Instagram is my favorite place to find inspiration right now. My love for this app is at a new high right now, and I love seeing Kimber Casteel’s beautiful photos come across my feed. Kimber is an embroidery artist, and I invited her to tell us about her handmade business in this week’s Dream Jobs column because I think it is so cool she has made sewing her career in 2015! I really love Kimber’s gorgeous floral embroidery, and I am dying to order a custom piece of my own.
I really love meeting handmade business owners, and I am grateful that things like this column and my new biz Garnishing Co. allow me to do just that! Read on for Kimber’s inspiring story about starting her business while in school and maintaining it on the side now that she’s in the working world.
1. How would you describe KimArt : For The Home?
KimArt is my business that specializes in personalized handmade embroidery home decor. I am the sole owner, designer, maker, customer service and shipping department! In addition to selling custom home decor, I also create woodland inspired bridal and baby flower crowns. I know that these are two totally different types of art, but I truly enjoy making both of them.
2. What were you doing before KimArt? What inspired you to change paths?
I opened my Etsy shop, KimArt, in April 2009. I was a freshman in college, majoring in Economics. Originally, I began selling handmade greeting cards and fabric flower hair accessories as a way to earn some extra income while I was in college. At the same time, I began working in Human Resources for a global pharmaceutical company. Since I opened my shop online in 2009, I have never stopped creating + selling my handmade goods. In 2010, I began to incorporate embroidery into my shop and that is when my business started to shift. I moved away from paper goods and focused more on fabric and thread!
As much as I love owning my own art business, I do also have a full time day job (still with the same company i have been with since 2008), through which I utilize my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Human Resource Management. Any time I am not working my day job, I am creating special items for KimArt!
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I really, really love flowers, so when I am feeling like I am in a creative rut, I love going to the farmers market and peeking at the fresh flowers. When I cannot do this (winter time) I will usually turn on HGTV. I love watching shows about remodeling and decorating. You can see in my art that I incorporate the bold colors of flowers with rustic vibes.
Click through to read more of this Q&A with Kimber Casteel!
4. Describe your workspace.
Ideally, I would love for my work space to be clean + tidy, but that is just unrealistic for me. At any given time, you can find random pieces of thread + fabric strewn throughout our home. I do not have an in-home studio, nor do I think that would really work for me. I enjoy spending time with my husband while I work on my Etsy orders (which lately is any time I am not at my day job) so I like to work in our living room where I can sit beside him while he watches TV or works on his computer. I am afraid working in a separate space would isolate me and I don’t want that to happen.
5. What have been your biggest successes and challenges for KimArt?
My biggest business success has come about within the past year. In 2013 I completed my masters degree, so after taking a few months to travel and plan our wedding (he proposed in Iceland right after graduation!) I really started to phase out old items in my shop that I didn’t love anymore + focus on expanding on concepts I really enjoy.
I learned the most in my first 4-5 years of owning my business. I learned that just because you can make something, doesn’t mean you need to sell it. I also learned about inventory vs. demand. I was definitely guilty of hoarding way too many supplies for items I ended up not selling anymore. I consider my lessons learned a success in their own way. It makes me a better & smarter business woman today. I can proudly say that in the last year and a half, since I am able to dedicate more time to my business, I have had my most profitable year ever!
6. What are your dreams for KimArt?
I truly do love my day job and I would not have pursued a Master’s in HR if I did not have intentions of returning on my investment. I really enjoy the way my business has thrived this past year, and would love for my next small milestone to be for a magazine or company to reach out to me about featuring my products. Very long-term, I can see myself doing this full-time, but my main priority will always be to ensure I have steady income to support myself and my family, so if that means having a day job where I work for someone else, I am perfectly fine with that. At least when I come home, I am my own boss!
7. Who do you look up to?
I really look up to my husband. He is a musician and has such a passionate loyalty to his music and that is something I admire. Art has always been something that comes naturally to me, and I sometimes believe visual art is easier to market than musical art, so I have always admired his persistence to pursue his musical dreams. I think it takes a lot more effort to partake in something where you are constantly putting yourself out there by performing in front of strangers. I can technically make my art and post it online without ever facing the scrutiny of a live audience. So I really admire his passion and drive, because I am not sure I could put myself out there like that.
8. Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
My husband and I love to spend our free time eating and exploring. We are foodies! I love to visit antique shops, though I try not to do this too often, as I tend to buy things I really do not need! We also love traveling. I have been to many countries in Europe and the Mediterranean, so this is something we are constantly saving for and aspiring toward. Our next stop is Iceland (for a second time) and France and Italy in 2016!
9. What resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
I am mostly self-taught, and when I started my Etsy shop there were not nearly as many resources as there are today to learn how to run an online business successfully. I find that the Etsy curated emails are extremely helpful. They will always cover big topics and FAQs that will guide new sellers around the holidays, special events, wholesaling, etc. I also think that talking amongst members of the online handmade community is also super important. You will meet many people that sell different things but they may have customer service or behind the scenes business tips that will make your life a lot easier. Take the knowledge gained from others that have been working at this for years and use it to your advantage! I love meeting people via Instagram, which is the quickest way to get connected to community members.
10. If you weren’t running KimArt, what would be your dream job?
If traveling the world could be an occupation, I would do that! My husband and I have preciously looked into teaching English abroad, but the cards never worked in our favor for that to happen. But traveling is something I would love to do for work.