Designer/Company: Catherine Borzym/Kiwi Avenue Jewelry
How did you get started?
I have always been passionate about art- living, breathing and creating art during almost every moment of my day. Learning the techniques from both my mother and my aunt helped me on my creative journey. I never would have thought that a handful of beads I received as a 13th birthday present would have had such a profound impact on my life. By the age of 16, I started selling my creations to friends and family, and continued to casually design jewelry all through high school. My freshman year of college would prove to be one full of many opportunities for my burgeoning business. Through connections my family had established through another business venture, I was able to sell my work at the National Art Education Association. The National Art Education Association is an event consisting of over 1,500 art teachers ready to critique my work. To my surprise, the art educators loved my work and were very impressed with my design skills, as well as my branding and sales abilities. This wonderful boost of encouragement resulted in my decision to declare a double major in both Small Business Entrepreneurship and Marketing. My professors at North Central College really inspired me to continue with my passion and to continually challenge myself. I learned the ins and outs of running a company and infused Kiwi Avenue into my class work- market research project, business plans, new product development etc.
Why did you join Noblivity®?
Joining Noblivity provided me with an opportunity to expose my passion and love for the art that I create. Noblivity not only allows me to showcase my Kiwi Avenue designs, but it also provides me with the opportunity to connect with boutiques from all over the world. I think a major obstacle to a business is exposure and finding a foothold, and Noblivity offers entrepreneurs an effective alternative to traditional promotion.
How would you describe your design style, design signature and who is your targeted customer?
Design Style: I enjoy creating an eccentric collection by combining various colors and textures into a multitude of different styles. My Kiwi Avenue designs incorporate semi-precious stones that come from all over the world. One fantastic element that distinguishes my designs are the various pewter elements that are incorporated into each of the designs. Our designs incorporate bold color schemes and inspiring designs, perfect for women of all ages.
Design Signature: Our current signature design is the long loop necklace. This asymmetrical piece perfectly embodies the spirit of Kiwi Avenue. Our goal is to provide jewelry that is fun, and a little bit wild, but also meshes well with a formal and professional environment. This particular style necklace seems to be very popular with our customers because it looks wonderful to layer with other pieces, making it both versatile and functional.
Target Customer: Our target customer is a trendy, middle or upper income, sophisticated, environmentally conscious woman. She also recognizes quality, style and value.
What inspires you? I have been collecting magazine articles and fabric scraps for years and have compiled these treasures into an idea book. The pages consist of various architectural elements, natural fibers, bold graphic patterns, fantastic color palettes and animal print home décor. Every season I add to my design book for inspiration. I have archived photos I have taken over the past years into a folder on my desktop called “Inspire Me.” Photos of tiny animals, wildflowers, insects, antique barns, are a few of the categories within this folder. My favorite thing to photograph is a donkey that I call Jack. His coat is made of so many wonderful earth tones. Whenever I design a new piece, I look at the many wonderful photos I saved and create jewelry that encompasses those elements. In order to create any type of jewelry I must have my music playing in the background. With my music playing loudly, and sometimes singing along, I am able to relax, and not overthink the design process. I find that if I think too hard about designing the jewelry it tends to turn out bland and uninspired.
How did you overcome the obstacles along the way?
1. My age makes some people believe that I do not have what it takes to effectively and efficiently run a business.
I believe that my business acumen, product design and marketing materials really impress the people when they see my work. The conversation then turns into what a wonderful job I am doing, and to continue the good work. I have worked hard to learn as much as I possibly can in college which has created many opportunities, such as joining Noblivity. I have poured my heart and soul into my brand and am constantly researching and learning new techniques to take Kiwi Avenue to the next level.
2. Being a woman and not being taken seriously.
Especially when I tell people that I have started a jewelry business, the word “craft” will normally come into play. They will then proceed with, so what will your full time career be young lady? In order to overcome this I dress professionally and when I talk about all of the technological aspects I wish to integrate into my Kiwi Avenue business model, people seem to change their thoughts about me. I have successfully created a wholesale catalog and LookBook and both can be added to my repertoire.
3. Trade secrets came into play when a close friend of mine decided to duplicate my business model.
Long story short, my friend duplicating my business has really helped me become a strong business woman. I now keep all of my trade secrets private, just as they should be.
What has been your greatest moment on your journey so far?
