At age 10, Kailey Breyer, B.S. ISE ’20, christened herself teacher to her three younger siblings.
For the next five years “Ms. K,” as her brother Tate and sisters Ariella and Talia called her, held daily afterschool tutoring sessions. Writing on a whiteboard in her room, she taught them math and English. To keep them engaged, Breyer would find knickknacks from around the house and award prizes for correct answers.
Ariella Breyer, now a senior at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, called the daily lessons among her fondest childhood memories. “I learned so much from her. She made learning fun,” she said. “Kailey just has a passion for helping people, for teaching and inspiring.”
Helping, teaching and inspiring — that is the essence of USC Viterbi alumna Kailey Breyer. Whether captaining her high school girls’ dance team to a Super Bowl appearance or helping to double the membership of her local B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), a teen Jewish group, Breyer has shown an ability to lead, unite and instill confidence in others to help them realize their potential.
A safe space for girls
In August 2019, she launched a new business that capitalizes on her personality and passions. Kailey’s Queens is an in-person and now online “safe space for girls between 9 and 16 to disconnect from social media to create genuine connections, build leadership skills and discover lifelong confidence,” Breyer explained.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted California’s shelter-in-place order, Kailey’s Queens hosted nine events, including movie nights, spa nights, picnics and more. Relying on word-of-mouth marketing, each successive gathering attracted more participants and generated more enthusiasm. Moving online, Breyer subsequently added book, craft and baking clubs.
This summer, Kailey’s Queens undertook its most ambitious project to date: a virtual camp. Hundreds of girls from all over the world, including Australia, Canada and Brazil, participated in the camp, which offered six sessions for $199 per week. Campers received large summer camp boxes in advance of their sessions containing packaged compounds for scientific experiments and ingredients for sugar cookies, among other items. They baked cookies, tie-dyed T-shirts and made bath bombs from scratch together via Zoom.
One morning, 20 campers connected on Zoom to make sugar cookies. As they cracked eggs, mixed flour and sugar and buttered a cookie sheet, Breyer cheered loudly for each of the junior chefs, encouraging the girls to “be creative” and to “show me your hands covered in cookie dough.” Her positivity proved infectious, putting smiles on the faces of the assembled.
Breyer even taught some computer coding “to help them learn something they can use,” she said. To unleash the campers’ entrepreneurial spirits, Breyer divided them into teams to package, label and market their bath bombs, which they pitched to a panel of judges, a la the TV show “Shark Tank.”
Marron Davidson, a 7th grader at Greenhill High School in Nashville, said she planned to “make a lot of cookies, like 20, and I’m going to eat a lot and hide them all from my siblings.” Marron, a veteran Kailey’s Queen who had participated in the book and baking clubs before becoming a camper, likened Breyer to an “uplifting, energetic big sister. If you could ever think of a perfect person, it would be Kailey.”
Breyer credits her USC Viterbi education in industrial and systems engineering with giving her the discipline and knowledge to successfully run her business. “My degree has been essential in implementing strategies that maximize the quality of our products and services, she said. “I have created systems and techniques within my company that ensure high quality products and minimal wasted time, such as reducing nonessential aspects of communication between employees and reorganized our fulfillment system in order to cut down on wasted time and costs.”
Breyer said the positive feedback she has received from Kailey’s Queens and their parents makes all the planning, worry and long hours worth it. However, she wants to do more than simply entertain young girls.
“I want to offer a creative and educational mix of activities to help expand girls’ minds and help them discover their interests,” said Breyer, who credits her industrial systems engineering background with making her more efficient and effective in planning events and activities. “I want to show young girls how much beauty and strength we all have inside of us. I care deeply about their mental health, which is suffering.”
Girls’ mental health struggles
In 2017, 20% of girls said they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, compared to 7% of boys, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Between 2007 and 2017, the total number of girls who experienced depression jumped by an astonishing two-thirds, the Pew study found.
Academic and social pressures are among the main reasons kids cite for their growing unhappiness. However, social media also appears to play a role. Twenty-three percent of teens reported they have been the target of cyberbullying, according to a 2015 study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. In girls, heavy social media use that leads to cyberbullying, inadequate sleep and a lack of exercise seems more damaging to their mental health than to boys,’ suggested a study published last year in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.
Kailey’s Queens won’t reverse these macro trends. But Breyer believes she can make a difference one girl at a time by offering a healthy alternative to Instagram, TikTok and Snap.
Breyer has also dedicated herself to empowering girls. That’s partly why she created the group’s Leadership Committee. Twice a week, Breyer meets virtually with its 25 young members to discuss ways to improve the company’s culture and offerings, as well as how to attract new Queens.
“She allows the girls to have a voice, and that’s possibly the most beautiful thing,” said Sade Wilson, a Los Angeles resident whose daughter, Zaria Kelley, serves on the committee. “It’s been amazing to watch my 10-year-old hone her gift. Zaria’s a natural born leader and has found a space that allows her to do that.”
In March, Zaria attended Kailey’s Queens’ game night, the last in-person event. She had such a great time “laughing, eating and playing games,” her mother said, that she has participated in every activity since.
“Kailey is definitely one of the best listeners and helpers I’ve ever met,” Zaria said. “Honestly, I want to grow old with Kailey and all the other leadership girls.”
Just as she did with her younger siblings, Breyer provides emotional support and encouragement to her growing flock. “All young girls want to be treated like they are special, and I make sure they are,” said Breyer, adding that she possesses such a deep sense of empathy from sometimes feeling alone in grade school.
Born to lead
Breyer’s leadership skills blossomed in high school. At Desert Vista, where she captained the girls’ dance team, leading the squad to a bravura appearance behind Katy Perry at Super Bowl XLIX’s halftime show in 2015. Breyer also headed the girl’s cross-country team that won the Arizona state championship.
“I wasn’t the best dancer or the best runner, but I was passionate and dedicated,” she said. “I won their respect through my positivity and by always giving 100%.”
Breyer brought that same energy and commitment to BBYO. As president of the local Phoenix chapter her sophomore year, she doubled the chapter’s membership by calling synagogues, asking friends to introduce her to their Jewish friends and adding new events. As a junior, Breyer became regional vice president for membership and saw membership grow by one-third to 400. As always, she personally welcomed new members, mostly girls, sometimes even taking them to lunch or dinner to befriend them.
Breyer’s entrepreneurial side manifested itself in college. As a freshman, she started a personal makeup business called Breyer Beauty Bar, eventually subleasing space in a Beverly Hills salon. Posting pictures on Instagram (#LAMakeupartist) of women whose makeup she had done, Breyer attracted a clientele that included sorority members and beauty pageant contestants. As she has done with her new business, she grew Breyer Beauty Bar without spending a penny on marketing or advertising. Although profitable, Breyer said she shut down the makeup operation her junior year to free herself up for better opportunities.
They came just a year later.
As a USC senior, Breyer leveraged the leadership skills, business acumen, confidence and creativity she had developed over the years to found Kailey’s Queens. Although carrying a full engineering load, Breyer said she “wanted to take advantage of my last year of college free time to make my entrepreneurial dreams come true.”
Nothing if not visionary, Breyer said she wants Kailey’s Queens to one day be bigger than the Girl Scouts, with branches all over the country. Even if she falls short of that lofty goal, Breyer believes she has chosen the perfect career path.
“I was born to be a leader to young girls,” she said. “I am very confident that no one could entertain these girls and spread the positive energy as well as I do.”