Kyla O'Neill of IMPRESSED by nature discusses her experience with Kiva
and offers tips to others considering applying for a Kiva loan.
Taking the leap to invest in your small business is something a lot of us in the SF Etsy community struggle with, so I wanted to talk to a maker who has gone through the entire process of getting a Kiva interest-free loan, from application through repayment.
Some of you may know Kyla O'Neill from our SF Etsy shows. For the past eight years, Kyla has been creating gorgeous jewelry from pressed flowers, under the business name IMPRESSED by nature.
In this interview, we talk to Kyla about why she decided to apply for a Kiva loan and what she learned from the process.
- Kaelen Van Cura,
SF Etsy's Kiva Maven, and owner of Darling Marcelle
What was your main motivation for applying for a Kiva loan?
I started looking into external funding because I wanted to grow my business. In order to scale up, I knew I needed to streamline my production process and take some of the work off my plate. I felt that raising some capital would give me the freedom to expand my business and still have the money to support myself (my business is my main source of income). Initially, I explored traditional forms of funding, like bank loans, but they required annual revenue levels that I didn't have yet. I was pretty disappointed, but a chat with [SF Etsy Co-Captain] Rebecca Saylor quickly sparked new hope. She was confident that a Kiva loan would be a great fit for what I needed--and she was right!
Were you able to accomplish the goals you had with your loan?
Yes, I was able to accomplish my goals! I raised $10,000 and set out to use half of it for hiring production help and streamlining my process, a quarter of it for marketing, and a quarter of it to pay off business debt. When my loan was first funded, I spent the first quarter to help pay down business debt that I accrued from doing a number of expensive out-of-town wholesale trade shows. The shows were a successful way to launch my business into the wholesale world, which has created a solid foundation for my entire business to stand on. They are, however, very expensive and hard to keep up with, as many shows require commitment for the next show soon after the previous show ends, so much of my profit from the show went to paying for my next booth fee - it's a difficult cycle to get ahead of. The Kiva loan helped me make a dent in these debts, which were quickly accruing interest, unlike my Kiva loan!
The second quarter of the loan was used to fund marketing efforts to continue growing my wholesale business and increase exposure to my wedding offerings. For the latter, I worked with a marketing consultant to pitch my story to blogs and magazines in order to attract more wedding customers to my bouquet preservation package, and I was featured in a few publications!
The largest chunk of my loan I used gradually to hire ongoing production help. This was something I wanted to do for awhile but never had the extra funds to make it happen. Having the money set aside for this purpose allowed me to dedicate time to examine my process and see where I really needed the help. And once I hired help, not only did I have more inventory in the end, but it also freed me up to focus on other aspects of my business.
What was the hardest part of the whole process between application and repayment?
I have to say that the whole process was very straightforward and smooth. The hardest part was probably deciding that I was going to do it. I had a mental block about it at first. I was worried that I wouldn't get the support I needed to fund the loan. Rebecca [Saylor] was really encouraging, and I'm so glad because I was fully funded in just over a week. It was so easy with the support of the SFEtsy Team and the Kiva community!
Before your loan is live, create a game plan. Mine included drafting an email template to my personal network and another one to my business network. Once the private round was live, I shared it out to my networks and then kept updating them with my progress. I also added my loan link to my email signature and shared it out on social media a number of times.
Is there anything you wish you had known before applying for a Kiva loan?
The whole process was transparent and there weren't really any surprises. One of the things I learned as the loan was live was that there were times when Kiva donors would jump on and double your donations for a certain period of time. I think my mom noticed it first. I ended up reaching out to my network again to encourage them to donate during that time to maximize their contribution. It might have been helpful to know about that possibility in advance and ways to take advantage of those moments.
What advice would you give to people considering applying for a Kiva loan?
