Talk One: Sara from Kate & Kole

Hello, my name is Sara and I am the Kole of Kate & Kole. I also work as the Art Director for a local creative agency called Headjam, I do a little bit of freelance and contract work and as of 3 weeks ago the proud initiator of Fe.

I wanted to explain a little bit about the journey I have been on to get to this point. I moved to Sydney at 18 to study Design at what was then called COFA. I finished first in my class for designing a compostable water bottle called the Love Bottle for a NZ company called Frucor which they signed and at 21 I thought I was going to change the world. Then in 2009 the GFC happened and everything fell down. The deal was pulled, not a single person who graduated with me could get a job in their field and it felt a little like the world was over before it had really begun.

Thankfully I was offered full time work with the company I interned with and I worked there for 4 years. 

During this time I started a small homewares studio called Dubbleyou. I made everything from clocks to jewellery, dog collars to swings. But my most popular piece was a team towel featuring oven mits and the Snoop Dogg lyrics “Drop it Like it’s Hot”. 

In 2013 my partner and I went travelling for 6 months before moving to Newcastle to being the next little phase of our lives. He has a job on the central coast and I figured I would just find something locally in the creative field. 

No I would not. Not having much luck with employment I applied to Renew Newcastle. I opened a gigantic shop for Dubbleyou. And I mean gigantic. It was 100square meters across from Rivers. The most bizarre location and one day the only person who came through the store was a grandma who asked me to break a $20.

The shop was a great passer of time but not the best payer of bills. 

In August of 2014 I started at Headjam as a designer and in 2016 became Art Director. Dubbleyou wrapped up at a similar time to starting at Headjam, I simply couldn’t do both and it had kind of run it’s course anyway. 

About 32 minutes later I realised that even though I was content that Dubbleyou was done, I wasn’t done having my own thing.

But this time I knew I had to do something different. I needed a business partner. I had been talking to my friend Maddy about starting something, I had discovered this new technology that could print the wax mould that was used to make jewellery. I designed a sample piece and when it came back I called Maddy immediately. I actually think I sent her the money bag emoji but doesn’t matter.

We met that night, came up with a name, started an instagram and starting planning our first collection. And that was three years ago.

A little bit about Kate & Kole

Kate & Kole uses 3D modelling and printing to remove the hand carving element from the design. This is the most time consuming part and it allows myself, not a trained jeweller to be able to design jewellery as if I was.

We have launched five major collections, 2 iterations of an artist collaboration and in December we will be launching our third collaboration with the incredible Annie Everingham.

We sell predominately online and have a few wholesalers in Australia and New Zealand.

Do you remember your most difficult business moment?

In February this year we had out most successful product launch to date. We made more revenue in 4 hours that we had in our last financial year.

The piece was our collaboration with Nikki Cruz and 80% of pieces sold were gold plated. This was the first time we had offered gold plating on the site, and we had done so in response to months of customer enquires. It was only possible as we had recently move production back to Australia and our Newcastle based jeweller offered this technique.

The gold plating failed. Within days of our products being delivered we started getting emails saying the parting was rubbing off. To add insult to injury we had started offering a complimentary gold cloth with purchases, which took off the coating even quicker.

We had to recall the piece. Almost 100 pieces we returned to us to re-plate, replace or refund. From 12 countries. Over the course of 3 weeks. 

We had to receive the order back. Refund the customers postage, mark the order number, note what packaging was returned with it, take it back to the jeweller have it re-plated, re package it, re-post it and hope for the best.

We no longer offer plated pieces on our site.

Do you remember your most amazing business moment?

It was this same day, just before all our plating started melting off. We had been ticking along nicely for a few years and then this collection launched and it just went crazy. It was the day I decided this was something I wan’t to do for real and started putting steps in place to step back to half time with my work so I could focus on Kate & Kole.

What do you wish you’d be told before starting a business?

I actually struggle with this question. It’s not so much what I wish I had been told before starting it more like check in points along the way. Someone who could tell you, oh you’re getting a bit bigger now, time to become a company rather than a partnership. Or if you start using Xero now you’re not going to hate your future self when you have 380 lines to reconcile.

What do you do yourself?

Maddy and I do most things within our team of two. Maddy is across social, marketing and pr and our wholesale arm and I am across business r&d, design, customer relations, and manufacturing. Our biggest struggle is that we are in different cities and we don’t have two studios so at the moment I am solely responsible for all the orders from 3D output to shipping which is becoming a little bit unsustainable. That is why I am so excited to hear Becca talk about how she manages that with her sister being on the other side of the world.

What do you outsource?

We cast all our products in Sydney. And weI have a jeweller who finishes them in Newcastle. I do basic assembly but am not a trained jeweller. We also have a diamond setter and supplier. We have an accountant (Chris from Ignight on Darby St) and a business advisor (Melissa) at the Business Centre here in town. Both are excellent. We also use a company called KP Retail who are helping us with grant applications.

Any Apps or programs you couldn’t live without?

Our ecommerce platform is Shopify, we moved from Squarespace because they didn’t support Afterpay. Now almost 50% of our sales are through Afterpay. We use the Kit plug in for Shopify, it helps you with remarking adverts and can also place ads for particular products when it notices traffic increase across those tags. We use Xero for our accounting, our emails are with G-Suite. I design using an online App called Tinkercad which is a 3D modelling program. Instagram is our main social platform, Maddy and I work from different cities so we use google docs and sheets to stay across everything. 

Sara x