July 27, 2020
Catching Up with Katie Dean
If you’ve been to Renegade, chances are you know Katie Dean. Her eponymous jewelry brand is a mainstay at our Fairs, always with Katie behind the booth welcoming every visitor with a friendly smile. We had the chance to catch up with her and chat all things small business, her inspiration and process, and adapting to this new normal!
Katie! It is so good to be catching up with you, we miss seeing you at the Fairs. So, first things first! How are you?
I’ve definitely gone on a few emotional roller coaster rides but I’m staying positive and doing well! I’m so thankful to have my health and feel very fortunate that my family and friends have stayed well during this time.
We feel the same way. Family, friends, and community are everything, now more than ever! As a small business owner, how are you adapting to this new normal?
From the first signs of economic disruption, which for us was early March, I’ve heavily focused on adapting our marketing. A large portion of my sales came from in-person events (love you Renegade!!) so when it became apparent that events were going to be postponed and ultimately canceled, fostering our relationship and connection with our community was my number one priority. Not only was it going to be essential to stay afloat financially but for me personally as an artist it is important to me to continue to build that connection with the people I used to see every few months at events as well as the new customers that I was going to meet. With that said, I stripped off the layers and became way more personal within our social posts and emails. I started writing a Friday Letter every week where I recap whatever I feel like talking about — personal victories, thoughts, reflections, our best sellers, new things I’ve been working on… you name it. It’s been fun and also really fulfilling because my community is actually writing me back on those emails! Here’s one that I loved writing that I turned into a blogpost.
Another part of adapting was going through expenses with a fine tooth comb and making sure that I was putting my business dollars where I really needed them. The time that I would’ve spent preparing for events I instead spent taking online classes and webinars to get more educated on how to up my online conversions, create a better user experience for the people visiting us on www.katiedeanjewelry.com and learn how to successfully run paid ads. I tweaked a lot of small things on the website which made navigating the site way easier and started testing out paid ads on different platforms. This was soooo eye opening. The best part is that a lot of platforms like FB and Pinterest were offering free consultations to small businesses on how to create and analyze their ads so I took advantage of all those opportunities and learned a lot.
I could go on and on with the adaptations we’ve made but the last one I’ll leave here for all the other entrepreneurs and small biz owners reading this is: we started offering free U.S. shipping. I’ve read multiple articles about how charging shipping is one of the main reasons why people abandon their cart at checkout, so I decided to give free domestic shipping a shot and looked at it as an investment in our customers + future business. Although it is an extra expense it’s really helped our conversion rate go up because people have no reason not to order when they’re getting free shipping. If you can handle the expense I highly recommend doing that!
We love to hear this evolution and advice for fellow small bizz owners! On that note, every time I walk past your booth at a Fair, it’s totally buzzing with customers – and with good reason! You have beautiful products, a lovely setup, and a really great range of price points. How have you honed in on such a successful business model for the Fair? Any more advice for other small businesses?
Thank you so much! And I’ve had a lot of trial and error. My set up when I first started looked totally different and over the years I’ve actually simplified it. Some key things I’ve learned…
〰 Keep your set up simple so that your product shines and have a color scheme for your booth. You want someone to know what you sell within a split second of them seeing your booth and you want it to make an impression. It doesn’t have to be fancy but a well thought out space even if simple, speaks volumes about your brand and will instill confidence or the desire to shop with you.
〰 Put your product facing out towards the aisle and within the customers reach. A lot of people can be shy and don’t want to commit to walking into a booth, by putting your product within arms reach they are more likely to stop and check it out which leads to more sales.
〰 Have your logo and website visible so that someone can snap a picture and look you up online later. Also, have a business card or postcard handy to give them if they don’t have time to stop and shop right then and there. This will bring in more sales outside of that single event day.
〰 Greet people with a smile and say hello. Sounds simple but so many people have their head down facing their phone and it doesn’t make for a very welcoming vibe. You don’t have to bombard them but it can come across rude and like you don’t care if you don’t acknowledge their presence.
