Back in November 2016, I was running a Makers & Friends pop-up at Greenwich Market. Kim had a beautiful stall (K&K Labs) selling really eye catching scarves right outside my shop and we got to chatting. In fact, she even joined us for our first foray into the Scottish market, when we popped up on Dundas St! When she told me that she donates part of her sales to animal charities, I knew we were meant to be friends 😉 Here more about her inspiring journey below!
The most popular design at our Edinburgh pop-up
What led you to start K & K in 2015? I understand This is a project of yours and your fiance- were you already engaged to Kofi then? What are the challenges of working with your partner? And how did you meet Kofi??
We started K&K simply for two things. Firstly, we were increasingly frustrated with the continued tragedies wildlife were, and still are facing at the hands of illegal traders and poachers. Secondly, our love for animals. Those that have been affected through climate change and human acts which have led to massive declines in numbers throughout the years. We both come from a creative background and wanted to use our skills to raise awareness, spread joy and love through our products. In which we are so proud that we donate 10% of our profits to charities helping endangered species. When we started K&K we weren’t engaged but happened shortly after in mid 2015 whilst on a wildlife expedition in Mongolia. We met during our studies at the same university at Ravensbourne. In respect to challenges working together, I think regardless of who you work with, there will always be challenges or disagreements, but most of the time we compromise and get on with it and I think it’s lovely.
The faces behind the brand- Kim & Kofi
Do you run K&K full time? If so how Long did it take for you to go full time?
At the moment we both run K&K on a part-time basis, however, that is soon to change, with one of us going into it on a full time basis.
Wow! I can’t imagine working Monday to Friday and selling at Greenwich every weekend!!! You have my respect! 🙂
What were you doing before this and how has that experience helped you?
I was a freelance print & textiles designer working for various startups and independent designers, whilst Kofi has always worked as a 3D artist in the Animation industry. We essentially followed our career choices in respective industries. Working as a freelance print designer equipped me to trust my instincts and develop my work ethic and process of doing things, which I use to this day for making our K&K prints.
Have you always loved animals? What is your favourite- do you have a personal fave amongst your designs? How often do you release new ones and how long does each take you? Are you involved in animal conservation/ charities in any other ways? How much has K&K donated to animals so far and to which charities? (A lot of questions!!!)
I have always loved animals from a young age. I’m currently a massive cat lady, with four cats! My ultimate favorite animals are Pandas. They are so precious, cute and fluffy, but equally, I love all animals! We did a wildlife conservation expedition at the ‘Ikh Nart Nature reserve’ in Mongolia back in 2015, helping endangered argali and ibexes (mountain sheep) and gladly donated our first donation to them at the end of that year, having personally been involved with the conservation and being touched by the whole experience. It’s difficult to put a favorite to my designs as each animal represented in them are unique and equally loved by us. We currently bring out new scarves every six months to once annually. This normally ranges of a few varied endangered animals who need awareness raised on their behalves. Each design takes around two weeks, from sketch on paper to fully digitized print.
Prepping for Mongolia!
I’ve always wanted to visit Mongolia and to help out with an animal charity so I shall have to get more details about that from you! Have you tried other markets besides Greenwich? What let you to choose Greenwich market?
Greenwich market is a great place to start as they solely concentrate on creative makers. We’ve not tried other markets because our aim this and next year is to get our products into as many retail stores and boutiques as possible. We are always thinking of ways to expand our brand and we feel this is one of our biggest targets and aims for the next few years. We are currently sitting on some exciting news regarding a prospective retailer, but we will have to hold off revealing it till the right time.
Scarves are your key product- why scarves?
Yes, I love scarves! Merely because they act as a canvas and a platform for me to represent and raise awareness for endangered animals. Each scarf tells a story, which is what makes our scarves unique and beautiful in their own right.
You mentioned that you have two mentors- how did you find them and how have they helped you? Do you mentor anyone yourself?
Yes we do have two mentors. We met and approached one of our mentors at an entrepreneur and networking event, where he was sharing his success story about his business and winning investment on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den. Our second mentor interviewed us on her TV show and became our part mentor and advisor. We value mentors and believe every entrepreneur and startup should have one. At the end of the day, your results are determined by your own efforts through doing and putting into action ideas discussed with whoever you call a mentor – be it friends, or anyone who gives you a suggestion or advice. At this stage, we give advice to other entrepreneurs looking to start a fashion business, however we do not mentor anyone as of yet.
Wow Dragon’s Den, that’s impressive! You must get really good advice 🙂
You’ve been featured in many publications such as milli-on-air, aplus , startups.co.uk – how do you get these opportunities and have they helped your business?
Thank you very much! At the start of the year, we worked out our goals and targets for the year, and one of our targets was to raise our brand awareness by getting into publications. Many of our opportunities came by researching, contacting or engaging on social media such as twitter and Instagram. A few came by introduction by our mentors, and a few through encounter at trade shows we exhibited at. We find that if you’re genuine and your story is sincere and it resonates to whoever you’re wanting attention from, you have a chance of getting a reply back. We highly embrace failure or getting the no-responders or no’s! It’s all part of the process and is worth trying and failing, than not at all. After all, if it won’t kill you, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try.
What are your 3 tips for any maker/ craft business person looking to get publicity?
Our three tips to any crafts/makers looking to get publicity are:
- Research & identify which publications you’d like to write about you or what you do.
- Have a meaningful story behind you and your brand and tell it as it is. The hardships, the breakthroughs, what you or your brand stand for, why you do what you do and what your values and missions are.
- Just ask! Get in touch and ask! The worst you could get is a no, or a no-reply, however, you would have gained one extra visitor to your website and would have raised your brand awareness to one extra person, who at the right time, might come back to you, or will pass you on to someone else. So never be discouraged by setbacks and what looks like failures. Embrace them.