Q: What inspired you to open Kin?
A: I’d been in the industry for awhile and felt like there was a lack of boutique stores with a mid range price point, inclusive environment and designers that we see and know online but for some reason can’t find in brick and mortar locations. I felt like for my age group and other young professionals, I either had Banana Republic or other mundane department type stores where it’s overwhelming, expensive and unhelpful (for lack of a better word). I wanted a store for the modern working woman, who has a career, family, dogs, travels and enjoys fashion but doesn’t always have the time to shop for appropriate pieces that can translate into their budget and everyday life.
Q: When did you open KIN?
A: I opened last September, and it’s been amazing. Obviously challenging but I’m incredibly grateful to be where we are at in a little less than a year.
Q: What was your career path leading up to owning your store?
A: I actually started in social work, and received my degree in Sociology and Philosophy from Colorado College. I’d always been interested in fashion and would participate in school fashion shows and sew, but I didn’t think I could make a career out of it. After doing some social work I realized I missed the creativity of being around clothing and I started getting my foot in the door as a stylist. It took a lot of coffee runs and unpaid internships but I eventually started working as an assistant at Amazon’s photo studio in Hebron, Kentucky and worked my way up to an e-commerce on and off figure stylist. From there I took a lot of freelance gigs, and have worked with companies like The Limited, Net-a-porter, Gilt, Luxottica and Amazon, to name a few. I loved working freelance because I was able to travel, but that freedom also came with a lot of tax expenses and no health insurance, so I started managing clothing stores. I’ve managed about four different retail stores, including South Moon Under and Skirt in the city, and consistently saw areas of opportunity when it came to merchandising and client service experiences. I worked extremely hard and contemplated, why not work this hard for myself? I left Skirt to go back home to Arizona to take care of my Dad who was sick last March and started writing a business plan of my own. Six months later KIN was born.
Q: What sets KIN apart from other shops?
A: You can get an entire outfit at KIN right down to the hanky pankys. Pieces start at $25 and go up to $1000. You can easily get an entire outfit here for under $500, or you can buy that statement leather jacket for $650 that will live in your closet forever. I’m from the West and wanted to incorporate that type of ease into East Coast dressing, and the idea that your wardrobe should consist of elevated contemporary basics. We have local designers, Australian brands, and lots of West Coast vendors. When you are shopping at KIN, you can almost guarantee you won’t see our pieces in other stores. We have some crossover but for the most part I do my best to buy unique pieces from emerging designers. Some I’ve been wearing for decades. I grew up wearing Senso shoes and Adina Reyter Jewelry, and I love finding new designers and hearing their stories. I’d always prefer to work with smaller brands than big names because the quality is better and the overall experience is almost familial. I want that energy to translate to the vibe of the store all the way down to where and who I purchase from.
I pretty much took all the things I didn’t agree with from managing other stores and tried to create a different experience. Fashion is and should be fun! Putting on a new outfit or getting a new pair of shoes can literally transform your day. A boutique experience doesn’t need to be stuffy.
I named the store KIN because my customers are like family; I text with them all the time, know their families, birthdays, and even spend holidays with them. When I buy, I’m thinking of what can be paired with that specific garment, how does the fit work with different proportioned bodies, and does the quality of materials make sense for the price? I try to stock trendier items under $125 and wardrobe staples at a higher price point. For example, a ponte black blazer will be in your closet for the better part of a decade whereas that printed romper may only last for a few summers. The store was designed as a walk-in closet. I wanted customers to feel like they were in their best friend's closet, sipping wine and playing dress up, but also understanding the cohesion behind the clothing to make the whole process of getting dressed effortless.
Q: What are some goals you have for Kin? How do you see it evolving over time?
A: I am trying my hand at a pop-up in Margate, NJ at Stacey’s Surf & Paddle right now. It’s been a learning experience figuring out how to balance two stores but I’m grateful for the opportunity. I love the idea of having more pop-up locations, even over by the University or trying something more concrete during the summer months. My main goal when starting KIN was to be able to evolve and open more brick and mortar locations. I have a solid 5-year plan to really perfect my vision of KIN and then hopefully see if this business could translate in the West.
Q: One piece of advice to give anyone contemplating starting their own business?
A: DO IT! I kept waiting and waiting to take the leap. I kept telling myself, "I’ll manage this store and improve that location and then I’ll be ready," but I think that was fear holding me back. Obviously opening a business is terrifying! The rate of success is incredibly low, but if you’re true to yourself and creating something you love, then the time and effort involved is 100% worth it. Know your limits and know your strengths. Outsource and find people you trust to help with the parts of the business you might be less knowledgeable in. Once you invest or start a business plan, you just do it. There’s no looking back because you literally can’t and there isn’t time to worry about yourself or feel discouraged. Stay focused on your vision and focus on the work. Trust your gut and believe in yourself and you’ll be fine.