〰 Have your prices marked in some way. Your customers time is valuable and some of them are in a rush when shopping so they appreciate having the prices marked so they don’t have to wait for an answer.
〰 Offer apple pay! Invest in quality credit card processor technology. It doesn’t have to be fancy but you do want to make the checkout process as simple and as fast as possible.
〰 Lastly, promote, promote, PROMOTE!!! Promoting that you will be at an event will hands down bring you more sales. So many people over look this simple yet super effective point. Start posting at least 2-4 weeks before the event and make sure to mention it 5-10 times within that time frame. Peoples attention span is very narrow and it’s proven that someone needs to see something at least 5 times before it registers with them. So think about that!
GREAT advice! Turning to the digital side of small business, have you had to make changes to your online presence?
Yes, definitely. Besides offering free shipping and sending out more email newsletters, I made the decision to do some sales. I’m mindful of keeping the jewelry affordable while maintaining the quality so I don’t offer sales that often but when you’re in a pandemic there’s a first time for everything. Just like us, most people were starting to feel the financial repercussions of the pandemic in their own life so another reason for offering discounts was to enable our community to treat themselves in a more budget friendly way. At the end of the day I create jewelry to make people feel good so it’s important to me that it’s accessible especially when people are having a hard time and could use a mood booster. The sales helped us stay afloat and I’m so grateful for everyone who supported us, especially in the first few months of COVID-19 when there were so many unknowns.
I also started writing a lot more blogs and have done a handful of new podcast interviews which I’ve really enjoyed!
We love this thoughtful approach so much, and have been loving your blog posts! Where do you find inspiration, and what’s your process like?
It may sound cliche but I really find inspiration everywhere. Food, walks, outfits, flowers, traveling, my husband … friends! I like to think of the vibe and feeling that my pieces give to the person wearing it and the others that are seeing it. When creating a minimal piece of jewelry it’s all in the details. One millimeter smaller or larger can completely change the composition of that piece. I never try to aspire to perfection because that’s not attainable but I do focus on getting to a place with each piece where it communicates a feeling.
My process always starts with observation. I pay close attention to objects and shapes that catch my eye and hold my attention. When something sticks with me I start to sketch a design and then I usually tuck it away and won’t look at it for months! When I’m ready to start production on new pieces I’ll go back to my sketches with fresh eyes and I’ll select the designs that I still love.
After that I work with a wax and mold maker in DTLA to help me create the castings of each piece and then I finish the assembly work in Oakland where I live with my husband. Fun fact: I still handstamp the boxes and bags that the jewelry is packaged in. It takes some extra time doing it this way but that human touch adds in a little bit of magic which I think comes through to our customers when they receive their order.
So true, we feel like that magic is one of the many, many reasons to shop small! Any artists or creators that you’re loving these days?
Yes! I’ve been eyeing Jessica Yolanda Kaye’s work for months now. She’s a fine artist based in the UK that creates stunning sketches using a single line. They fascinate me! She has a new collection “Take Me Away” coming out soon and I am hoping to get my hands on one or two pieces when they go live.
I’ve also been loving these creators and small businesses:
Harlem Candle Co for the yummiest candles. This one is my go-to.
Franca, a handmade ceramics brand based in Brooklyn. This is my favorite mug in their collection.
Diane Hill, a Chinoiserie artist based in London. I could watch her paint forever!
It has been a delight to catch up with you, Katie! Thank you for your time, advice, and words. Anything else you’d like to add?
I can’t leave without saying that I love Renegade SO much and I’m so thankful to be a part of the community of artists that you guys represent in your events. You’ve truly helped me as a creator.
Also, to all the artists and entrepreneurs out there – stay productive and stay positive. We are creators and we were meant to inspire others. The world needs each of you so take this time to challenge yourself to step outside the box and try something new for your business. I’ll be watching and cheering you on.