At Work is a bi-weekly feature on Ember & March that does just what it sounds like –showcases entrepreneurs, small business owners and the like At Work. Follow along on social media using the hashtag #EMAtWork! Have someone you’d like to see featured? Shoot me an email using the subject ‘At Work With *Name*’!
Today, we have Kathryn of Bash Studio and The Everyday Napkin (EDN) sharing a bit about what she does and how she makes it work. I love small businesses that find ways to make everyday essentials beautiful and Earth friendly –which is exactly what EDN does! I hope you enjoy her insights.
Tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started.
The Everyday Napkin was started in December 2014 and is a product born from Bash Studio, my event design & branding company. The Everyday Napkin is a stylish, reusable cloth napkin for everyday use, not just holidays and dinner parties. They are made in Massachusetts by me and my mom using designer fabrics instead. We feel strongly about repurposing instead of using additional energy and resources to make our own fabrics. This part of our product makes most of our styles small batch and limited edition. They are fun to mix and match and can be dressed up or down!
Prior to starting Bash, I was the art director at a brand strategy and design firm called Korn Design in Boston. There I honed in on my craft creating brand experiences for luxury goods and the hospitality market. When I left, I was ready to start and create a brand of my own. I’ve always been very tactile and love product development.
What time do you wake up in the morning and what tends to be the first task you tackle?
On most days I wake up around 7:30am, although I don’t feel like that’s early enough! I’m a night owl so I tend to get a lot done at night. I like to think my best ideas come to me when everyone else is sleeping. It’s a pretty cool feeling. Then I have to say every morning for me is different. I’m not routine in nature but that’s what I love about my work; it’s a different day every day.
How did the concept for The Everyday Napkin come to be? What was the first thing you did to make it a reality?
I was making cloth cocktail napkins for an in-store spring shopping event. The owner of the shop reupholsters reclaimed furniture so I used fabric as design detail at the event. Since my mom owned a serger, she and I started cutting the fabric into little squares and sewing right in her kitchen. In the middle of serging, I said, “mom, we could sell these!” She laughed and we kept sewing! Not until seven months later when I had given the idea more thought, I went out and bought scrap designer fabrics and started putting together our first set of Everyday Napkins based on patterns and designs that reflected my brand. We cut a few sizes, picked a fun contrasting thread (citron!) and started to serge once again. The Launch Collection was born and the first store to carry us was the store we made the original cocktail napkin for!
Why cloth napkins and why this size?
Cloth is simply better for the environment. We can wash it and reuse it as opposed to paper which although can be recycled, is more wasteful. I love the idea of taking something we use in excess every day and making it stylish. America produces 3,000 tons of paper towel waste and any given person uses between 2,400 and 3,000 paper towels a year. The numbers are astonishing and the United States is the worst culprit. Not to mention, cloth looks and feels better!
Growing up, I noticed that traditional cloth napkins only came out for holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter. They take up a lot of drawer space every other day of the year and if you grew up using paper napkins, there is a formality about traditional cloth napkins. I also believe we really don’t need all that fabric! The Everyday Napkin is 6.5″ x 6.5″, the exact size of a square paper napkin, making them perfect for stacking on your kitchen counter. Use them for any meal, on the go or at work.
What obstacles did you face when first launching your business?
When I first launched Bash Studio, I quickly learned you need to wear a lot of hats. Marketing, new business, admin, billing, accounting, and the list goes on and on. Being everything is difficult and impossible if you want to grow. So when I started The Everyday Napkin, I wanted to hire a team, but I didn’t have to means to do this. I found that I was moving faster than I could keep up with. Having a design background gave me the advantage to created my brand. I started with the logo (which I did with Lauren Saylor of A Fabulous Fete), then I quickly moved onto the packaging, and then our website. Everything quickly fell into place as I needed things. It was an organic start but a fast one. My mom started sewing and naturally we bumped into many challenges with how our napkins were constructed. We were very particular with how they were finished. With each batch, The Everyday Napkin gets better and better. Right now they are hand-finished and at their best; they will continue to get even better. In the next year, I hope to grow The Everyday Napkin team so we can keep up with the growth of the company.
How would you describe your brand?
The Everyday Napkin is fresh, stylish, simple and fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Everyday Napkin is inspired by fashion and home decor and hopefully inspiring to others. It’s honest, genuine, approachable and friendly. We care about our planet and make people think twice about using another paper towel.
What has been your biggest lesson learned since becoming a business owner?
Patience. Things take time and the best things come with a balance of perseverance, hard work and time.
Have you made any major or minor mistakes along the way?
I am constantly learning. Taking on too much can be a downfall. When I take on more than I can chew, I get none of them accomplished in the way I would like to. I have always been very resourceful so I try to minimize my mistakes but they happen time to time. Building a company is a combination of small victories and mistakes that push you in the direction of success and your larger goal.
How do you tackle social media and email?
Both are tough! I think everyone struggles with this unless you have someone on your team dedicated to the strategy and curation of your social media. I have become a believer that your social media should be of quality, relevance or personality, rather than quantity and frequency. Put out content that helps your tell your story. I am still working on this! In terms of tackling email, my days used to be at the mercy of my inbox. I had it open and I would constantly reply, write, forward, reply, write. Then I realized I wasn’t getting anything done. Now I check it in the morning, afternoon, and then again in the evening with significant breaks in between. I found that I accomplish a lot more than I think I am being on email.
What are your best practices for keeping organized and managing your time?
Managing your time is difficult when you always feel like your to-do list is bottom-less. I have created a day-to-day to-do list in a weekly view . It allows me to spread my deadlines over the course of the week and balance my days. It forces me to be ok with delegating things for the next day.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to current or aspiring entrepreneurs and creatives?
There is so much advice I’d love to share! One thing I’ve always felt was invaluable while I was starting off on my own was taking the time to meet and talk to those in the industry. That process has been key to my growth over the years. It was one of the Top 10 things I blogged about after my first year. I started conversations even before I made the leap. I met with venture capitalists, small business owners, interior designers, CEOs, and inspiring entrepreneurs at various stages in the game. Those conversations are invaluable and you can always take something away from them. Find a mentor and role model from whom you can learn from. Be a sponge and have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be yourself and work hard. Sorry, that’s more than one piece of advice!
What do you see coming next? Anything exciting on the horizon?
We started with one wholesaler in the first month of business and by July 2015 we hope to be in up to six shops. One of them being a popular home decor retailer at their local level. (Fingers crossed and stay tuned!) The other five are independently owned, highly-curated shops selling other small batch, locally made goods. We love when they find us and want to carry The Everyday Napkin because then we know they believe in the product as much as we do. This summer we are going to revamp our online store so that you can shop our Napkin Bar online, not just during our Pop-up Tour. And later this year, our goal is to launch our very first Kickstarter campaign (!) so look out for it; we will need your support and love!