Don’t let fear be the thing
that holds you back.

By Bailey Parnell

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
I am Bailey Parnell. I am the Founder & CEO of SkillsCamp, which is a soft skills training company that works with companies and higher education institutions to build soft skill competencies in their staff and students – skills like public speaking, personal branding, productivity, or emotional intelligence. I am also a student again doing my part time Masters in Communication and Culture with a research focus on how social media affects mental health. I’m also a daughter to 4 parents, a sibling to 5 sisters, a woman, a life-long learner, an educator, and so much more. We all have a lot of identities and I think it’s interesting to see how people answer this question.

What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be an entrepreneur and I didn’t wake up overnight with a game-changing business idea. My business partner and I had been working in Student Affairs at a university, which is essentially everything outside the classroom that support student success: career centres, health and wellness departments, student learning support, etc. We saw that students who built skills in Student Affairs – skills like time management, interviewing, or stress management – were infinitely more successful. On the employer side, we were seeing that the skills most sought out are the ability to work well with others, communication skills, and resourcefulness, yet these were taking a back seat in traditional education. 

I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur, but I came across a problem that I felt we were the best people to solve. Entrepreneurship just happened to be the best way to do that. After starting SkillsCamp, we quickly learned the soft skills deficit was not just a student problem, but an everyone problem up to the highest levels of leadership in organizations.

What do you love most about yourself?
My capacity for learning, whether that happens in a traditional classroom, watching a TV show about a concept for which I’m unfamiliar, or through a conversation with a student. I’m addicted to learning.

What motivates you most?
I have this idea of myself in the future that keeps me motivated. I see a version of me that has had an impact on people and practically made their lives better; a version that is professionally respected for having demonstrated success in business; a version that is continually excited to go home to my partner at our beautiful loft in Toronto; a version that can afford to take my large family on vacations and has time to do it. Some are specific and some more broad, but I think about how I want my life to look and feel in the future, and I try to do what needs to be done to get there. That is motivating.

What is something on your bucket list?
Being able to take my whole family (10 of us + partners and children) on a vacation somewhere. I’m working on living a life that allows that kind of time and money to be spent freely.

What are your biggest passions? 
I am passionate about education and learning. I think the answer to most social problems is what, how, from who, and when we educate people. You can come at that passion from many angles, but I chose to point my talent for storytelling at my passion.

What message do you think every woman should hear?
Don’t let fear be the thing that holds you back. And remember, feminism is about choice.

What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I live right downtown Toronto, Canada. I love that anything you could possibly need is within 30 minutes (except maybe a warm beach in the Winter!). I love that I can walk or transit most places I need to go. I love that things are open all night. I love the energy and sense of purpose people seem to emanate. I love the diversity in those people and in our food. I love the generally open-minded nature of people raised here. I love Toronto.

What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
I have 5 sisters.

What have been your biggest challenges so far? How did you overcome them?
My age. I used to be worried that my business partner and I were young. Many of our competitors – other trainers – finish their 30 year careers by training (though just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should teach it). Though because of that, their advantage is a career’s worth of contacts. That is my biggest challenge right now: building relationships in businesses that will hire SkillsCamp without a 30 year career behind me. 
However, a business mentor reframed it to me early on by reminding me that my age could be used as a strength because I could work with and connect to millennial workers a lot better than my competitors can. I use that.

What are you currently learning about for your business?
I come at my work from a higher education and student affairs background – not a Human Resources background. Since it is often HR that would hire us, I am learning more about the problems they’re facing with people and how me might help.

How many days do you work per week?
Sometimes it’s 7 and sometimes it’s 5. I do not work 24/7 though. I know myself, and I require sleep and alone time to watch a show and have a glass of wine. Without that time, I’d burnout and be extremely ineffective teaching people.

What is your greatest fear?
Physical: Open heights. It’s a terrible experience. Mental: Being older and feeling like my prime was in my 20s. I hope my “prime” always feels forthcoming.

Bailey Parnell

Bailey Parnell is an award-winning digital marketer, TEDx speaker and businesswoman with a talent for helping people tell better stories.

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