Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey Dreamers! Welcome to the journey! My name is Katlyn and I am the owner of Blue Skies & Ko Boutique. Blue Skies & Ko offers hand-stamped pieces of jewelry, simplistic and trendy pieced jewelry, and now clothing!
My customer base has expanded from just friends and family to the local community, to all across the United States! A few years back I let the doors of opportunity guide my craft into a full-time career and I am excited to take you along through the ride!
Just before I jumped into my dream here with Blue Skies & Ko I was just your average server at a tavern making roughly 25K a year… This leap easily doubled my income within just a few short months.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have always enjoyed crafting... My first memories of crafting begin when I was just a little girl and spent time at my grandparents' house. My sweet meme had bins full of fabrics, beads, sparkles, you name it... She had it ready! We would sit down at the dining room table and we would craft for hours on end.
Fast forward through the years, adulting hit, and as we all do. We put some hobbies on the backburner. I started waitressing full time at a local tavern while I tossed around ideas of going back to school, joining the military, or finding something that truly fulfilled my soul. I was living comfortably but when you are in your early twenties you still have a lot of pressure of what your long-term future will look like.
One day I was finishing up with my waitressing shift and decided that on my way home I was going to stop by the craft store and put my Pinterest pins to work... Long and behold I came across a hand stamping jewelry kit and thought “huh, this looks like it could be fun!”
At this time I had no desire to start a business, I just needed to bust out the old hobby and put my everlasting love of creating to use.
Well, that innocent purchase unleashed a frenzy of “what else can I stamp?” and “how much can I stamp before I just have piles of hand-stamped metal laying around?” SO my next brilliant idea was creating an Instagram account that was just solely based on sharing positivity and pictures of the hand-stamped items.
My friends and family started to join along and I ended up having a couple of people asking if I could do custom orders for them and their friends. (Okay… at this point, I probably should have caught on to turn this into a little side gig but my head was just so wrapped around the fact that I was creating again, and that within itself was so fulfilling.)
I didn’t have my “aha” moment until my friend that was managing a local brewery reached out and asked if wanted to join their small business holiday event. That was truly the first eye-opening moment in this career-altering journey.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
My head switched into business mode and I was ready to start the researching process of forming my brand. As someone completely new to the business world, Youtube and Google soon became my new best friends.
I was searching for anything and everything. I came across Canva along the way of binge-watching videos and started putting colors and fonts into place for Blue Skies. Canva has been a huge game-changer for me! I’m not familiar with graphic design so Canva has been my go-to for creating graphics and building the brand design.
The next step was figuring out my overall target audience which I felt like with the simplicity and creativity behind the company I could focus on a broad audience. That has proven to be successful for Blue Skies. Having a few stepping stones like this in place made it easier for me to navigate this new business venture.
Then came the time to design my first website on Shopify. Once again. Had NO idea how to build a website but there I was figuring it out. I guess at this point you might be realizing that I’m the kind of person that has set my mind to something I have that “I am going to make this work” attitude. And in reality... What kind of business can run without having a website to showcase all of their products?
I chose Shopify because it was super user-friendly for a noob like me and they had a ton of videos and forums if I felt stuck at any point in the process.
Running a business comes with trial and error. Right? But I knew I was on the right track with showcasing all of Blue Skie’s products on Shopify and marketing through Instagram. I transformed my Instagram account into a business profile and started moving to the next steps of business.
Now the fun part begins. Filing for an LLC and EIN. Everything else that I have mentioned so far came pretty easy to me. When it came down to making everything legal I was truly lost. Thankfully Google is an option nowadays and Zenbusiness popped up. I signed up for the package that best fit my needs for Blue Skies and Zenbusiness filed all of the correct paperwork. (Pretty sure this was the first time I was like “okay, I truly need help with this step”.)
Once all of the paperwork was processed, branding complete, and the website was launched and filled with jewelry my start-up costs for Blue Skies & Ko came out to be $2,000!
The biggest lessons I have learned along the way are to stay open for more opportunities and always continue learning.
