeable absence of training in traditional education. With a background in higher education, marketing, and speaking career, paired with an entrepreneurial mindset and soft skills like time-management and relationship-building, I started SkillsCamp.
My proudest accomplishment is… SkillsCamp. We are profitable and offering a service that truly makes people better. Beyond SkillsCamp, landing both my TEDx talk and Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women award so young and early in my career set up a strong base and a domino effect that have opened up numerous other opportunities and doors. Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 and I’ve just been featured in Forbes and spoke at the World Youth Forum in Egypt about social media’s impact on mental health. Many opportunities can be traced back to those two accomplishments.
My boldest move to date was… Making the leap from a full-time job I loved at Ryerson University to something I love more: SkillsCamp. My job at Ryerson was exactly what I’d want to be doing if not SkillsCamp. I worked in Student Affairs in a Special Projects department responsible for research, assessment, storytelling, and design. It set the groundwork for SkillsCamp and gave me intellectual and creative freedom.
I surprise people when I tell them… I have 5 sisters, I taught English in China for a summer, I did judo for most of my childhood. Oh, and that I’m 25.
My best advice to other young women thinking about starting out in business is… Do it in the way that works best for you. Right now, entrepreneurship is almost glorified as hoodies, bean bags, and billion-dollar investments, but entrepreneurship is the oldest profession and many people have found many ways to be successful. If you need to work full time to feed your family, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for not “risking it all.” That’s a privileged thing to do.
Someone I look up to professionally is… It changes all of the time, but recently, my friend, Pauleanna Reid!
My best advice from a mentor was… When I was considering taking the leap to full-time work, I was (understandably) a bit nervous about finances. My mentor made me walk through the worst case scenario. The conversation went a little like, “and then what would happen?… and then what would happen?” It ended somewhere around me with no money back at my parents’ house in Brampton. He looked at me and said, “so you’re not going to be on the streets. You will have a place to eat, sleep, and get a job. You’re very employable so what should be no problem.” The whole conversation made me realize my pride and fear of failure was actually what was in the way. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in business so far… Renegotiating the initial partnership structure and makeup of SkillsCamp. It was a long and difficult process.
I overcame it by… Consulting numerous mentors, advisors, and friends throughout.
Even though I have my own business, I felt it was important to complete my education because… Education is everything to me. I quite literally own an education company. Higher education is more than just the content of the syllabi. It can teach you how to think, how to learn, how to research, give you opportunities, connections, and invaluable experiences. That is what I got from both my undergrad in Media Production and a graduate degree in Communications and Culture – both at Ryerson University. Even though I don’t explicitly work in media anymore, I would never change my degree at all! It is what has given me an edge at SkillsCamp.
When people try to underestimate me I … I always think, “just wait, you will feel stupid for that.” I don’t make it my mission to prove people wrong, I just know they will be eventually. It’s in the receipts.
In the next ten years, I see myself… Building up SkillsCamp to be a top soft skills development provider. I see myself expanding my research on social media’s impact on mental health and starting a book on the topic. That will mean I will have to finish up my part-time MA as well! I will likely be married, moved, and much more well-travelled too!
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That most of my long term goals involve taking my very large family on trips to places around the world they may not otherwise be able to go to themselves. Once you put a dollar amount to it, it’s extremely motivating.
I stay inspired by… Consuming other people’s intellectual and creative works, whether it’s a cool Instagram feed, an article, a thesis, etc. When you meet someone who is doing exactly what they should be doing, and making a great living, it’s a beautiful thing.