Meet the small business owner advocating for mental health

    Carmen Daley of Carli D Collectives. Photo credit: Heather Savard @heathersavardphotography
    Reading Time: 6 minutes

    Shop local. Those two words have never meant more than over the recent years. The pandemic has forced small businesses all over the world to permanently close their doors. And with the focus now on online sales, customers are combing through more small businesses, wanting to help keep them afloat. It goes without saying that shopping local means supporting dreams. Supporting families. Supporting the fabric that ties economies together.

    Another two words that have become ever more important in 2020 and now into 2021 are ‘mental health’. Isolation, fear, joblessness, change have all contributed to the increase of depression, anxiety, and distress. Over twelve months into the pandemic, a new report by Morneau Shepell shows that feelings of aloneness are taking the greatest toll on Canadians than ever proved before. The score for ‘psychological health’ has been steadily declining since we were first introduced to COVID-19. This “indicates that Canadians’ view of their overall mental health status is at its lowest point,” the report shows.

    As we approach Mental Health Week on May 3-9th, shining a light on mental heath can help save lives, start important conversations, and improve the world we live.

    This is why we sat down with Carmen Darley the founder of Carli D Collective, to learn more about her journey with mental health, as a woman, mother, advocate, and small business owner. Offering stunning original fine art paintings, porcelain and resin art, as well as creative boxes for beginners who want to try their hand at being an artist themselves, Carli D Collective also advocates for mental health awareness.

    1) Can you tell us a bit about your story as it relates to Carli D Collectives?

    This is a passion-driven business and it all started when I was going through my alcoholism recovery. After my final treatment session, I was advised to find a hobby that I’ll enjoy, and I turned to what I know best, to paint. My goal when I started the business was to eventually have the ability to offer workshops to those who are seeking a mental lift. Building a business, especially an art-based business, is hard but my grounding place and motivation have always been to work towards the goal of being able to give back to my community. I’ve had many failures and rejections but thanks to those who continuously believed in me, I owe it to them. I hope to continue to facilitate workshops to help with mental health and motivate others to do something out of their comfort zone. 


    2) You volunteer your time and raise funds for mental health programs and organizations.  Can you tell us a bit about why you chose this cause and how mental health has affected your own life?  

    Mental health issues have always been the underlying issue that affected my addiction. I was very fortunate to have the right pathway and support to walk the road of recovery and turn my life around. Many others who are struggling may not have the support or the resources. So, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I want to give back to my community and support the well-being of each person through art.

    I have volunteered as an art instructor at mental health facilities for those who have run-ins with the law, but were not held criminally responsible. These experiences have really opened up my eyes to see how art can influence someone’s perspective and mood. As an advocate, I am a partner of the Ontario Shores Foundation, a mental health hospital located in Durham. We’ve organized events and empowerment workshops to drive donations to the foundation. In total last year, through virtual events only, we’ve donated over $600 to the foundation. This not only helps me continue to be motivated, but also helps others who are going through a rough time.


    Toronto Business Babes Fall Conference. Photo credit: Alicia Hurston @aliciahurstonphotography 

    3) How have you been able to find inspiration, in your daily life as well as your work life, during these difficult times?

    To be honest, some days are harder than most, and some days even weeks, I have zero motivation. With the ever-changing environment in our current situation, even with planning, it’s hard to predict what’s next. With that though, I do turn to what I’m good at, which is working with my hands. Lately, I’ve been able to find motivation again as I create new products. Seeing that my work can lift someone and make their day brighter makes all the difference. The workshops especially, they empower my guests to step out of their comfort zone and do something completely different. The realization of their own talent is what keeps me motivated. 

    4) Many Canadians have been struggling with isolation, change in routine, and the unknowns due to COVID-19.  Can you tell us how you have you been able to balance your mental well-being? 

    Like most, some days are great and some days are a continuous uphill battle. My biggest recommendation is to take it one day and one task at a time. Pre-covid, we are on the go, there are goals and strict timelines, money to be made, events to attend, networking, and it’s a forever go-go-go type of mentality. The shift in slowing down doesn’t mean that the goals are not accomplished. With new routines and habits, it’s good to give yourself a break and pace the way we work. Things will get done but be very mindful of the outcome and return on investment, as well as how it can work in favour of your current situation. 

    5) What has been your most memorable moment or accomplishment in your entrepreneurial life so far?  And your hardest moment?

    Most memorable moment? There are so many, I would have to say the rain or shine market days. Being in the freezing cold and in the rain while trying to sell products has definitely been one of those life-learning moments. BE PREPARED, ALWAYS! The nonstop, on going, day in and day out, being immersed in the business has definitely been an experience. I think the longest I went without sleep was 36 hours straight. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to sleep. It was because I was legitimated excited about everything I was doing, and just kept going. The hardest I would have to say is balancing motherhood and running a business. Being able to spend time with my toddler while trying to sand resin pieces for a wedding order is definitely a task and some, but I think we all learn to balance it out as we go. 

    Toronto does have the best support

    6) Toronto has been a great city for small businesses to thrive and grow. Shopping local has become a retail movement for consumers as they look to have their purchases make a difference. How has Toronto supported Carli D Collectives? What does being Canadian mean to you? 

    I could be biased (I totally am, lol), in my opinion, Toronto does have the best support. There is such a solid group of local businesses who are so supportive of each other. Like yourself, with C.J.ROCKER. Recently, I was supported by DigitalMain Street, powered by Google and the Ontario government. They offered a free program for me to build my website and get it up and running. I thought that was great, as we are mostly turning to E-commerce and with the site, we can reach customers worldwide.


    7) What is your biggest passion?

    My biggest passion has and will always be around making a difference in someone’s mental well-being. Through my work and workshops, I hope that it can change someone’s perspective when going through a rough time. I always say, “I can’t change the world but I hope to change the world of one person”. As I continue to find ways to cope and live an addiction-free life, I am open to sharing my story and best practices with anyone who might be going through a similar situation. 


    For more information on mental health, please visit The Centre for Additional and Mental Health and The Canadian Mental Health Association. You are not alone.

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