Posts tagged #smallbusiness

Fancy That: If & When Workshop

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Last month, Kicheko Goods partnered with If & When Workshop to bring a jewelry and household goods tent to DC Meet Market. This was our first experience combining forces and sharing a booth. While the foot traffic was slow, we had a blast. Spending nearly 8 hours with a someone underneath a tent really helps the getting to know you process. After the market, I wanted to know more about Bekah's creations that bring quirk and joy to her customers' homes, including mine. You best believe I went home with her custom designed and screen-printed dish towels.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I am Bekah and I do what I want. (Ha!) But seriously... My name is Bekah Kitterman. I was raised in the great mitten state of Michigan on the second knuckle of the pinkie finger. Go ahead. Look at the back of your left hand and see where I grew up. I now call Washington DC home and happily reside with my husband Ian in our apartment-turned-creativity-central. I am an artist, maker, designer, and glue-gun-for-hire. I'm currently the one woman show behind If + When Workshop which specializes in making hand drawn and hand printed goods aimed at bringing some joy and levity into the world.

Since joining Etsy, what has been the response to If & When Workshop and your products? 

The response has been greatly positive. Like many small businesses I started by selling things to friends, and then friends of friends, and eventually I started getting orders from people I didn't know in further flung places. That has been the most exciting part of being part of a larger marketplace like Etsy. Knowing that my goofy jokes and my artwork live in someone's home is fun and rewarding. It has been a steep learning curve though, and I'm still learning how to leverage all of the "likes" and positive feedback into tangible sales.

What is your background and how are you choosing to incorporate that in If & When Workshop?

I've always been a creative person. I'm the child of a scientist and a musician who are both teachers, so I was handed some awesome tools for creativity very early on and have been nurtured to think outside the box from the get go. In undergrad i went to a liberal arts college, and majored in studio art with a sculpture emphasis. I absolutely use my education in my everyday work and am super grateful to do so! I usually choose to start with a manually drawn image and eventually bring it into a digital format to tweak it and perfect it. When screen printing I get to go back to manual work using photosensitive chemicals to create designs on silk screens, and hand pulling the ink of every single image of the items I make. I love the back and forth between technology and raw hand work, as well as the interplay of geometry, chemistry, and design in my daily experiments to get all the details of chemicals and color just right.

What is your process for vetting your ideas for plays on words? (i.e. guffaw versus chuckle) 

Haha! I may have to make guffaw vs. chuckle my new litmus test! I keep a large amount of idea journals, and will often come back to old ideas and rework them a few times before I decide if they are 'cooked' enough to send to some trusted friends for feedback. Depending on the feedback from my first round of sharing through texts and emails, I'll often release the potential design to my personal social networks for feedback. I then decide if it has wide enough appeal to pursue. Did my mom like it? Did my weirdo friend from art school like it? Did my husband's attorney friends like it? If there's a good intersection of people I usually see that as a good sign. That sounds a lot more linear written out here than it really is! In reality it is a lot of random sharing and gaging the reaction mixed with how badly I want to make something.

Can people contribute ideas for a tea towel or do a custom run of hand towels? 

Yes! Yes! I love a good suggestion! I get a kick out of the suggestions of others and have followed some through to great results. It is not uncommon for me to get messages from friends and family about what I should print next. I don't use all the ideas, but sharing jokes and amusing ideas keeps life light and keeps the gears in my brain turning. I do take custom run requests on occasion, and am happy to talk (or email!) through ideas clients have. Seeing people enjoy the things I make brings me great satisfaction, and I enjoy the challenge of interpreting an idea into a tangible object.

What is the best part of what you do? What is the most challenging part? 

The best part of what I do is sharing it with people. I enjoy handing someone something that makes them smile, laugh, or just feel special... whether that is a physical item or something more abstract like compliments and jokes. I've been continually grateful that I've been able to find work using my love of creating things that feel very personal to me, and I think that is part of why people respond in genuinely positive ways to my work. The most challenging part is hands down the learning curve. I'm new at trying to make sense of business, and after years of working in the non-profit sector I still am not overly motivated by money (which.... is kind of a problem if you are trying to run a business). Getting over that mental block of doing something for 'love' and still expecting to get paid for your hard work has been difficult but continues to be essential.

Any advice for anyone who might be thinking of starting a business? 

