As a young girl, Katy had more ideas than time to work on them; the same is true of Katy today.
Katy spent much of her youth overseas with her military family. Weekends were spent touring castles in Germany or visiting archaeological ruins in South Korea. Summers were spent at her grandparents’ cabin near the entrance to Yellowstone Park, Montana. Because her family relocated every few years, Katy learned how to make friends quickly and adapt to change.
Katy has been making things all her life. At a young age, Katy spent hours creating collages, making beaded jewelry and writing poetry. In her teenage years, she spent her free time tearing out pages from fashion magazines and sewing garments inspired by the decades of the past. In high school, she registered for a jewelry class on a whim – it was life-changing experience. Two advanced independent studies in jewelry design followed. By the time Katy graduated high school, she’d fabricated museum quality pins and ornate bracelets using centuries-old techniques.
After high school, Katy desperately wanted to take metalsmithing classes in New York City, but her parents urged her to seek a traditional college education. She left home to pursue a Major in Fine Arts, and it wasn’t long before Katy became bored. Fortunately, a business class inspired her to change her Major and she graduated with a degree in Marketing and Management.
Just before college graduation, Katy landed a job at a newly-opened boutique. Katy relocated to Portland, Oregon with her then-boyfriend (now husband) to open a new store branch. She regularly traveled to tradeshows in Las Vegas and Los Angeles where she worked with showroom managers and fashion designers. Katy was at the helm of the boutique’s marketing efforts; she managed the store’s presence in both the online and offline community.
After 7 years with the same company, Katy was ready to try something new. In 2009, she launched g r a y l i n g a limited-edition collection of jewelry lines designed and manufactured in Portland, Oregon. Her lifelong passion for jewelry, experience of running a business, and knowledge of the inner-workings of the fashion industry and connections made it an obvious career choice. In addition to her jewelry line, Katy is a part-time marketing consultant to several Portland-based small businesses.
A bona fide devotee to all things fashion, Katy’s blog explores the world of jewelry, shoes, and accessories via designer interviews, product obsessions, and behind-the-scenes glimpses at what’s happening in the fashion industry on a local and national level.
What are you working on right now?
I’m enhancing my website with a shopping cart; this has been a huge undertaking. I’m designing a new product line for upcoming season, and setting up shoots, some on-model and some stills, for my product look book. I’m also set to grow company distribution substantially on the West Coast this year. As a designer, I’d say only twenty to thirty percent of my time is spent actually producing the line.
I’m working with my marketing clients on some pretty cool promotions. It’s especially challenging as a small business owner to know where to invest your time and energy. I help my clients decide what makes the most sense. For some of them, this has actually meant straying away from social media, believe it or not, and placing emphasis on other areas. Given all the hype surrounding social media, it’s not surprising to hear a business with a solid foundation might view it as a low priority. It’s more important to be sure the customers they have are taken care of.
3 Trends that excite you?
I’m really excited about Adobe Business Catalyst, formerly Good Barry. I had the chance to see how it works, and the idea that I could manage my website, eCommerce, email marketing and client database all in one place sounds amazing.
Some reviews liken this new online tool to blogging, but to me it seems like a unique way to give your company a voice. You create your own online magazine, complete with cover and all, without anything to download. You can add video, too.
I love the idea of holding a brainstorming session, or a meeting, with my jewelry production assistant, warehouse manager and my sales rep in Los Angeles. Like a 3 way call, remember those?
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a big fan of lists, and pen and paper. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t register to me as “done”, and I’m lost.
What designers and artists do you look up to, and why?
I could list any of the designers-of-the-moment, but I can truly only look up to someone I’ve actually met. Three artists come mind:
Bliss Lau, a jewelry designer I met a while back at a tradeshow – the way she drapes chain is incredible. I admire her kind, even-keeled nature and passion for the craft.
Davora Lindner and Camilla Eckersley, designers and owners of Seattle-based Prairie Underground – I met these two when they started their women’s clothing line in Fall 2005. I’ve seen them grow their business by leaps and bounds. Many new designers barely make it through one season, but they have something special going on. Every garment is actually made in Seattle, primarily of organic materials.
My grandfather, Guy, who passed away in 1998 – he was a gifted craftsperson who found, cut, and polished stones and fossils, and created unbelievable jewelry and belt buckles. I recently inherited part of his stone collection; it’s an amazing feeling to carry the family tradition forward.
What are your future plans?
Ten days from now, I’ll be sifting through photo proofs for the website and working on opening a new account. Ten years from now? As long as I’m having fun, it doesn’t really matter.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.