For this week's BOSS Fox, our Marketing Associate, Sonika sat down with the wonderful Katie Dean, Founder of Katie Dean Jewelry. You've probably seen them in Cosmo, People, E!, and many more popular publications. What makes this Jewelry line so special is the face behind the name, the story behind her company, and the lessons learned along the way. Read on to see what Katie shared about her journey to starting her own business. //
What made you decide to start a Jewelry business and where did you draw your inspiration from?
I’ve always worked with my hands and attended college with a focus in ceramics, but it wasn’t until I left school that I started thinking about how I would make a career out of it. I ended up coming out to Los Angeles on a trip with my mom, fell in love with the city, and moved here. My jobs in LA were far and wide: a PA at a production company, a nanny, a personal chef, and finally as an Assistant Stylist. At that job, the contacts and connections I made eventually helped me launch a successful jewelry line. After about two and a half years as a stylist, I got burnt out because I wasn’t doing much for myself and wasn’t getting to be as creative as I would’ve liked. I started to make jewelry at night to get my creative juices flowing and would literally deconstruct and recreate pieces for myself. When I wore them out, people would ask where they could buy them! When my boss saw what I’d been making, she suggested we use my jewelry for an upcoming shoot for Dolly Magazine for Kendall and Kylie. I brought all of my best pieces of jewelry for it, and when the magazine went to print, my pieces were pictured and I actually got credit for it! After that, I had a friend who’d seen my jewelry photographed call me because she was working at a marketing company and she wanted to help me promote my jewelry line. I was suddenly getting thousands of followers, pins, and a ton of orders. Fancy.com (a social media driven site) had taken my photos and posted on their personal Instagram, and from there, everything blew up! Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ashton Kutcher, Snoop Dogg, all these huge celebrities wanted to buy my skull bracelets. First it was 50, then it was 200, then 500, then over 3,000 and I made every single one of them. I knew I was on to something at this point.
What have been the best and worst parts of running your own business?
The best part is choosing my own path, but also realizing that there is no set path and that you have to trust your instincts. It’s exciting to know that I can follow my own rule book, and I really do believe that I am the brand that I am because I believe that.On the flip side, sometimes you get very little sleep and you’re tight on money, but you do want you do to make it work. There’s going to be things that are tough and that you don’t know the answer to.
It’s easy to at times to become a slave to your own business, which is why it’s so important to find balance and take the time to have fun and enjoy the ride.
How do you set yourself apart from your competition?
I really feel that everyone has a unique perspective, and that everything I do is from my own vision. I think the most important way to set yourself apart is holding true to your brand and it’s integrity. I definitely gain my certainty as I do things, and I evolve as I go. If you know what’s true to your brand, then you can direct your communication to be true to it. If everyone is shopping at the same place, we’d all be wearing the same thing - so stick to who you are! There’s definitely value in looking at competition, taking little bits and technical points, but don’t focus on it.
Where do you see your brand heading?
Social media was a huge part of my business when starting out, as well as doing trade shows on the weekends where there is a lot of in-person connection and word of mouth. More recently, we’re stepping away from trade shows and switching the different platforms we use to run our business, changing our website, focusing on paid advertising, hiring a marketing company to create bigger marketing campaigns, and focusing on doing more exclusive collaborations. Recently we worked with Ladygang, and now we’re starting to do mini collections with select pieces coming out every 6-10 weeks. In that way, we can give each collection the proper attention on social media. Our plan is to do trade shows bi-annually since our wholesale has always been very organic and we enjoy meeting people and getting that facetime. We’ve also always want to stay made in America!
What are some of your favorite Jewelry brands?
I typically keep it simple and wear one necklace or stacked rings, and don’t wear a lot of other brands. However, I do love Hechizo, a Chic bohemian brand that was started by a good friend of mine. Their brand is statement pieces, and it’s so beautiful!
Do you have a quote that you live by?
“You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.” I believe that if you don’t go out and meet the opportunity, you’ll never know what the outcome would’ve been. I also believe “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” As an entrepreneur, you have to take the initiative and can’t let fear stop you from doing something. The best way to learn is through application, and if you don’t go out and do it, you won’t know that you’re capable of!
Do you have any advice for someone starting their own business?
Don’t be afraid to fail, because it’s so easy to talk yourself out of something. Live your life with a purpose and don’t ever wonder, “could I have made it?” This is my driving force that propels me out of fear and gets me into action. Success is a relative term - you can’t measure it. All you need to do is figure out your true goals and passion, and decide to push past the challenges and preserve.
What do you do to relax and clear your mind?
I love playing Scrabble, it’s a big thing in my family. I absolutely love working out - I’m really into Fitmix, Barry’s Bootcamp, Pilates, and SoulCycle. I also love reading and getting lost in a really good movie.
Is there someone who has impacted your life the most or shaped your career?
My mom and grandma, those two women in my life have really pushed me to work hard and keep my integrity. My mom had us fairly young and got into medical school 6 months after I was born. My parents separated when I was very young and my mom raised my brother and I as a single mom, which I think taught her a lot about how much she was capable of, raising a family and starting her own practice in Michigan. She taught me empowerment and now I do really well in a setting where there’s no sympathy - she taught me that when the going gets tough, to always work through it.
Is there a trend right now that excites you?
Wrap dresses - I love the brand Realisation Par! I’m also really into white jeans, especially as the weather warms up. I also love being monochromatic with my look, and pairing that with the block heel trend.
What’s something that you wish existed that doesn’t?
If there was a high-speed train that went back forth to Michigan or the East Coast from Los Angeles so I’d never have to worry about being too far from home. I also think traveling by train is romantic, and it would be fun to travel from one side of the country to the next in a matter of hours.
Favorite book, TV show or podcast?
Podcasts: How I Built This, The Lady Gang, Bingemode, Recapables
TV Shows: Billions, Game of Thrones, Sex & The City
Books: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, Harry Potter, The Princess Diana Memoir
What has been your greatest achievement and your greatest failure?
Greatest achievement: Financially supporting myself by doing what I love.
Greatest failure: Not getting agreements in writing and not reading things through. In the beginning, I was very intimidated by things, and felt threatened in certain aspects of the business. I was constantly given advice on watching out for who is in my inner circle and because of this, I wasn’t fully being honest with myself and not asking enough questions.