What a great time for female entrepreneurs: We are delighted to share with you features and essays written by super women with inspiring careers and businesses that are reshaping our economy and the way we consume. They share their journey, the process it took them to get to where they are now and what they’ve learnt along the way. Welcome to Modern Mentors.
I grew up in upstate NY where there were no rules. Just be home for dinner. That meant go out and play, imagine, create and figure it out. So I did. I can remember my Dad building me a fort between two trees. I made a rug out of carpet samples, built a bench with scrap wood (with a little help of course) and created a rock garden complete with plants and a path. I was 11.
Realizing the dream
That started my love affair with all things decor and lasted while in college — decorating students rooms with blankets and ribbons. I forged my way through jobs, each a slow burn to where I wanted to be. On the side, I was obsessive with decor mavens Christoper Lowell and Martha Stewart. I struggled for a long time making the transition from career to career— all the while focusing on what I loved. I just had no idea how to get from A to Z.
When the bottom fell out for everyone in 2008, I too was swept away. I lost my job and started freelancing in graphic design. That was good while it lasted. I was good at it, but the job lacked any real creativity and it was nowhere near decor. When my husband too lost his job two years later, we were faced with no jobs and no idea where to live. So we took a chance and drove out west. We settled in Seattle and it was there that I had my idea for a product I wanted to design.
I started poking around to see if there was anything similar to what I wanted to make. And there wasn’t. So I went about asking family and friends about my idea, sketched out designs, created CAD files with my husband and eventually made two prototypes to see if it could actually work. From there, I felt more confident and proceeded to build a website, have prototypes photographed so I could “create” a catalog of products (when in actuality I only had 2 samples). I found a manufacturer in U.S., pressed live and launched. I made sure to send out press releases to bloggers and magazines that might be interested in my product. I figured I had a good chance of getting some decent press as this product did not exist anywhere. It was different, creative and fun.
Initially we funded it all: prototypes, photographer, website, branding. Eventually, I was able to secure a backer who loaned me money for my first overseas manufacturing. This allowed me to lower pricing and market to the average user, along with working with niche specialties like party and event planners. When I got my first sale, it was from Nordstrom. I was floored and a little nervous at the same time. I could not believe this sale was prompted by a stranger, not someone who knew me. I felt validated and happy. It’s something to create something from your mind, manifest it into something real, and then have someone put their money down for your product. It’s a great feeling.
Entrepreneurship was a long road and it’s still a long road right now. It’s a struggle to have money, need more money — while trying to grow organically in front of customers. You name the struggle. It’s all there, wrapped up. I am currently working through and struggling to build this business up and out. I have another great idea, based on my current product — just different materials, size and use. I find it hard at times to pitch in front of buyers. I KNOW this product is a great idea. It’s been hanging in Disney Springs, celebrity homes and massive parties.
Yet, the struggle is real. It is tangible and exhausting. And I still don’t have all the answers, really. But the one thing I struggled with when I started was the question- will this product really be that versatile and impactful? And the answer was yes. When Disney came calling, it changed everything for me. To see my products on a massive scale, hanging in a popular store — it was deeply validating and proved that I had succeeded in creating a great product.
Narrow your focus, keep your head down and see your success. Build it in pictures, in writing, or even an erase board but keep going.Nicole Ketchum
I remind myself daily to be focused. My end goal is two fold and my desire is what drives me on days when I have no idea how to get to the next hill. Lord, there are so many hills!
Nicole Ketchum is a designer, entrepreneur and faithful devotee to all things decor. She started Hey Girl Decor with a fun line of faux chandeliers. The idea of making a chandelier and then flipping it on it’s head and redefining it was so much fun! What makes the chandeliers unique and one-of-a-kind is the design. Hey Girl Decor pairs modern, chic designs with bright colors and crystals. With freedom from lights, the chandeliers can be hung anywhere you can position a hook or wire. Her chandeliers have been featured in Mattel’s headquarters, Disney Springs, Nordstrom, People Magazine and more.