Walking across the stage at North Central College graduating with a double degree with my logo proudly displayed on the top of my graduation hat, and my Kiwi Avenue jewelry worn over my gown. I walked down that stage with great pride in my kiwi green high heels. I had created a brand, designed a logo, created business cards, designed and created a website, wrote a business plan, developed a market research survey, developed product people seemed to love, sold my work in over 65 events, and debuted in two boutiques all by the time I had walked across that stage at age 22.
What has been the biggest change in your designs so far?
My brand originally began with glass beads and base metal components purchased at local craft stores. I used to hand cut my jewelry tags and I didn’t have a brand. Now my Kiwi Avenue designs not only use higher quality materials such as semi-precious stones, sterling silver, pewter, and fabric. I have also developed a few unique styles I have stuck to. My designs have a more polished look and style to them.
What’s next for your brand?
My goal is to build an online community through social media for both my blog and my website. The goal is to create a fun and interactive environment for my customers. Introducing a Kiwi Avenue Wedding Line is in the near future. I have actually already helped create jewelry for a handful of brides already including bridesmaids gifts, jewelry for the bride, coordinating jewelry for the bridesmaids and wedding favors. Coinciding with that our plan is to create more items for gifts- wine glass charms, bookmarks etc. We will also be adding new textural elements to our designs as well- fabric. Fabric has so many wonderful textures and colors and will look wonderful on headbands, necklaces, and possibly even wine glass charms. Last but not least, customizable stamped pendants will be introduced to necklaces, charm bracelets, custom earrings etc. We have test marketed the product on a small group of individuals and it seems to be a real success so far!
If money were no object what would you do right now to promote your brand?
I would promote Kiwi Avenue through more traditional avenues such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Google AdWords to start with. I would then take a unique approach and move through to QR codes, Moving Billboards, Blog Sponsors, sponsor an event and give away a free tote bag and a pair of earrings, and finally I would love to create a Kiwi Avenue themed jewelry truck. This would provide people on the street the opportunity to interact with our brand in a unique and exciting way. Creating a memorable experience that will make them want to spread the word of Kiwi Avenue to their friends and family.
What are the best and worst things about bringing a product to market?
Best: Gaining ideas from my idea book that then turn into scribbles on a sheet of paper which then turn into a tangible product is just such an amazing feeling. I am able to do everything from start to finish. Design, create, finish, add marketing materials, price, create gift packaging, and top it off with a folded business card featuring my kiwi avenue logo, examples of my work and contact information.
Worst: Kiwi Avenue is constantly on my mind, which can be bittersweet. Every time I am out shopping my wheels are always turning and discovering how the elements can be used for designing, organizing, packaging, or promoting Kiwi Avenue. So my brand has essentially seeped into my everyday life. It’s sometimes a real challenge to separate my personal and business life.
Describe your typical day?
I try to make the everyday tasks I have to accomplish more interesting by writing them on decorated papers or drawing pictures on them. I feel I am more likely to do something more efficiently if it is neatly organized, color coordinated and pretty. The nice part about owning a creative business is that my days do not have to be a print of the day before. I can create some wonderful new pieces of jewelry one day, the next day visit a couple local boutiques, and the following day, attend a social media conference.
I try to interact with my Twitter and Facebook friends for a bit everyday, but I am still getting in the habit of doing that. Other daily events include: ordering supplies, photographing my work, emailing a customer, calling previous clients, contacting an event coordinator, redesigning my website or researching about the jewelry market and business.
What is your philosophy of life?
I try to find the beauty in the mundane in life. I find just as much inspiration in Jack the donkey as I do in a sunset. The majority of life is made up of the simple things, not the exceptional, and I find it more rewarding to bring out the beauty in those often overlooked things.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
While I don’t have many regrets, trying to start a business and attain a double degree in college was a near insurmountable challenge. Often times I would skip schoolwork or social events, sacrificing friendships and my education. If I could go back I would try to find a more effective balance. I think that if I had settled on one degree, or maybe dialed back my business a bit, I would have had an easier time of it. But I am very happy with where Kiwi Avenue is today, so in the end, I don’t think I would change too much.
When will you know you have made it?
While I am selling my jewelry, at art shows, farmers markets, or other exhibitions, occasionally I will encounter a repeat customer. When I see them walk up with jewelry they had previously purchased from me, it is an altogether surreal experience. At some point I hope I can walk down a busy street and see strangers wearing my designs. Then I will truly know I have ‘made it’. That kind of recognition is the best reward an artist could ask for.