I knew that I wanted to keep sharing positivity and the power of affirmations but I wanted my jewelry to work for everyone. I continued stamping on aluminum blanks since the quality was durable and still malleable, hypoallergenic, and won’t tarnish.
I figured out a way to seal the black enamel so the stamped message would continue to stand out over time. I also wanted to continue making jewelry that was adjustable and customizable so customers would be able to form the perfect fit and wear their heartfelt message consistently.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching the business officially was a really exciting moment. Since people were already getting to know Blue Skies before the official launch it made it easy to gain more traction. I continued to find local events and pop-up shops and that helped build up the brand.
The best feeling is walking around your community and being asked “Are you the owner of Blue Skies & Ko?” or even walking around and seeing customers wearing hand-stamped items that were created by me!
I am thankful that I decided to build out my first website on Shopify. Shopify is a beginner-friendly platform and they have a ton of videos and plugins that I have learned and added in along the way. I have had friends that became motivated to start their small businesses and I always recommend building their first website on that platform.
Since the launch of Blue Skies & Ko, I have expanded by adding clothing items and accessories to my shop and I am now looking into adding some home decor. I am proud to say that I have fully financially backed my company from the start. I think since my business started as a funded hobby it made the transition into a business a lot easier.
The biggest lessons I have learned along the way are to stay open for more opportunities and always continue learning. Also… Having a strong social media presence is HUGE in this day and age.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Social media has a huge influence on businesses and customers. I strongly believe that keeping up with the changes that come up throughout social media is key. The number one thing to keep in mind with social media is to stay consistent and stay on brand.
Keep your audience engaged by showing off new products and responding to their comments and messages. Post to your Instagram story often, even if it’s just sharing a simple “good morning”. Last but not least try to stick to a designated posting time overall.
Right now my company has been focusing on Instagram Reels. It has a huge potential for organic growth. In the early stages, my company ran a few paid advertisements on Facebook but with the recent IOS changes, we are now completely focused on all organic strategies.
The IOS 14 changes hit a lot of companies that were strictly performing off of paid advertisements and came across a huge dip in sales. My company has been steady throughout the changes since I didn’t build sales off of paid outreach.
Another fun way to keep your customers engaged and attracted to your brand on Instagram is by creating engaging stories. For example using Polls, Questions, Slide Bar, or Going LIVE! (Keep up with the changes & stay CONSISTENT!)
I also love to participate in giveaways with other brands to help build a new relationship with followers that are interested in your shop! I have come across other companies that steer clear because they don’t think these new followers will turn into customers-but I disagree. I strongly believe in keeping the door of opportunity open at all costs.
I also highly suggest keeping up with email marketing and keeping your customers in the loop with all exciting things happening within your business. If I had to go back in time I wish I would have learned this sooner.
Keeping in touch with your previous customers or potential customers helps build a lasting relationship. People want to know what’s coming next, where you will be, or just the fact that you are grateful they are joining in on the journey.
With owning a boutique; keep it exciting with new clothing items arriving and working with influencers to show that off! When I first started with jewelry it became a huge goal of mine to grow into a full-blown boutique. I mean jewelry and clothes go hand in hand so why not try it all out, right? It was a simple fuse to add clothing into the mix and my customers were beyond excited for it!
Finding influencers is a different social media strategy. This one will take time as you need to find people that will be loyal and committed with a good engaged following.
You also have to keep their best interest in mind as well and stay realistic with their expectations and your own.
Keeping communication open in the beginning will be key and if you are at this point in your company I would start looking into forming short-term contracts once you find “your people”.
Let your influencers get a little creative sometimes! You may be surprised with what they come up with and how they want to portray some “art” into your brand!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Okay so fun fact. I just recently decided to pursue my dream of living in an RV and I am currently based in Southern California right now. So my game plan is to build more of a client base out this way which means getting back into doing pop-up shops and farmers' markets.
Owning a business isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. You will face obstacles like slow months, not planning strategies right, or trusting the weather app and not weighing down your tent. It happens, and it happens to all of us.
