Each day hundreds of thousands of readers log on to HuffingtonPost.com for the latest news and sports commentary.When members of The University of Toledo community visited the popular site last week, they saw a familiar face: Kyle Smitley, a third-year law student and founder of the eco-friendly clothing line barley & birch, who was featured as the “Greatest Person of the Day” on the popular website.
“It felt great to be recognized. It was a really humbling experience. I, along with my great team, work really hard to produce a clothing line that is safe for children to wear and our manufacturers to produce, all while helping the environment,” Smitley said. “The recognition is a great affirmation for what we are doing.”
The Huffington Post launched the “Greatest Person of the Day” program in the fall as a way to highlight ordinary Americans who find a way to make their lives or the lives of others better.
Smitley’s eco-friendly clothing line launched in 2009 and has found a following online and in stores.
“I started the company between undergraduate and law school. I had just completed research on kids’ toys and clothing, and I was appalled by what the products contained or were made with,” she said. “By creating my own line of clothing, I saw a way to keep generations of children healthy, give back to the global community, and develop a thriving and profitable business.”
barley & birch donates at least 30 percent of its profits to both environmental and social causes around the world. Thus far, barley & birch has helped men, women and children in several areas, including Haiti and Nicaragua.
“In order to have a global impact, our giving is very spread out. For example, we just had a group contact us who, to open a free health clinic in Nicaragua, simply needed a door with a lock to store the medical supplies. We take things like this for granted in the United States, and at barley & birch, we are happy to donate to help the community have a health clinic,” Smitley said. “Small giving has a tremendous impact if placed effectively.”
Smitley’s goal is for barley & birch to grow as a business, thereby extending the company’s philanthropic efforts. The company is one step closer with the establishment of the barley & birch foundation, which will allow businesses and individuals to contribute to barley & birch’s various projects, including an orphanage recently built in Haiti.
Even with taking on the new responsibility of the foundation and the ongoing business demands, Smitley still finds time for her schoolwork and maintains a high grade point average.
“The first year of law school was tough, with trying to grow my business and keep up with my studies. But now I have it down to a science.” she said. “Working at both school and the business at the same time really ended up helping both. Running the business gave me a different perspective on my classes, and my classes, like contracts and business associations, helped me run my business better.”
With graduation right around the corner, Smitley is looking forward to opportunities the future holds. She will return to Napa, Calif., for her externship this summer while studying for the bar exam. She plans to launch a new company this year and continue to work with her foundation.