I am extremely timid when it comes to taking risks, so the advice I needed was to "get over your hang ups and take the leap." The name of my company is "If + When" because I knew that only I could answer those "Ifs" and "whens" that came up when looking at my dreams, and I need to choose everyday to make my answer "Here" and "Now." Taking that leap of faith has been difficult in many different ways, but I continue to find it rewarding, exciting, and life giving.

If & When Workshop is partnering up with Bittersweet Collective Co-work Studio on Sunday, July 20 for a block printing beach towel workshop. Handprinting geometric designs on Turkish flat woven beach towels is the perfect way to spruce up your upcoming beach trip as the days of summer roll on. The workshop is nearly sold out. Check out

Eventbrite to purchase tickets for $45. Thanks Bekah for sharing about who you are and what you do. 

Maven Style: An Interview with The Metallist

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In the hours that I am not writing, blogging, and exploring, I also run a socially conscious business called Kicheko Goods. Kicheko participates in a few local markets based in the DC area and through these events, I meet makers and business owners who inspire and whose craft and work speaks volumes. One of these small and mighty businesses is Ashley Kriehn of Metallist, a handmade artisan jewelry line that incorporates natural and architectural influences. Each piece is well made and many of them come with a backstory and personal linkage. I asked Ashley if I could interview her and showcase some of her work. Everyone, meet the Metallist.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is Ashley Kriehn and I am a mostly self-taught metalsmith with my own business Metallist. I make contemporary jewelry primarily out of sterling silver. I strive to push the boundaries of my art form as well as my medium.

How did you get started with your business?

I went to The Art Institute of Dallas and received my bachelor’s degree in Interior Design.  After graduation, I worked for an architectural interior design firm in Dallas for three years before I got engaged.  I moved to Northern Virginia the summer of 2009 to be near my fiancé (we had grown up together and reconnected later in life). I enjoyed working as an Interior Designer, but upon my move to VA, I was faced with some pretty big obstacles. Firstly, it was 2009 the height of the recession and no one was hiring.  I actually went on an interview where the designer wanted me to work for free. Secondly, my fiancé, now husband, had lived in Northern Virginia for five years and had already purchased a condo in Manassas. The commute would have been lengthy since most design firms are located in Arlington, Alexandria or DC. I began searching for a way to solve the problem. However, in the interim, I settled for a dead end job at a call center that I absolutely hated.

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During the first few months of living in Northern Virginia I went shopping for wedding bands with my then fiancé, now husband, at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA.  I was intrigued by the handmade jewelry offered in the artist’s studios there.  I have always loved making things and loved jewelry.  I had been making jewelry with pre-made components and beads to satisfy my desire to make for a few years at this point. The jeweler who made our wedding bands told me about a jewelry class offered at The Art League by artists at the Torpedo Factory. I decided that once we got married I would quit my job and take a jewelry class just to see what happened. Honestly, the first day of class, I knew that I had found what I was meant to do. I have never looked back. I think about jewelry constantly, which I think is probably abnormal. I took classes for the entire year between 2010-2011, wherein I learned the fundamentals of jewelry making. In the summer of 2011, I opened my Etsy shop and the Metallist was open for business.

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I noticed your pieces have unique sculptural qualities? How did you develop this aesthetic?

I think that my training and time as an interior designer heavily influence my designs.  I have a strong background in Art and Architecture history from college that I am able to draw from when conceptualizing a piece.  I look at each piece of jewelry as a piece of art.  I think about the details and how it will look from all angles.

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Since joining Etsy, what has been the response to Metallist? Online shops are such a presence now. What is the difference between online markets and in-person markets like DC Meet Market?

Etsy has been a good fit for me. I had my first two sales within the first week of activating my shop and I was overjoyed. I still find it exciting every time I get a sale on Etsy and it has never been a burden or overwhelming. I have also gotten a lot of positive feedback through favorites and the sales that I have made. At the same time I am definitely not the largest shop on Etsy. It’s a big marketplace and it’s hard to compete in categories such as jewelry where there is immense competition. With that said, I enjoy getting to sell my jewelry in person even more. It is so rewarding to see people try on my pieces and get excited over something that I have poured myself into. I think that connection with the buyer is the ultimate reward for the maker.

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What is your process?

