KATIE DEAN + THE ART OF SELLING
When it comes to growing a creative business, we all have to start somewhere -- and that often means saying “yes!” over and over again. Our dear friend Katie Dean got her start as a jewelry designer creating dainty feminine pieces while working as a styling assistant. As she started to wear the jewelry she was making (literally from a closet underneath her stairs!), her work started to get noticed. Before she knew it, one “yes” after another led to her work getting placed on fashion sets, and eventually, worn by Kylie and Kendall Jenner and countless other celebrities.
She’s gone on to build up a successful online business based on connecting with customers and making them feel beautiful inside and out, whether it’s at in-person craft fairs or through social media live streams.
In this Girl Gang Craft podcast episode, Katie will share her business journey, how to build a brand aesthetic and some tactical tips for better online selling. We can’t wait for you to get a dose of inspiration from this savvy and full-hearted business woman. Let’s go!
SAY YES TO ALL OPPORTUNITIES
From a young age, Katie said she knew she wanted to be a working artist. So she did what many aspiring artists do: she moved to LA to get her feet wet. While working long hours as a styling assistant, she started making jewelry with any free time she had leftover. She started wearing her creations at work, and it didn’t take long her boss to ask if she could use some of her work for a shoot. She said yes (of course!), and then more requests came in -- this time for custom designs.
“I TOOK ALL THESE OPPORTUNITIES AND SAID YES,” SHE SAID. “I WAS LIKE THE YES LADY.”
Within a few months after opening up her online shop, her jewelry was seen on Kylie and Kendall Jenner. While she knows this isn’t a common case for many new creative entrepreneurs, she said it gave her business the boost it needed. And she attributes it to always being ready to say yes to new opportunities in those early days.
TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME
As she started to grow, she continued to take it one step at a time, which she says is essential for anyone starting their own business.
Over the years, she said she took each part of how to run a retail shopping business and dissected it. For a long time she would focus on online platforms. When she pivoted to events, she saw an incredible learning opportunity to gather real-time feedback from current and potential customers alike.
“The feedback you get is incredible,” she said. “You create lasting relationships and get people to sign up for your email newsletter. I really saw a huge spike in my sales when I was directly in front of someone.”
Keeping the conversation going on social media and in her newsletter allows her to get personal with customers and the people she meets at fairs. She knows these are the people who want to see behind the scenes of how her products are made and as a result, are often first in line when she runs special sales.
“I DIDN'T NECESSARILY HAVE A BUSINESS PLAN AT ALL,” SHE SAID. “FIRST OF ALL, I STARTED BECAUSE IT MADE ME HAPPY AND I WANTED TO DO THAT. I THINK THAT'S ESSENTIAL IF YOU'RE GOING TO START ANYTHING, ESPECIALLY ARTISTIC, YOU HAVE TO LIKE WHAT YOU'RE DOING.”
BUILD YOUR BRAND IDENTITY AND AESTHETIC OVERTIME
It’s OK to delete your earlier posts later if you really feel like it doesn't showcase your brand the way that you want it to be communicated, she added. And starting with even a Google Doc or Powerpoint presentation to lay out key things about your brand like “what is my color palette?” or “what do we stand for?” and “who's our ideal customer?” will be the north star your brand needs in the early days.
Pinterest is also a great tool to get your creative branding juices flowing. It’s easy to collect and learn from what other brands you admire are doing -- not to copy, but to observe how they do certain things and what makes their brand unique.
“YOU ARE GOING TO LEARN SO MUCH AS YOU BEGIN YOUR BRAND AND YOU'RE GOING TO EVOLVE,” SHE SAID, POINTING OUT HOW MUCH HER INSTAGRAM FEED HAS CHANGED FROM WHEN SHE FIRST STARTED. “DON'T BE AFRAID TO JUST START AND GET INTO ACTION AND START POSTING.”
SHOWCASE THE PERSON BEHIND THE BRAND
Katie has seen the power of showcasing the person behind the brand. She started to do Instagram Lives and appreciates how it builds relationships and connections. Even if it's one person there, it's a chance to have a conversation.
“You build a brand one by one, not by trying to appeal to the masses,” she said.
Same goes with having a booth at a craft fair. It’s an opportunity, she says, to make an impression on these customers and just like social media, they're going to make a split decision on who you are and who your brand is. Even if they don’t buy from you right now, they’ll see your logo, look you up online and could become a customer the next day or in six months.
“AND I THINK THAT ONE OF THE BEST THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO IS STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND TRUE TO YOUR VISION AND NOT TRY TO BE THE BRAND THAT YOU LOVE,” SHE SAID. “BECAUSE WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE IS THESE TINY LITTLE DETAILS THAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR WORDING OR YOUR COPY OR YOUR IMAGES AND PEOPLE LOVE THAT.”
GROWING HER BRAND DURING A PANDEMIC
As the pandemic shook the world, Katie noticed her website traffic dropping. Naturally, she started to freak out. But she quickly focused on how to put more positivity in the lives of her customers while also taking the opportunity to partner with bloggers for giveaways.
It was a way to grow her social media following for both her brand and the bloggers she works with, while doing something uplifting for her community. Awareness of her time and energy as a brand and business owner and the needs of her community is especially important now.
THINGS SHE HAS IMPLEMENTED DURING SHELTER IN PLACE FOR HIGHER CONVERSIONS:
20% off when customers sign up for her newsletter
Partnered with multiple bloggers for giveaways
“WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER,” SHE SAID. “I'VE REALLY TRIED TO APPLY THAT TO MY BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY THIS YEAR IN PRIORITIZING TASKS THAT ARE ACTUALLY GOING TO BE VERY EFFECTIVE IN A SHORTER PERIOD OF TIME VERSUS TRYING TO DO A MILLION THINGS AND NOT DOING THEM WELL.”