Kalilah Wright is the founder of Mess in a Bottle, a black-owned business that features tshirts printed with bold statements that come uniquely packaged in reusable bottles. With shirts displaying messages like “100% Black-Owned” and masks that say “Freedom Ain’t Free”, you know you’re supporting and communicating strong, important messages when you wear her products.
An immigrant from Jamaica, Kalilah came to the United States at the age of four with no parents and was raised in Brooklyn. Even though she had a difficult start to life, Kalilah graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University and then worked her way through a night program while working full time and went on to get a Master of Architecture degree from Morgan State University. But Kalilah’s credentials are not the only impressive thing about her.
After graduating, Kalilah began to work for Kevin Plank of Under Armour as a store planner and architect. However, although she had a great salary, a husband and a beautiful baby, she simply didn’t feel fulfilled. She was eventually led to quit her six-figure architect career to start her own business.
The 2015 riots in Baltimore for Freddie Gray, a Black man who was detained and killed in police custody, inspired Kalilah to want to do more to help people communicate. During the riots, she came up with the concept of Message in a Bottle, a t-shirt company that spreads MESSages to start important conversations. Her goal was to “create a company that allowed people to be vocal without saying anything at all” according to a recent interview with Teen Vogue.
Mess In a Bottle shirts feature statements like “A Black Woman Created This” and “As strong as the woman next to me” and come in reusable bottles. Some of the shirts, like her “This is AMERICA” shirt focus on racism, violence and bigotry. By supporting this black-owned business and wearing these shirts, we can bring important topics to the forefront of the conversation without having to say a word.
But it hasn’t been an easy road, at one point Kalilah was held hostage in her own store for twenty minutes while the robbers attempted to use her debit card at an ATM. While this understandably shook Kalilah, instead of allowing it to give her a reason to give up, she used that experience to push forward and continue to use her voice within her messages.
Much of Mess in a Bottle’s success has come from word of mouth and customers posting their shirts on social media. But Kalilah was also able to go on The Harry Show which amplified the success of Mess in a Bottle into a well-known tshirt line worn by influencers and celebrities.
Since finding success with Mess in a Bottle, Kalilah has begun teaching others to start their own tshirt companies as well. In her courses, Tee Class, she helps others go from prelaunch to starting their own businesses and becoming their own boss.
You can support Kalilah’s business by shopping her MESSage tshirts and other products at Mess in a Bottle.