Local teen starts clothing company focused on supporting mental health

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A Kemble teen is hoping his new online branded-clothing store will help raise awareness for mental health and make everyone feel like they belong.

Gabe Rossitter, 16, launched the “Belong” store website (thebelongway.com) on Aug. 19. He’s selling T-shirts, hoodies, and hats branded with the Belong puzzle-piece logo and telling the story of the company’s four brand pillars – inclusivity, hope, health and awareness.

Ten per cent of all sales are being donated to the local Canadian Mental Health Association.

“It is the invisible enemy in a sense,” Rossitter said of mental health issues in society, and especially among his peers. “Whenever I think of any kind of person who is not, maybe fitting in, or you know, we’ve all had past experiences where you’ve seen people sitting in the hallways just alone, who aren’t included, I think of a group of friends as a puzzle.”

That’s where the idea for the Belong brand logo came from, Rossitter’s puzzle metaphor and belief that everyone has a place and people are stronger when they’re working together.


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“It’s putting all the puzzle pieces together . . . I think it showcases what the brand is and overall saying we all need to fit together like a puzzle . . . we need to complete the whole thing,” Rossitter said.

The idea to start a clothing company came during a family trip to Cuba when he was talking with his uncle who works for a promotional product and brand marketing business based in St. Catharines.

The idea simmered inside Rossitter and he eventually applied for a grant through the Small Business Enterprise Centre in Collingwood and their Summer Company program.

After being awarded a grant of $3,000, Rossitter went to work setting up his online store. He’s spent over 250 hours this summer working with Brand Blvd. to create a logo and source suppliers. He’s also been learning how to create and launch an e-commerce website.

“There have been some long days getting things all up and running, Rossitter said. “Although I feel like I’ve really been enjoying the process.”

The Summer Company program provides a mentorship element that has helped Rossitter create a business plan, advertise and create community connections.

The Owen Sound District Secondary School student is headed into Grade 11 come the fall. He hopes the brand will pick up steam so he can raise money for the CMHA and start more conversations about mental health.

“I think people are unaware of a lot of mental health issues . . . if somebody has an injury on the outside, let’s say they have a broken leg or an arm, people can see that and people can see they need help – open the door for them, take them down the stairs, help them out in general,” Rossitter said. “With mental health, I find there’s a lack of awareness where people don’t know what somebody is going through. You can’t see it.”

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