Kaya Dorey
Photo: Twist and Shutter

Turning my side hustle into a sustainable future


As much as I’d like to say that I’m living my life’s purpose and it’s paying the bills, I can’t. Not yet at least.

I am a scrappy, resourceful and resilient entrepreneur trying to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, while starting my own business on the side. Some months, I still wonder how I’m going to pay the bills. As you can probably already tell, I don’t like to sugarcoat things.

A few years ago, I founded my company NOVEL SUPPLY CO., a conscious apparel lifestyle brand for the urban adventurer. But my journey started long before that. Here are some hacks I’ve learned along the way.

Life hack #1: Life is a journey

Real talk! Getting to where I am didn’t happen overnight. It took me seven years to get my Tourism Management degree at Capilano University with a two-and-a half-year hiatus in Whistler and a year travelling in between, where I was trying to “figure it all out”. After returning back to school and learning about sustainability in some of my courses, I realized that that was actually what lit me up.

Kaya Dorey

Photo: Caitlin Kennedy

Life hack #2: Take some risks

Don’t get stuck in something that doesn’t challenge you or light your fire. If you’re unsure of what you want to do, try new things – for example, register for a course that gets you excited. It took me four programs to find my true passion, so don’t get discouraged when the first thing you try isn’t right.

Life hack #3: Find the match that lights the fire

I did a certificate in Sustainable Business Leadership at BCIT, which led me to my passion problem: textiles waste. The amount of textiles waste going to the landfill, the toxic dyes and synthetics in our clothing, the micro-plastics that shed into our water and the humans that are suffering making them is what smacked me right across the face. I couldn’t have this knowledge and continue living the same consumer-driven lifestyle I had always lived.

Life hack #4: Build your collective

Surround yourself with a smart and supportive network that will challenge you, inspire you and believe in you even when you might not believe in yourself. Whether it’s a Facebook group of like-minded folk or a group of entrepreneurs that has work sesh’s at coffee shops on Tuesdays, find your collective and use it to share resources and build your businesses together. It’s a lot better and easier than doing it on your own.

Kaya Dorey

Photo: Twist and Shutter

Life hack #5: Don’t let the “no vacancy” sign fool you

Before I had even finished my program at BCIT, a friend sent me a link to Factory45, an online accelerator program on how to start your own sustainable apparel line. Even though I was a day late for registration, I emailed the woman who ran the program and told her why she should let me in. She responded within minutes and said I could join. Always ask and always negotiate. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no? I think you can handle that.

Life hack #6: Balance is key

One of the main things that has enabled me to start my business is having another job that helps pay the bills. I’m able to do both because my main hustle is flexible, not stressful (this is key). Having a job like this is a major asset when you are first building a business. If it weren’t for this job and these people, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today – my team pushes and supports me in crushing my goals. I just went down to part-time, so I can give my side hustle a real go.

Hack #7: Define your own success

Some might say I’m not successful because I’m not paying myself yet, but I have to agree to disagree. My company has been in business for only two years and is breaking even and starting to pick up momentum. In 2017, I won the United Nations Environment Programme’s Young Champions of the Earth Prize, I’ve been in the news several times, spoke at conferences and had over 10 articles written about me and my mission to make and supply the most rad, sustainable apparel and products out there.


Photo: Darby Magill

I believe that this is the generation of doers. There is a wave of purpose-driven businesses, passionate entrepreneurs and change makers rolling up on the scene. I hope to inspire more humans to disrupt and create businesses for the good of other people and the planet and not solely profit.

After all, research shows that embedding sustainability into the business model, leading from the top, measuring successes, understanding customer values and collaborating with sustainability experts will result in higher profitability, so why would you do it any other way?

Thinking about starting a small business? Learn more about small business loans and entrepreneur seminars.

This article was updated on October 14 2020. 

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