Hatch Tribe Hero | Katy Kippen - Grayling Jewelry
Katy Kippen is the type of woman that you immediately want to be best friends and business partners with—simultaneously. A down-to-earth Pacific Northwesterner who grew up learning about jewelry from her cowboy-esque grandfather in Montana, Kippen exudes the joy of Zooey Deschanel with the grace of Jackie O. Not to mention, the lady runs an almost all-female, American-made jewelry company that’s going on its eighth year in Portland, Ore. In between her yoga classes, distribution meetings and walking her rat terriers, Katy Kippen took a minute to tell us why owning a business is like the ocean and what one challenge everyone in the Tribe should tackle.
What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
There are three parts. One: being able to listen and respond to my customers while not having to answer to shareholders. Two: hearing that something I designed brought someone joy during a difficult time or confidence during a big moment. And now that my business is going into its eighth year: a flexible schedule!
What keeps you up at night?
During my start up phase, I would wake up in a complete panic wondering if everything I was doing and all the debt I was accruing would actually amount to something. The worst was the 9-month period when I don't think I slept at all because we needed to relocate our brick-and-mortar store in Portland, Oregon where the market is notoriously impossible. Now just about the only thing that keeps me up at night is if I watch Game of Thrones too close to bedtime!
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
I started making jewelry when I was 8, and started selling it when I was 16. I figured 30 was a good year to give full-time a try! Plus, I just love retail. From merchandising and pricing to sourcing and designing, I love all of it.
In one word characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
What sacrifices have you made to be a successful entrepreneur?
My health and more time with family. For so many years I poured 110% of myself into my business and had no qualms doing it. I exhausted myself physically and emotionally, didn't eat well or prioritize self care. I ended up getting very sick and literally felt like I was losing my mind. And, sometimes I couldn't remember the last time my mom and I had caught up (we live 10 hours apart). I realized I couldn't continue on the same path if me or my business was going to survive.
Over the past few years, I've gained valuable perspective through eastern medicine, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, and self-care galore. It is my intention to build my business to fit my life and not the other way around. A couple of days a week I go to yoga before work or take an afternoon off so I can meet my husband to cook dinner together. I'm carving out as much time as possible to spend with my loved ones.
Sure, Grayling could be even more profitable if I kept my foot on the gas all the time, but that's just not me. There is a really beautiful world that opens up when we put ourselves first. The rest just follows. As women, and especially as entrepreneurs, self-care is the last thing we think we have time for. I challenge you to look at your calendar and see if there are 1-2 hours this week you can pencil in a walk, a bath, or maybe even a nice nap!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Entrepreneurship (and life in general) is like the ocean. There are high waves. There are low waves. That is the nature of the ocean, which is not good or bad. It just is. Use the low waves to build momentum and the high waves to coast.
Where do you find inspiration?
Nature is my favorite indirect source of inspiration. I can feel my heart and mind opening when I am outdoors which then leaves room for new ideas to trickle in. The small property around our city home is a lush garden (though it was surrounded by asphalt and weeds when we moved in) and I think being able to rest my eyes on a pretty landscape gives my brain a chance to rest. As far as a more direct source of inspiration, there's nothing quite like sitting in front of a huge pile of gems and beads. The possibilities are endless!
What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful business owner?
- Be flexible with how you get from Point A to Point B.
- Set boundaries in your professional life, don't let work creep into each and every opening.
- Be as loving, honest and compassionate as you can be with your team and your customers.
When you’re not working, what is your favorite way to spend your free time?
Exploring with my husband and our two rat terriers. Hands down.
About Katy Kippen
Katy began making jewelry back in high school, when her grandfather, a stone cutter, encouraged her to take her first technical jewelry making class. Not long after that, she sold her first designs. After working in the retail fashion industry, Katy founded Grayling in 2009. She designs jewelry for women who value style, first and foremost, but also need to be comfortable in their own skin (literally). Since Katy has always been allergic to nickel herself, Grayling is committed to keeping all its jewelry nickel-free. From the beginning, Katy made a conscious decision to hand-make her jewelry in the U.S., creating local jobs and assuring high quality. Grayling’s mission from day one has been to put the fun back in jewelry boxes everywhere! Katy Kippen and Grayling are based in Portland, OR.
Connect with Katy and Grayling Jewelry
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