WHEN it comes to balancing a business, studying for a degree and trying to improve mental health awareness for students across the country.. Gracie Sodzi has been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
The 21 year-old has been incredibly busy since launching gift company Graciefully Made in 2015, before enrolling on an Entrepreneurship degree at Falmouth University a year later.
Currently in her third year, Gracie is determined to make further waves with a charity foundation focused on supporting young people with mental health issues.
As a school pupil she suffered with exam stress and social anxiety; Gracie began attending counselling sessions and used her artistic ability to create gifts for friends and family, which helped her become stronger and eventually decide to take the venture forward as a social enterprise.
Spurred on by the reaction and sales from across the UK, she decided to increase her efforts in a bid to really make a change.
The White T-Shirt Campaign was born, and now Gracie, originally from Bristol, has her sights set on bettering the support network for students in further and higher education so they receive the help and guidance they need.
She has already garnered support from across the country via a series of social media takeovers, and thanked Falmouth boutique Blink for agreeing to stock the T-shirts ahead of this Wednesday’s World Mental Health Day (October 10).
“I set up the social enterprise when I was 18, after experiencing mental health difficulties triggered by stresses of school and growing up in a world I didn’t understand,” said Gracie, who was recently named among the 35 best people under 35 by Cornwall Live.
“I was lucky enough to get the help I needed and began my road to recovery.
“Now I’m using my voice to empower others to find their voice.”
Gracie has been given support by lecturers and staff at Falmouth Business School and believes other colleges and universities in the UK should follow their lead in promoting the importance of health, wellbeing and mindfulness.
“The education sector really needs to tackle the mental health crisis in the UK,” she said.
“In 2015, 15,000 first year students disclosed having a mental health condition, and just last year only one in five of students reported high levels of happiness and positive wellbeing, which is terrible.”
Gracie added: “The White T-Shirt campaign is here to change that, creating a positive space to talk and share stories about mental health.
“We can’t change the entire world, but we can change the world around us. We are here to say we believe in you, there is still good in the world and there is always, always hope.”
The campaign uses T-shirts and apparel featuring positive messages, blogs, workshops and social media to create a welcoming community that is already making a difference.
Professor Chris Archer-Brown, Director of Falmouth Business School, praised Gracie for the strides she has made since joining Falmouth, as an entrepreneur and champion of mental health issues.
“We are all immensely proud of Gracie, she has achieved so much and this is just the beginning,” he said.
You can find out more about Graciefullymade on social media via @thewhitetshirtcampaign and www.facebook.com/graciefullymade