Today we're putting the spotlight on Kate Ellen of Kate Ellen Metals and Crown Nine. She may look familiar, as she is one of the lovely customers that agreed to model for our homepage! Kate is a jewelry-making Jimi Hendrix-loving entrepreneur fantastico! Read below for her story, her tips, and how she uses Stitch to keep it all straight.
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Tell us about your business.
I started my own jewelry line, Kate Ellen Metals, about 5 years ago with nothing but a hope and a broken heart to fuel me. I started out in a little studio in my Dad's basement, and sold my work to local boutiques and did juried art shows and craft shows. I focus on making things I want to wear myself, often marrying natural elements with heavy industrial ones and playing with the lines of femininity.
Last year around this time I embarked to open up my first flagship retail boutique in Old Oakland as a member of Popuphood, an innovative approach to revitalizing retail block by block. I've had a year to refine my vision and now the store is really quite lovely--we carry over 15 jewelry artists who all make their work by hand with quality materials, we are a member of Oakland Art Murmur on first Friday and host super talented local artists each month, and we teach classes in basic jewelry making and design. It is the hardest and most rewarding thing I've attempted to do--to run two creative businesses side-by-side, but I really feel juiced every time someone comes in and realizes that they can afford to buy handmade art and enrich their lives.
What sets you apart from the competition?
As a jeweler, I stand out simply based on my particular view of the world. I'm a big believer in the power of story, that each of us has a compelling story to tell. So I think my work, created very authentically and lovingly, draws some people very close to it because they can see not only my story but something of their own story within it too. I am also a very tactile person, so if it doesn't feel good on my body, I wont wear it; I create everything so that it feels delicious while being worn.
As a shop owner, I think what we are doing at Crown Nine is special because we are curating beautiful, handcrafted jewelry and art at affordable prices. We are cultivating a genre of jewelry that is somehow suspended in between the established genres in the spectrum of jewelry design, fashion jewelry and fine jewelry. We are all artists driven by craft and design--but also want our work worn by everyday people. This in between category has yet to be named, but we are offering Crown Nine has some of the best people doing it.
What do you love about what you do? What could you do without?
I love being inspired and feeling free. I love deciding what to do next and doing it. I love talking to people about important life decisions and milestones and helping them create something beautiful and lasting to mark that occasion. I love looking at pretty things, being around creative people, and being at the hub of what is happening in Oakland.
I could do without the book keeping (one reason I love StitchLabs so much!)
What's next for Kate Ellen Metals / Crown Nine?
Right now I'm in the process of launching a new collection of work and preparing the store for the holidays. I am really excited about Crown Nine's approaching year anniversary! Believe me, we are going to party! After that, vacation. After that, getting my hustle on and preparing to do my first trade show within the next year.
Crown Nine and Popuphood are hosting a whole bunch of awesome events this holiday season! I'm especially stoked about Plaid Friday, a day out to support local small businesses and an alternative to Black Friday madness at the mall. We'll be hosting a Sample Sale by Oakland jewelry Sarah Swell (a rare chance to get dramatic discounts on her gorgeous work) and people can get a free pair of my studs if they come wearing some plaid!
How did you find Stitch?
Before Stitch I tried Quickbooks (ack!), Excel, a few cloud based systems, The Shoebox Method (in which you just ignore your bank statements and stuff all your receipts into a shoebox). Nothing worked. It was all built for someone else's business and I found it incredibly frustrating and taxing to deal with.
I found Stitch Labs at a small workshop I attended--Jake showed up and talked a little about his product. He was literally the only person who helped me that day, and I've been bugging him with emails ever since! I cannot underscore enough how awesome the staff at Stitch is-- I get from them what no other company could give me, a sense of genuinely caring about me and my business. I always get super quick responses to all my questions and they have even implemented some of my suggestions as they've grown!
What’s your favorite thing about Stitch?
I love that I can set multiple prices and run reports and line sheets with the data I want to appear. It was so impossible to do that with other programs, and since I sell in so many different ways, it is an integral part of all of my daily activities.
Besides Stitch, what other systems do you use?
Any advice or tips you’d like to share for other product-based business owners?
I would say that as soon as you can, delegate what drives you crazy and you are not good at to someone who loves it and rocks at it. For me, all the book keeping stuff has got to go. It's not that numbers and records are objectively bad--some people love numbers and totally get psyched by creating data! The more time I have freed up from frustrating tasks that are not in my core competencies, the more time I am spending doing amazing things I'm really good at and creating all kinds of happiness in my daily life. As entrepreneurs I think we need to question the 'No Pain No Gain' attitude a little--that inflexibility can do real damage to your spirit. Try the best you can to protect your enthusiasm--as much as you can, be around people who bolster it and create daily activities that strengthen it. Spend more time doing what YOU are excellent at, and delegate the rest. I don't want to be sorta good at a lot of things, I want to be phenomenal at a few.
What amount of time would you estimate Stitch saves you in a week?
Is 'a bundle' an actual unit of time?
What do you love to do that isn't business related?
I love running, watching Giants baseball, talking in dumb voices, and Instagram-- find me at @kateellenmetals
Tell us about your other creative pursuits.
I have to temper myself not to pick up new projects right now because I already have enough going! But I am totally drawn to making and creating in all forms. I love sewing, cooking, gardening...I'd love to refurbish furniture, become a beekeeper, make some babies. You know, the usual.
If you could have dinner with anyone past or present who would it be and why?
Skip the dinner, I would just want to spend a day with Jimi Hendrix. We could do whatever he did in his typical day and I'd just go along for the ride and say yes to everything (which is actually hard for me to do--believe it or not, sometimes I'm really scared to try new things). I've always admired him as a true innovator and master of his craft. People don't always appreciate that now, but literally that sound didn't exist before his particular brand of awesome-weird made it up. We'd wave our freak flags high!
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Thanks so much for sharing, Kate. We're so lucky to have your smiling face on our site and blog. Keep Stitchin'!
All photos by Sarah Deragon of Portraits to the People.