Every piece starts as raw material, sheet or wire in various gauges and forms.  Like many other artists, inspiration strikes anywhere, everywhere, or nowhere.  I am usually operating on "I have so many ideas running through my head that I don’t have time or energy to make them all" or "I can’t think of a great idea."  I am most often inspired by architectural forms, nature, or the present materials I have to work with in my studio. I usually start with a vision in my head. I don’t often do complete sketches of jewelry, but I do make paper models to figure out scale and do some preliminary problem solving.

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You are also a wife and a mother among other roles. How do you balance home life with your work?

I have had to realize that work and motherhood is a balancing act.  It feels like even more of a struggle since I work from home.  I face a lot of scrutiny, whether real or imagined, about my job being viable. If I am in my studio, then I am usually missing out on time with my little girl. If a day goes by that I don’t make it into my studio, then I feel like I’m falling behind. I never feel 100% prepared for markets. I was naïve before I had my daughter and thought that I would be able to easily work while I took care of her, but it’s just not that easy. I’ve had to learn to work in smaller chunks of time and although I prefer working in the early hours of the morning, there are many days that I don’t get into my studio until mid-afternoon.

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What is the best part of what you do? What is the most challenging part?

Hands down, the best part of making jewelry is when it is complete. Metal-smithing is physical. It’s sawing, hammering, filing, etc. My hands are usually cracked and black from metal dust. My shoulders and hands ache after a long day in the studio, but at the end of all the hard work I have a beautiful three dimensional object that I have transformed from sheet metal with my two hands and a few hand tools. This makes the connection that a person has with my work that much stronger. Although they may not know how much work went into the making process, I do, and to see them excited about the piece helps me to know that it is going to the right owner.

I think the most challenging part for me is pricing. I don’t think any artist ever really gets paid enough, sometimes at all, for his work. In our culture so many things are mass produced that people just think things appear. They think everything is manufactured.  This is of course not the case with a lot of handmade products. Many times I don’t charge anything for the actual time it takes me to make something.

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Any advice for fellow artists who are starting their own businesses or thinking of going into business?

I think some things go without saying, like stand behind your product, be prepared to work harder than maybe you’ve ever worked before. (There are times I feel like I’m working as hard as I did in college). But I think above all you have to believe in your business and want it more than anyone else. No one is going to do that part for you. You don’t have to wait to have everything just so to start, there is a little growing room, but have a plan in mind. I have an ultimate goal and I set personal goals which build towards that ultimate goal. For instance, the first step was starting my Etsy shop, and now it is applying and gaining acceptance into more juried shows. One of my ultimate goals is to get into the Smithsonian Craft Show.

My thanks to Ashley for sharing her heart and craft with Fashion & Philosophers. Her pieces are truly one of a kind designs. I went home with the fine silver woodgrain wrap ring and I am obsessed with it. The wrap is weighty and sturdy and the woodgrain etching onto the silver gives it a natural texture. Check out her Etsy shop and learn more about the Metallist.

Our First Outdoor Market!

This past Saturday, Kicheko participated in its first outdoor market. After three months of business planning, product making and much reading, it felt like the business' first day of school. Located on 15th & P St NW off of Logan Circle, DC Meet Market takes place the first Saturday of every month from April to November. Existing to support local business by bringing together community with craftsmanship, the market features 40+ vendors specializing in various mediums like graffiti art, photography, illustration, metalworking, jewelry, clothing, home goods, and of course, food. It was such a fun day testing out Kicheko's new tent and figuring out the best setup for the popup storefront. Here are a few photos from the market day and some lessons learned should any of you be curious or have plans to set up your own tent in the future. 

The outdoor market is managed by Kelly Towles, a DC-based street artist, and his wife Virginia Arrisueno, founder and designer of knit accessories brand De Nada. This artistic couple has done a good job of bringing together business, craft, art and live music. Free to the public and both family and pet-friendly, Kicheko's booth was positioned in the middle of the first column of vendors close to the picnic area. From our view, we had great visibility from 15th St. 

I really enjoyed meeting new customers and sharing about the brand story as well as my process making the goods on display. I try to source fabrics whenever and wherever I travel. The fabric stud earrings are composed of powder blue hole-punched suede, tweeds, silk, African wax cotton, gold lame, and various cottons. The earrings come in 3 sizes with the smallest button earring the equivalent of an altoid and the largest button earring the equivalent of a dollar coin. The earrings make for subtle accents to an outfit or statement pieces in themselves.