Although I feel like I am “kind of starting over” I know that I am growing my business. The majority of Blue Skies & Ko’s sales come from online but what’s better than just getting out there and meeting new people?! PLUS the holiday season is finally here and I love to drag along my hand stamping gear to make custom jewelry and Christmas ornaments on the spot.
Thankfully I am all about organic growth so the cost of growing my business is solely based on me dedicating my time and putting in the work! I have had extremely dedicated customers from the start and as a business owner, you know how rewarding that feeling is!
Right now my short-term and long-term goals are getting Blue Skies & Ko recognizable in a new area and expanding my knowledge on email and SMS marketing. Also, Expanding on clothing items and adding in other fun items as I mentioned before. Home decor!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Being a first-time business owner there is so much to learn. I think that we are all at an advantage point since we can google, youtube, or ask other business owners for guidance.
Keeping an open mind during the entire process has been beneficial. Owning a business isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. You will face obstacles like slow months, not planning strategies right, or trusting the weather app and not weighing down your tent. It happens, and it happens to all of us. (& taxes…. Don’t even get me started on that topic).
With that all being said when you get knocked down you just have to rise a little stronger, & form your game plan a little bit longer. Your business is basically like your baby so you are always going to want to see it doing well but learning and moving on from mishaps will make you and your business stronger.
I am a pretty organized person so sticking to a schedule and a plan keeps me on track. Did I mention I am a pen and paper type of person? Keeping my agenda open on my desk and being able to physically check off tasks is a different type of boss energy.
Since I just recently moved across the United States I am trying hard to get back out into the community to build relationships with other business owners. I feel like regardless of where you end up in life if you surround yourself with the type of people you look up to you will also become that person to someone else.
If we are all being honest no one truly knows what they are doing we are all just trying to learn, grow, and live a fulfilling life!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For some reason, this is my favorite question out of this interview. Is that weird? I LOVE Shopify (I have already mentioned this). Within Shopify, I use Lucky Orange so I can learn how people navigate my website.
Every month or so I like to do minor adjustments to keep the site looking fresh and watching Lucky Orange shows me if the adjustments were beneficial or not. I also use Privy Popups so I can increase my emailing list. I have also used Honeycomb periodically for upselling and to offer special discounts on selected items. I also use Klaviyo for email marketing.
Keeping track of my daily tasks I use my agenda book but I also use Trello.
I am currently handling fulfillment and I don’t think that will change anytime soon. I truly enjoy packaging orders myself and including my personalized thank, you note.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
There are so many motivational pieces of work and individuals out there!! A few of my all-time favorites that can be used towards business or personal development are:
The Miracle Morning helps to motivate you by wanting to create change at the beginning of your day.
Brene Brown is an all-around motivating lady. Brene is real and straight to the point. If you need to alter your mindset and get motivated to get your message out there, she is your girl!
Last but not least Joe Rogan, I still can’t comprehend how he has the time to do all of the things he does. BUT his podcast is filled with incredibly talented people and sometimes it’s fun to just turn on a podcast and learn new things or get inspired to fulfill your own crazy goals!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Let's be transparent! I was not a business model from the start. I didn’t set out to make millions I was just looking for something to fulfill my everlasting love for creating right? I also didn’t let the opportunity of creating a business fade away either.
I think my best advice to give someone that is just starting is to just go for it! There will never be a perfect time to start and there will always be those “what if” moments. Push past that and just go into it ready to learn and grow!
Another little motivator is to stay consistent. Whatever you pursue your business just stays on top of it. For example, every social media post isn’t going to blow the last one out of the water but when you do hit those viral moments it is worth it all! Just don’t give up your dreams.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am not looking to hire for Blue Skies & Ko right now but I am always open to collaborating or networking. If you are wanting to connect my email is:
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Discover the best strategies of successful business owners
Join our newsletter and receive our handcrafted recap with the best insights shared by founders in Starter Story each week.
Useful, convenient, and free:
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.
Companies using Klaviyo see a 95x ROI (yes, 95x)
Use Klaviyo to turn hard-earned customer data into hard-working emails and texts.
Try the platform that 265,000 brands use to grow their business.
Try it now (it's free) ➜