This month we turned five years old.
We started Kate & Kole after a couple of glasses of wine and a long day at work. It began with an Instagram account with the classic "coming soon" posts as we started designing our first collection. I can remember as clear as day, opening the first samples that we ordered from Shapeways (a company that 3D printed and cast jewellery in New York). Maddy and I sat on the floor and gasped and literally squealed as we unpacked each piece.
Our first collection was name Explore, each piece named after a woman who paved the way for other women in her field. We wanted to celebrate women and look to women in history who had taken a risk to pursue something they loved.
Both Maddy and I worked full time. Maddy in Social Media & PR and I was working as a art director at a creative agency. Kate & Kole was to be a passion project and a place for us to be truely creatively free. When we launched our first collection we sold a handful of pieces, mostly to supportive friends and family. We were absolutely chuffed and started dreaming about our second collection.
We worked away on our little brand, making a sale every now and again, putting the money back into the business to create a new piece.
Out first real photoshoot was in New Zealand, in a little town called Arrowtown. We had a model, a photographer and I had brought a super 8 to put together a little film for the project.
Our model Poppy was an absolute dream to work with, each image more gorgeous that the next. Out jewellery glittered in the early morning light and even though it had been -4 degrees when we had driven to the location, no-one complained about the cold.
Our first experience with influencers was the launch of a tiny range of birthstone necklaces. We reached out to our network sending the tiny pendants out in return for photographs which built the campaign. We now offer these with glass and genuine stones and continue to be one of our best sellers.
2018 saw one of our most exciting days in business. The launch of our collaboration piece with blogger and artist Nikki Cruz. We had out most successful product launch to date. We made more revenue in 4 hours that we had in our last financial year.
80% of pieces sold were gold plated. This was the first time we had offered gold plating on the site, and we had done so in response to months of customer enquires. It was only possible as we had recently move production back to Australia and our jeweller offered this technique.
The gold plating failed. Within days of our products being delivered we started getting emails saying the parting was rubbing off. To add insult to injury we had started offering a complimentary gold cloth with purchases, which took off the coating even quicker.
We had to recall the piece. Almost 100 pieces we returned to us to re-plate, replace or refund. From 12 countries. Over the course of 3 weeks.
I remember calling Maddy completely broken, telling her it was the end. Maddy, as always, was amazing and calm. Reassuring me that it most likely, wasn't.
Our customers were amazing, they were so patient as we tried to fix the pieces and most stuck by as we talked them through what had happened.
Our second instalment of the collection, was only offered in solid gold and silver. But we did add a little diamond.
Another collection was created to allow our customers to build and mix and match the range. Match Point was shot at our local tennis courts. Sphere shaped jewellery created strong silhouettes and lead the concept for the shoot. The tennis courts made for an amazing colour palette set off by clothes by Australian label Friend of Audrey.
In 2019 we launched our first ever bridal collection. Our first time working with stones. We had now moved almost all of our manufacturing to Australia, something we had been trying to do for months and were working with a local jeweller to finish and set our pieces.
With dresses from Chosen By One Day and a hair and make up team, our brand was starting to feel very grown up. Offering white sapphires as alternatives to diamonds and lab grown diamonds for our small stones, we were learning as we worked and relied on experts in the industry to help educate us and in turn our clients.
Around this time, I took a step back from my full time job to work on growing the business. Maddy had moved to Sydney and we were working out how to work remotely. This is when we started to see the business grow, our brand voice was getting stronger and we were releasing more products.
The next few months saw a collection of charm bracelets, our classic signet and pendant were given an upgrade to include a star set pendant and we released our first pearl pieces.
Nine months ago today I welcomed my little boy into the world. Ever since I can remember, I wanted to have my own business so that I could be around for him. Work hard, but be present. Over this time our business has grown quicker that it ever has before.
Maddy and I speak almost every day. And this has been very much true over the past few months, as our business grows, it is so important that we keep checking in with each other, making sure we are still on the same path, and the why is still there. I'll be talking more on the 'why' in a later blog post.
At a Fe Event (A community for Female Entrepreneurs I started in 2018) on Tuesday night we discussed the past few months and how unsettling and unpredictable it has been. Our attitude to this time has been to invest in our community, spending money on people, not products. Putting our freelancers on retainers, hiring people to help us with our knowledge gaps and growing our team of people we work with regularly. We have tried to be a little bit of stability for people in a very unusual time.
We have also leased our first space. From September we will be working from a retail and work space to be able to hold consultations in a slightly more relaxed and professional environment (not that any of our customer have seemed to mind the dog or the baby or the working from home hubby to be). This is a huge step for our purely online business. The past few months has really solidified the part of the business that I personally love. I love working with customers to create their perfect ring. The perfect design and the perfect budget.
We’ve especially loved working with guys and gals to create engagement rings because there is just so much excitement around the piece. Working with someone to pick a stone, guiding them through that process [which is a bit of a mind field] and then pulling together the design and setting their partner will love, is really special. Our goal is to work with more and more local people, even though we can provide a similar service with customers from further afield, working with someone in person is just so much fun, and something we’d like to do more of.
2020 has been a wild year. I cancelled my wedding and trip to Europe. Maddy and I couldn't even travel to see each other for a few months and it looks like we might be heading back to a similar space.
However, for Maddy and I it has been incredible. It has confirmed that we can do this, we are doing this and if we keep on doing what we're doing, we might just be able to turn Kate & Kole into everything we ever dreamed it might be.