An Edmonton-based talent agency for people with disabilities is hoping to raise its growing profile even further by participating in an international pitch competition later this spring.
"What we need is for people to know about us and understand that there's a company like us that exists to support being inclusive across industries," said Katie MacMillan, who co-founded the company with life partner Austin Allanach. "To go to a pitch competition like this, with a prize of $10,000, we would absolutely be able to use that for social impact and social good, and to increase our capacity for training."
MacMillan and Allanach formed Kello after their daughter Kelty, who has cerebral palsy, faced challenges in the modelling industry.
"We had some good experiences, but mostly it was just feeling like people were interested that Kelty was disabled, but nobody really knew what to do about that," MacMillan told Taproot. "(There were) lots of questions that either weren't asked or didn't know how to be asked."
Based on these experiences, MacMillan and Allanach realized there was a gap in representation and advocacy for disabled models. They incorporated Kello Inclusive, alongside the company's director of photography, Tilly Nelson, as a non-profit on June 1, 2022. Like for-profit talent agencies, Kello makes its money on commission through gigs for its talent.
In less than a year, Kello has built a talent roster of more than 75 people in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. This includes the entire cast of CBC's docuseries PUSH, and models who have done work for international brands like Lancôme and lululemon.
The momentum has continued. MacMillan was recently a semifinalist in The Odlum Brown Forum Pitch competition. Kello has also added a fourth director, Liam Stewart-Kanigan, who is helping the company expand beyond modelling and into acting. And Kello models participated this month in Toronto Kids Fashion Week shows in Calgary and Edmonton.