Our list of of top 20 women features a large variety of entrepreneurial women who made tough choices that paid off with success. It is not often that people make the change from entrepreneurship into something that gives back to the community so specifically, but Kyle Smitley did. Kyle started her career with the startup, Barley & Birch, which designed and created organic clothing for children. From there, Kyle created The Barley & Birch Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that raises money to help the underprivileged children of Haiti.
Now Kyle is taking a risk and changing her career once more. “I realized that I wanted to move out of the young entrepreneur world and into education in early 2012 when I had already had a certain level of success with my startup,” stated Smitley. “I was learning more about the incredible work that charters had done in Chicago and also about the broken system in the city of Detroit.” Kyle decided she was going to create one of the best schools in the country and put it into one of the most impoverished areas in the country.
Kyle continues to push forward and try to make a difference in the world. She is an inspiration to many across the country, but Kyle herself finds inspiration in the people she sees helping others. “I am really inspired by people who work in neighborhood and community-focused non-profits,” said Smitley. “They are often small, with limited resources, and provide really crucial safety nets for people that really need support.” She likes that these people are looking to help people instead of trying to get famous.
As a role model, Kyle knows that she has to work hard to be a positive influence on those looking up to her. She had some advice to offer up to any young women looking to become entrepreneurs: “Never give up. Always persevere. If it was easy, everyone would do it.” She cautions people to be smart and take intelligent risks in their business.
After an immense amount of work, Kyle Smitley opened her charter school in Detroit, MI on September 3rd. “The only option these kids had prior was to attend the local government-run public schools, one being the worst performing school in the state and the other having 50 kids in a class,” stated Smitley. “The day we opened was the highlight of my life.” Kyle is allowing the charter school to take up her time for now, but there’s no doubt she will be coming out with more community-building projects in the future.