A small batch of necklaces also made their debut on Saturday. This collection drew several influences together - African paper beads, deer tine, purple quartz, recycled glass and Swarovski crystal. 

The batch of necklaces feature contemporary looks mixed with tribal and outdoorsy elements. I was interested to see what would resonate and appeal to our customers. As the day went on, I nearly sold out of the deer tine, quartz and tribal necklaces. 

An added style to the earring line is the dangling beaded fishhooks made out of gold-plated triangles, arcs, Ugandan beads and modern beadings (spacer, leaves and medallion coins). I noticed that the women who purchased these earrings have had some travel or experience abroad and the beads imagined in a contemporary design melded both worlds and perhaps provided a bit of nostalgia. 

I learned that putting a tent together can be done by yourself but it is more fun to do it together with friends. For this first one, I wrangled a few friends and my husband, who is kind of defaulted as a co-participant/conspirator in one's pop ups and adventures. Here are a few other lessons from our first experience:

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1. Weights & Wind

Knowing the weather prediction for that day is key but also knowing the wind prediction is clutch data for an outdoor market. The tent that I purchased can withstand 10mph winds. However, the wind prediction for Saturday was 22mph winds. I had 5lb weights attached to each of the legs. However, this was still not enough to keep the tent rooted. I was at a conundrum for what to do had it not been for my friendly vendor neighbor who lent me 4 cinderblocks along with bungee cords to weigh the tent down. So important to have weights or else bye-bye, watch your tent blow away! Yikes. 

2. Where to Set up the Table

Originally, I had planned my 6-foot table along the far wall of the tent providing lots of real estate for passerby to come inside the tent and take a look at the goods. It turns out that having the table so far from the walking path of most market-goers was a deterrent to having them interact with the goods. After the first hour, we moved the table closer to the entrance so when people walked by, they could immediately see the the goods and interact with the product. It also added some depth of field to the tent, which made for a great look. Having the table inset placed some shadow over the display while moving it towards the front helped brighten the table display and illuminate the necklaces, especially the quartz stones. 

3. Staffing the Booth

DC Meet Market operating hours ran from 11am-5pm with a two hour window of time for setup before official opening. It can make for a long day so it is important to have a couple of reliable friends who are familiar with the brand and good communicators to help staff the booth during key times so you can use the bathroom, grab a bite or a drink, and meet other vendors. Promotion of brand and product is absolutely necessary to growing your business but it can still be somewhat awkward to toot your own horn. Having friends help with the booth can alleviate some of that awkwardness and it is nice to hear them share their pitch of your brand and market on your behalf.

4. Emergency Kit 

A box of necessary items such as paper towels, hand sanitizer, band aids, a tide pen, extra chapstick, mints, superglue, and extra scissors are essential for the potential situations you may come across on a market day. For this particular day, I did not have said items and consequently, I spilled coffee on my skirt, cut my finger on a cracked mirror blown over by the wind, and misplaced my scissors  within the first hour and a half of setup. An emergency box is a handy reserve of supplies to help with the unexpected mishaps and acts of clumsiness. #whatamess #ithappens #nexttime

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5.  Smile, Connect, Have Fun! 

Pretty straightforward and intuitive, yes. After 6-8 hours, it is important to keep the "smile, eye contact, and connect" stamina at a high level because you will get tired. Your cheek muscles will hurt and you will sound like a broken record sharing the elevator pitch for what your brand is and what you do. But each person or group of people is hearing this information and engaging with you for the first time so keep it fresh by communicating well with your body language, tone of voice and word choice. Give them the opportunity to look while observing what catches their eye and what they say. Offer helpful styling suggestions or extend the invitation for them to try the product on if possible. Be honest but also help them see the potential or the perfection of a particular product pairing. If one style or size doesn't seem to go, offer another. People come to outdoor markets to experience a smorgasbord of small business and unique product otherwise not found in box chain or retail stores. Showcase how your product/brand is interesting and different from other product that they would find elsewhere. Most importantly, have fun! You are outdoors in the middle of a great city, meeting a ton of people, and having the opportunity to share what you have made with others. Hopefully, people are buying it and will share your brand with others. How cool is that! 

Thanks to Erica Baker Photography for the photos

Posted on April 8, 2014 .