Midtown Raleigh News

Column: Southeast Raleigh High School student wants us to #StaySoley

Caleb Hill, a senior at Southeast Raleigh High School, started #StaySoley, a business and brand that sells T-shirts and wristbands to help those in need.
Caleb Hill, a senior at Southeast Raleigh High School, started #StaySoley, a business and brand that sells T-shirts and wristbands to help those in need. PHOTOS COURTESY OF CALEB HILL

Meet Caleb Hill, a Southeast Raleigh High School senior turned entrepreneur.

Hill is the creator of #StaySoley, a grassroots effort that finds him celebrating his passion for sneakers while building a brand and a business that combines lessons to help our community.

The idea is to stay true to your passion, give your all and share the rewards with those in need.

Hill sells wristbands and T-shirts with the #StaySoley slogan and other custom-designed messages. About 30 percent of proceeds go toward a book bag drive and Blessing Bags, which are filled with snacks and toiletries for the less fortunate.

“I express myself through clothing and shoes,” said Hill, 18. “Every shoe has a sole, so #StaySoley: Stay above the ground. Keep your shoes above ground.”

The hashtag, and the mission, has certainly caught on among local teens.

“Now I have the high school population behind me,” Hill said. “I have students at Southeast. I have students from Enloe. I have students from Garner. And I’ve even got students all the way at Panther Creek (in Cary).

“Some people say something as small as a wristband can’t do anything, but it holds a symbolic meaning, especially when you see more than 100 people with it on,” Hill said. “You have to think outside the box. It shows you don’t have to dabble in doing things illegal and things that are going to hurt you.

“Everything really can be positive.”

I found out more when our daughter, Teeghan, a senior at Enloe, came home from a football game, planning a design for her own #StaySoley tee. She’d seen the hashtag “all over Twitter,” she said.

“And ...,” she said – the long, dramatic pause intended to introduce the biggest, mama-worthy news, “some of the proceeds go to help the homeless and people who are in need!”

It all started last year when Hill took Stephanie Fulwood’s business management class.

As the facilitator of the upper-level class, Fulwood assigned a mock exercise that challenged students as entrepreneurs to answer pertinent questions about a business they’d imagine owning.

Hill dreamed of a business to encourage self-expression – a moxie of millennials – yet “help people or help people help themselves.”

He zeroed in on expressions through clothing, music, poetry, song, dance, helping others, academic achievement and sports – and anything else that awakens a person’s passion.

Thing is, Hill said, his movement outweighs its hashtag.

“My #StaySoley may be different from your #StaySoley,” he said.

And that’s OK.

“#StaySoley and put soul in everything that you do,” Hill said.

Hill is pouring his soul into the brand. But “it’s not about the money,” he said.

“It’s about getting the movement out there and getting everybody on it.”

It’s a takeaway Fulwood hopes other students get, too.

“With Caleb, it worked,” she said, calling him “an advocate for his own education.”

“It’s about hard work and determination,” Fulwood said, noting Hill is astute at reaching his peers. “I’m proud of him for taking these steps.

“He’s a go-getter. He’s a leader.”

‘Chose another route’

Lorie Hill knows things could have gone differently for her son.

When Caleb was a fourth-grader, she said, a young man sitting next to him was shot and killed. Caleb’s uncles set poor examples, too, she said.

“He could have easily fallen into gang mentality,” said Lorie Hill, who works for the N.C. Department of Corrections. “I didn’t want that for Caleb. He’s seen firsthand what can happen, so Caleb chose another route.”

And as for her son’s business venture?

“It’s a movement to get people on board to do more in the community, for the community,” she said.

Community service at food pantries and drives, and gifts for Angel Trees, are family tradition.

“As Caleb says, ‘Another day above ground is my turn to do something positive,’” Lorie Hill said. “What are you going to do in the next chapter of your life?”

Caleb Hill’s soles are planted in goals to study business administration and fashion in college – and to open a boutique that sells sneakers.

ldrwigg@gmail.com

Find out more

Caleb Hill sells #StaySoley wristbands for $2 and T-shirts for $20. Customers can design T-shirts to include Twitter hashtags, quotes and other expressions. For more information, email staysoley@gmail.com.

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