Be clear about your goals! Your friends and family will probably contribute no matter what, but I think having a business story and clear goals for your loan helps to attract other lenders. Don't worry about not getting funded! Of course, there's no guarantee, but the SF Etsy and Kiva communities are so strong, and they'll both help you prepare to maximize your chances. Tap your personal and business networks to support you! Like any good campaign, you have to do the work to gather support. Before your loan is live, create a game plan. Mine included drafting an email template to my personal network and another one to my business network. Once the private round was live, I shared it out to my networks and then kept updating them with my progress. I also added my loan link to my email signature and shared it out on social media a number of times. I was pleasantly surprised when so many from my network chipped in--they all expressed how excited they were to have a tangible way of supporting my small business. Personally, I found it easier to ask for support by emphasizing that it's a loan and you will get your money back.
Kiva loans are such a unique opportunity for small businesses to raise capital without the risk of large interest rate loans--I highly recommend considering one for your business!
To learn more about applying for a Kiva loan, contact our SF Etsy team
After hearing what Kyla had to say about her Kiva experience, would you consider applying for a Kiva loan? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.
I was first introduced to MorninGloria's beaded flower jewelry when we were both vendors at a craft fair in SF. I was immediately struck by all of the color in her display - vibrant blues, rich reds, warm amber - just a gorgeous array of hues that catch the eye. Upon closer inspection, I saw that each piece was intricately beaded, hundreds of tiny glass beads strung and wired together to create MorninGloria's hair accessories, wine glass charms, earrings and necklaces.
Gloria E. Rubio-Verduzco, owner and designer of MorninGloria's, first started making her beaded artwork in 2005. "I've been excited by beads and jewelry making since I was a little girl, but when I discovered French beaded flowers, I was immediately in love!" Gloria said. " I always loved wearing flowers in my hair, so I began creating beaded flowers to wear to dance classes and special events. Immediately, I began receiving requests from friends and family to make items for them...and so began MorninGloria's."
The technique Gloria uses to create her beaded flowers and leaves was first developed in the 1500s, and remained a popular folk art form through the Victorian era. Examples of beaded flower bouquets, called Immortelles, as well as decorative brooches, earrings and pendants can be seen in private and museum collections all over the world.
We are excited to have MorninGloria's present her exquisite line of beaded accessories at our first ever Sonoma County Pop Up, at Viansa Winery, 25200 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA Sunday July 29 noon - 5pm.
SF Etsy Team Member , Brandi Chalker from Sunshine and Succulents, is a presenter this year at Craftcation 2017 and we couldn’t wait till Craftcation to hear more. Brandi is a busy maker! She creates succulent terrariums and teaches plant design. She recently launched an exciting new venture, TeamCraft, which offers team-building workshops for corporate clients, which include Facebook, Google, Instagram, and others. Before we head south to Craftcation this April, we caught up with this talented, creative mentor, and asked her some questions.
- Tell us about yourself, Sunshine and Succulents, and your work.
I founded Sunshine & Succulents in 2013 after leaving my partnership in Urban Bazaar, a gift shop that I co-owned for 2 1/2 years. While I was an owner at the shop, I started working more and more with succulents, and discovered that I had a passion for plant design and for teaching other people about succulents. It felt like a good time to transition away from retail and into the plant world, and I've been running the business ever since! The majority of my business is workshops: I teach public, private, and corporate plant design workshops, and really love getting other people excited about plants. It's so satisfying to run into a student months or years after they take my workshop, and to have them tell me that their plants are (much to their surprise) still thriving!
- We are excited about Craftcation and planning to attend your workshop.. Can you tell us more about what you will be presenting?
I'll be teaching two sessions of my popular Succulent Terrarium Workshop, and one session of a new Macrame Plant Hanger Workshop.
- What was your favorite experience from a previous Craftcation Conference?
I attended the first ever Craftcation, and still use some of the things I learned at that conference today in my business. My favorite part was the insane amount of inspiration I got from the conference as a whole. Being surrounded by other makers, hearing about other people's business struggles, learning fun new craft skills, and learning new strategies to implement in my business was so incredibly inspiring! I had been feeling overwhelmed and burnt out prior to the conference, but afterward I had a whole new level of excitement for my work.
- What is your favorite thing about teaching and other speaking engagements?
