The focus of the Starting Small series is to introduce you to some amazing individuals who have built their own businesses from scratch. They are full of passion, life, and love. Once a month, we feature a new business owner, and pick their brain regarding how they started their business, advice for those who have/wish to have a business themselves, how they making time for themselves, and most importantly, which they love most about being a small business owner. I hope these individuals will inspire you, motivate you, and fill your heart with as much love as they’ve filled mine.
1. We love your mix and match suits!! When did you first decide you wanted to start creating swimwear? Tell us the story!
My senior year of high school I had an amazing teacher who was determined expand the sewing curriculum. She picked a few select students who had sewing experience to test-drive a Swimsuit Sewing Class for the state. I was eager to sew my life away so I was ready and willing to take on the task. Although I was pleased with my projects and creations, I HATED the class. Swimsuit material is so hard to work with, stretching and sliding constantly it requires more focus and effort. But the first swimsuit style I made in the class was a hit, and my sisters and friends all wanted me to make them one. Being a high-school student, I was happy for the extra cash as I started to custom make swimsuits. That summer word had spread so quickly I had strangers knocking on my parents door asking “Is this where I get a swimsuit made?”. At the same time I moved to Los Angeles to start start school at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), I started an Etsy shop where I started selling my swimsuits. At FIDM I learned about a whole new world of fashion and the jobs I could pursue. There were so many careers I had set my eyes on but none being a swimsuit designer running her own show. I graduated with a Fashion Design + Business Management degree. I had many job offers on the line that I was completely overwhelmed with but extremely excited about! With so many orders knocking on my Etsy door and pressure from family and friends, I was convinced into starting Kortni Jeane. I moved home, put all my savings into my first production run through a factory I had created a relationship with while living in LA, and put my education to work! I was by no means an instant success. Starting and running a business is A LOT of work and involves so many tasks one would never even think of. But I worked hard and continue to learn EVERY SINGLE DAY to put myself out there and make dreams a reality.
2. How do you incorporate family + business + personal time into your day?
The most common question I get asked is “how do you balance home and work life?” The honest answer is: “I don’t”. In my opinion, there is no secret formula to making time for all the important things in life. However, I think the best thing you can do is to consciously make the time for the important things.
My husband and I are both entrepreneurs, each running our own separate shows. We quickly found ourselves brushing each other off for the sake of our companies. The only time we saw each other in the day was when our heads were hitting our pillows late at night. This became so taxing not only hard physically, but also mentally. We knew we had to make some changes and it wouldn’t be easy. Together, we scheduled ourselves into our schedules. It may sound sad, but it is what we had to do in order to keep our relationship a priority. One of the best things we decided on is that we would always eat dinner together. Sometimes it’s takeout super late at night after an overly exhausting day, sometimes it’s a quick microwave meal in between meetings and sometimes we get lucky and enjoy a nice sit down date night. It isn’t always ideal, but it’s something! In my opinion finding balance is all about making the time for the important things and following through with it.
One more thing: take breaks. Like I mentioned, it is good (and sometimes essential!) to schedule yourself into your schedule. You will often get lost in the busyness of running your business and can get lost in why you started it in the first place. You need alone time to think without all the interruption if emails or distractions of social media. For me it’s usually creative breaks or food breaks, depending on how much time I have set aside. Sometimes it’s just running out and getting myself a big ol’ soda and other times I am sitting at my sewing machine getting lost in the rhythm of the needle.
3. What are three pieces of advice you would give to a mama who is interested in starting her own business?
1. Before you even get started make sure you are pursuing something you love & something you are passionate about. Otherwise, the late nights and early mornings will take their toll reall fast and you’ll fizzle.
2. Make time for yourself! Everyone always talks about having balance in life, which I think will be different to each individual but give yourself time to breath creatively! As small business owners we often get wrapped into running the business and forget why we started it. Remind yourself to step back, appreciate where you are and do what makes you happy! I often take sewing breaks, I love to get lost in the rhythm of the needle and quickly appreciate the journey I have been able to go on.
3. HAVE FUN. Although you will run into many hard, long days, don’t take it too seriously!
4. Where do you look to for inspiration for new designs?
To be honest, I get most my inspiration from my daily life! I love to see textures and colors out in the world, it draws in so many ideas that I play off of. I also really enjoy traveling. I love seeing new places and experiencing new cultures, it always has my mind racing and I return home with a bajillion notes packed with inspiration! But I dare say MAJORITY of my ideas don’t actually make it to the end and I often start with an idea that by the end of me ‘messing around’ it is something completely and totally different than I originally thought! It is the most fun process of the entire company for me.
I think one of my biggest “learning on the job” moments was taking the step of moving Kortni Jeane out of my basement and adding employees to help me. I didn’t know I was such a control freak until I was faced with the fact that I couldn’t do it all on my own. I had gotten so used to doing things alone that adding a KJ Team was extremely daunting at first. I had my way of doing things and wanted it done that certain way. But as I let go little by little, I’ve been able to entrust my employees with different aspects of my company, which gives me more room to do the design & production of swimsuits. I now love the ideas I am able to throw around between my team. We are all working together to make Kortni Jeane the best we can.
Nothing makes me happier or more excited than seeing my product out and about! When a customer is pleased I get all giddy inside (every single time) because I cannot believe what I have created is actually loved by others, even strangers, and that is so rewarding. I love being able to connect with customers all over the world through what I do and bring a little bit of joy and light to the world!
6. Favorite quote:
“Entrepreneurs are the only people willing to work 80 hour weeks so someday they don’t have to work 40 hour weeks.”
I love this quote because it couldn’t ring more true to me and my experience of being an entrepreneur. When starting your own business you think how awesome it will be to be your own boss, call your own shots and not work for “the man” but be “the man” (or in my case, “the woman”). But it is a ton of work and it takes a long time to get to where you’d like to be!
7. Tea or Coffee? Early Bird or Night Owl? Heels or flats? Sunshine or Snow?
Tea! My husband and I recently visited China & developed a huge love for tea while we were there and now we can’t get enough!
I would say early bird. Mornings are my most productive time of the day!
SUNSHINE through and through! Is that even a question?! Although I have a deep relationship with snow skiing:)