There often comes a point when makers realize they have more than a hobby on their hands-- they can actually make their passion a business. Kendal of K Keith Designs shares with us her transformation and learning some hard lessons. I was so delighted to meet her in person recently at Craftcation. Like so many of our members, she was incredibly business savvy and generous with her knowledge! I am so impressed with how thoughtfully she has managed her business. Enjoy what she has to share (and keep an eye for her business-- she's headed for big things!).
Q: Please introduce yourself.
A: Hi I’m Kendal Keith the owner and creator of K Keith Designs. I am a felt florist and work with suburban moms to create family memories through unique handcrafted floral designs. My background is in fashion merchandising but for the past 17 years my main job has been one of a stay at home mom.
I have always been crafty and enjoyed making things. As a child I would set up art shows in my driveway and sell painted rocks to the mail man. As a military spouse I have been fortunate to live all over the world. This has also made me very resourceful. When I wanted fresh tortillas while living on the island of Sardinia I had to figure out how to make them myself. I am a DIY kind of girl, when I want new furniture I have figured out how to give life to what I have or find the closest thrift store for a project.
Q: Why did you originally start you business and how did that evolve into what it is today?
A: Originally I started my business after discovering my love of working with felt. I reached the point where I could only have so much in my own home and my friends really didn’t need anymore. I had a neighbor that I didn’t really know ask to buy a wreath. That is when I realized people really liked my work, it wasn’t just my friends being nice.
This was also during a time in my life where I was going through a very dark time with a family member. I needed to be available to this person, and was “stuck” at home a lot. My business gave me an outlet for myself and was something I could pour myself into. When the world was crumbling around me, my little desk of felt flower was the beauty in the chaos.
Q: What pushed you to make the move from hobby crafter to business and why?
A: The desire to try and make my hobby business more legit came when I realized I was spending every day pouring into it like I would a “real job”. My kids were getting older and I was getting to that season that most of my friends were going back to work. I also had reached the point in my life that I wanted something for myself.I loved being a stay at home mom and never dreamed of going back to work, but for some reason that was no longer enough to fuel me. I had recently turned 40 and with that came this new feeling of finally being an adult,and also the freedom that I could be anything I wanted.
I was entering a new season. I started listening to podcasts and discovered periscope (back when that was still a thing) and realized there was a whole world of people that had already been down this road I just needed to follow them.
For me turning my hobby into a business meant getting a business license, defining exactly what it is that I made, and keeping track of finances in hopes to be able to actually pay myself one day. More to me is quite simple. I would like consistent sales, growth (however slow that may be) I would like to been seen as a professional, someone that puts out quality work consistently. I don’t need fame or a big factory to feel successful. In fact at this point I don’t see myself ever so big that I have to hire someone else to create my flowers.
Q: What event (or events) helped you push yourself and put yourself out there?
A: My first big show was last summer. It was horrible. I had paid the couple hundred dollar fee (which I had to borrow from the family account) and worked at creating enough product. My husband helped build me a beautiful wall for my booth and I convinced a couple friends to help me sell.
The show had over 150 vendors and thousands of people that came through the gate. This was it, I thought I was going to sell out and make all the money I would need to flow over into Christmas. I had 3 sales the whole weekend. Three sales!
People that came by my booth were very nice and complimentary. I even got the “we should make these they look so easy, take a photo” behind my back. By the end of the weekend I was physically exhausted, had missed spending time with my family and had wasted a ton of money and felt like I would never be successful. After loading up my car, I locked my door and cried.
Q: How where you able to use the feedback and criticism to improve your business?
A: This was a huge turning point for me.
I realized that I had picked the wrong event: This event was geared towards young moms and most of the people were shopping for baby items, not wreaths and hand painted signs.
My price point was high: Most people at this event were not willing to spend $80 on a wreath. They wanted to buy 4 different things for $20 each.
I had too much going on in my booth: I was not special. I had wreaths, signs, gift tags, wine bags, fairy houses……
After some soul searching, I decided to become a “Felt Florist”. I started saying no to every request that came in that didn’t fit my new niche. Yes, I could make a medal holder for your running medals, but that’s not really what I do. By saying no to “all the things” I was able to say yes to the projects that would help me in my new direction. I also added baby items in the form of floral headbands. (they have become my bestsellers) This has also given me a better range in price.
I have done one other big event since the “event of horror” and a few small local ones. I have learned to be picky and really research an event before jumping in. I have also learned that having less to choose from at an event sometimes helps with sales. I love talking with people and making new maker friends. But to be honest events still are not my favorite.
As for the people that say “I should make these, they look easy” my response now is “You should, it’s really fun!” Who knows maybe one day I will have a tutorial for them, for sale of course.
Another turning point came in the form of a very organic collaboration. My good friend, a photographer, had just taken some beautiful photos of my daughter and I for a product launch. One day we were brainstorming ideas of how she could get more bookings and how I was going to market my new product when we came up with the idea of a photo shoot with models. She suggested we find a baby and do an indoor shoot with my product. Something neither of us had done before. We collaborated on the shoot and both ended up with photos to use for marketing. Having these beautiful photos with models really gave my business a huge boost.
Q: What words of wisdom would you want to share with a fellow maker who is struggling to take the leap from hobby crafting to business? What do you wish you had known when you started your journey?
A: Don’t be afraid to dream big. Write all your ideas down and then come up with a plan so you have direction,but be open to change. Figure out your finances and track them. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If it’s scary then you probably need to do it. Your going to make mistakes and that’s OK. Don’t worry about what everyone around you is doing, be yourself.
Find other makers you can connect with. Soak up as much knowledge as you can though groups, podcast, blog post. I wish I knew that once you get started it’s really not that scary. I think starting is so hard but once you do you will wonder what took so long.