Online School Student Starts Business to Advocate for Mental Health

3 min to read
Image of a smiling young female teen riding on a horse wearing a light brown cowboy hat.  She is doing extracurricular sports of horse riding while attending Connections Academy online school.

“Where confidence meets classy.”

That’s how Wylee Mitchell describes her Y Brand USA clothing line - a business she started while she was a student at Nevada Connections Academy. 

Her company offers horse and rodeo-themed t-shirts with fun designs and sayings that exude the confidence she had to start her own business while still attending online high school. 

The Path to Entrepreneurship

Every entrepreneur follows a different, very unique path to starting their own business. Mitchell’s started from a place of sadness and a drive to get involved with advocacy for mental health. One of her best friends lost her battle with depression and died by suicide in 2018.  

“I put a lot of that guilt on myself,” said Mitchell. “Why did I let this happen?”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is a major public health concern and among the leading causes of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that suicide rates for people ages 10 - 24 jumped 62% in the past two decades, reporting suicide as the third leading cause of death in for this age group. 

America’s young people are struggling in what has been called a mental health crisis. 

“After battling some mental challenges of my own, I decided it was time to make a difference in the world,” Mitchell said.  

With her focus on suicide prevention advocacy and mental health awareness, she launched Y Brand USA with her mom when she was 17. For every sale of her Y Stop Now T-shirts, she donates $5 to mental health advocacy organization Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) foundation, which provides resources for suicide prevention initiatives and suicide loss survivors.  

A Message of Hope

The Y Stop Now T-shirt design carries a message of hope: Y stop now; the story is just getting started. 

The semicolon represents that the story doesn’t have to end. She wants people to know that their story is just getting started, and that life is worth living. 

“If we are able to help one person see the light in making it through one more day, it’s all worth it,” Mitchell said.

From Online School Student to Mental Health Advocate and Entrepreneur

Attending online school gave Mitchell the flexibility to balance her studies and the demands of starting a small business. Online school also gave her the perseverance and resiliency she needed when she faced challenges. 

“The hardest part was getting backlash and hearing negative comments,” Mitchell said. “It is challenging to hear people talk negatively about something you are so passionate about and put so much work into.”

She has three tips for other young entrepreneurs who want to champion a cause by starting a small business. 

  1. Believe in the impossible. In the beginning, she never would have expected to sell as many shirts as she did.
  2. Reach out and make connections. She shared her story and her goal with anyone who would listen, and because of that her story was able to reach so many.
  3. Work hard and don't get defeated. It is easy to give up when something doesn't work out in your favor. Giving up will not get you anywhere. Push past the challenges and stand back up after getting knocked down. 

It’s also important to connect with the organizations you want to support, like she did with the mental health advocacy groups she used when starting her business. They can help you share your story and your mission to bring awareness to your cause. 

She also stresses that “just because you are not someone’s priority doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of wonderful things. There is no better way to prove your importance than to prove it to yourself.”

E-guide for Connections Academy with a green background and a graphic of a laptop with the purple eGuide.

Ready to Learn More

About Connections Academy?

Explore the benefits of attending Connections Academy, a tuition-free, accredited online public school that’s passionate about helping your child thrive.  

Get Your Free eGuide


Related Posts