Seeing other people get excited about succulents is the most rewarding part of my work. Many of my students come into my class convinced they're going to kill their new succulents. Letting them know that I used to have a "black thumb" - and now I'm a crazy plant lady with a plant design business - combined with all of the plant care education in my workshops, is really fun. They go from being terrified of plants to being excited about taking plants home with them. I think everyone should fill their homes with plants, so feeling like I'm contributing to that in a small way is really satisfying.
- What does Craftcation mean to you and why is it worth going to?
It's a big investment for a lot of people, but if you're looking to grow your business, you have to invest in it. Why not invest in your business by having an absolute blast with other creatives for a weekend, picking up some new craft skills, and learning important business skills as well? The combination of knowledge and inspiration you'll come away with is worth every penny.
- What's new at Sunshine and Succulents and TeamCraft? Are you working on any projects right now that you are really excited about?
2017 is going to be a big growth year for my businesses. I moved to Sonoma County just over a year ago, so I'm transitioning away from working mainly in San Francisco. I've started offering my workshops at a florist shop in Petaluma and at Cornerstone in Sonoma, where I'm partnering with Meadowcroft Wines to do Tasting & Terrarium events. I'm going to start selling succulents and related gift items at local farmers markets in the Spring. I'm also expanding my wedding services through Sunshine & Succulents. TeamCraft is still in its infancy, but I'm starting to market the business more to my corporate clients, and am looking for a few experienced instructors to offer unique DIY-focused workshops through TeamCraft. I'm also expanding my own workshop offerings, starting with a Sugar Scrub Workshop for the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. I fluctuate between being so excited I can hardly sleep and completely overwhelmed! It's a fun time in my business growth, and it feels like every day there's a new opportunity.
- What ideas, goals or message do you convey through your work ?
Most of my work is focused on getting people to find their inner creativity. I hear all the time from my students, "I'm just not creative." It's such a shame that people feel this way, because it's so very untrue! Everyone has an innately creative side. Maybe you can't paint or draw, or you have no desire to make your own clothing or to learn how to sculpt. But I guarantee there's a creative hobby that you'll be good at! In my terrarium workshops I discuss design, and I get people thinking about color, texture, and form. It's fun to see the "I'm not creative" people really listen and then create something beautiful! My message is that you just need to give yourself a chance to express your creative side.
- What does being a maker mean to you?
Being a maker means you are constantly curious. You see something in the world, and rather than wondering, "where can I buy that?", your first question is, "how can I make that?". And then you figure it out!
- How has personal experience influenced your creativity?
I grew up with a dad who was a talented doodler and a mom who always had a closet full of craft projects for me to work on. I was always pushed to be very focused on academics, but also to spend time on creative pursuits. So I've ended up with a good balance of the two, which I think has played a huge role in my ability to manage successful businesses based around my own handmade products - I love spreadsheets almost as much as I love making terrariums! I was also very poor growing up, so I think part of my entrepreneurial drive (I started my first business making jewelry when I was 16) stemmed from a desire to be financially independent. I've always loved working hard!
- If you could choose a theme song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
"I Feel Like Funkin' It Up" by Rebirth Brass Band. It gets me dancing every time I hear it, and is pretty much already my theme song. Plus, they're from New Orleans, which is my favorite place.
- What tech tools do you use on a daily basis that you could not live without?
I'm not tech-savvy at all. One of the reasons I am so excited for Craftcation this year is so that I can attend social media workshops, and try to get caught up with the rest of the modern world
Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
Craftcation is a four-day business and makers conference featuring a plethora of workshops, lectures and panels on creative business by leading mentors and makers in the creative industry. Craftcation "ignites the entrepreneurial spirit, strengthens craft and business skills and builds relationships in the creative community." This year, Craftcation will be held April 27-30, 2017 in Ventura, California and for the first time SF Etsy will not only be there - we will be hosting an Etsy Meet Up. Join Us at Craftcation: Business + Makers Conference 2017 - Discounted tickets for #Craftcation2017 are still available. Exclusive team discount code is: etsycc17 use that code at checkout
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