By Sophie Whisnant
Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.
At age 16, young entrepreneur Kate Redenbaugh has been through more than most. But she’s powered through the dark times, founding a business to help those like her.
At 14-years-old Kate was diagnosed with anorexia. Sneaking excessive workouts after long cross country practices led to her dropping to a dangerously low weight of 93 pounds. This sent Kate through a series of treatment facilities for about four and a half months.
“Even though I was physically recovered I still had a lot of mental work to do,” Kate said. “Recovery is never truly over.”
Kate has relied on her faith and relationship with God to conquer the inner “bully” in her head and discover her worth, and she’s relied on her Christianity as a source of strength.
To help others that battle anorexia, Kate founded her jewelry company, Unlocked, which combines her love of crafts and photography. She donates 25 percent of the profits to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Aside from running a business, Kate loves playing ukulele and singing. She’s also a talented runner, making it to regional and state championships for both cross country and track at Hoggard High School.
“(I) basically run every day,” Kate said. “It keeps me calm, it keeps me focused, it just makes me feel strong”
Why she does what she does: “I’ve always been motivated to help others,” Kate said. “Ever since I was really little when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I’ve always said I wanna help somebody in some way.”
She was able to fulfill that dream by starting Unlocked. Kate hand-makes necklaces from “up-cycled” keys inscribed with powerful words such as “worth” or “able.” Products are available on her website, unlockedboutique.com.
Her business opened June 21 as a division of Skewed LLC, a startup based in web design, software development and e-commerce where Kate is an employee. She never imagined she would run a business, but now she wants to see Unlocked expand beyond North Carolina.
“I want to inspire people to love themselves enough to free themselves from the boundaries they’ve set for themselves,” Kate said. “We let our worldly tribulations keep us locked in but I wanted to remind people that you hold the key to free yourself.”
It’s not always easy for Kate to remain strong and positive. She describes a “bully” in her head that she has learned to silence.
“The bully never truly goes away,” Kate said. “You just get better at telling it no.”
There are parts of Kate’s story that she still doesn’t like to talk about, like her treatment process that she said was traumatic and dark. But she enjoys focusing on the positives of her journey and what she’s gained from her experience.
What’s inspired her: Kate’s mom Elizabeth has been supportive throughout her battle with anorexia.
“She’s just so strong,” Kate said. “She’s really just held my hand and led me through the storm. She’s taken every blow almost as hard as I have and is still fighting so hard for me alongside me.”
Kate said that going through her illness has impacted her whole family, including two brothers and dad Jamie, and it’s the hardest thing they’ve been through together. But she said their “extreme patience” has been a constant inspiration.
Message to the community: Kate has become an advocate of self-worth and appreciation.
“Love yourself, because life is too short to waste time hating what was fearfully and wonderfully made,” Kate said.
“Keep on moving forward and eventually you’ll see the beauty in the things that you go through.”
Fun fact: Kate has been skiing since she was six.