MENTOR SPOTLIGHT: KELSEY LINDELL
When did you know you wanted to take an entrepreneurial path?
When I found out that there was a civil and human rights crisis facing disabled people.
Tell us about your venture/work.
My name is Kelsey Lindell and I am so happy to be here with all of you! My mission in life is to make the world a better place for disabled people, and I do that through the tool of media representation. I’m currently on a mission to educate 1 million people about ableism. Like many of you, I got into entrepreneurship by accident. I lived abroad for five years doing advocacy and was shocked at the true human and civil rights crisis facing my community around the world. I asked community leaders “if I could do one thing with my life to address these issues most effectively, what would it be?” and they all said the same thing: “change the way the world views disabled people” Knowing that so much of what we see and believe is informed by what we see advertised to us and in media, I began a career change into marketing almost (gulp) 10 years ago. I also wanted my work to be scalable, so I have become an expert on how to do disability inclusion in a way that taps into the $8T buying potential of our community. Since then, I’ve won awards like AdFed’s 32 under 32 and Emmys for my work in producing disability centric content. I still knew I wanted to have a bigger impact, so I started my company, Misfit Media.
How did you decide to tackle this particular issue?
We create change in three ways 1. Education: anti bias training surrounding disability and ableism, specifically within media and marketing. We start there, and then expand to topics like PR, social media accessibility, creating accessible sets etc 2. Consulting: we look over treatments, copy, briefs and make sure what you’re creating will land with our community. We also help on set with making sure things are accessible and that all people know how to adhere to accessibility requirements. 3. Creative: we work with your brand to produce content like any other agency would, we just all happen to be disabled badasses. Disabled people have only 20% employment rates and hold less than 1% of creative leadership positions, we’re on a mission to change that.
What do you enjoy most about being an impact entrepreneur? What’s hardest about it?
The best thing: knowing that the work we are doing will literally change and save lives. We don’t have great data on disability media representation, but we do know that positive media representation of the LGBTQIA+ community over the span of 15 years between 2004 and 2019 has greatly transformed public acceptance of these communities. That’s not to say there isn’t work to be done, but over 20% of the population has changed their opinion on same sex marriage legalization in just those 15 years which IS a massive cultural shift. The hate that these groups receive is loud and dangerous, and needs to continue to be something we fight against, but the fact that so many people are PRO these human rights, is massive. The hardest: we’re playing chess not checkers. We are taking step after step in a marathon. It is hard, mostly thankless and unpaid work. I have worked on this everyday for 13 years and only within the last year have I fully been able to pay my bills from this. It’s also lonely.
How do you navigate the space of being a founder and also being a POC/women/non-binary person?
I’m a woman and disabled, and I navigate it with the boldness that I wish others had had before me so that those who come after me have a chance and don’t have to fight so hard.
What advice do you have for early-stage impact entrepreneurs about using their time, relationships, and opportunities at The New School to prepare for this kind of career?
Stay teachable. You will never fully know all of the answers and the minute you think you do you should be concerned. We’re all on a growth trajectory and staying teachable is invaluable.
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