Small business spotlight on: Kate Box knitwear
This month we shine the spotlight on independent knitwear designer Kate Box, founder of Kate Box knitwear. Following a successful career in London working with a number of industry greats including Orla Kiely, Kate went on to successfully launch her own label.
We are delighted that Kate is here to share her start-up experience: highs, challenges and tips for turning a passion into a business.
Tell us a bit about Kate Box knitwear
Kate Box knitwear is a label that is passionate about blending contemporary design with traditional craft. Our product range uses the very softest lambswool to create pieces that blend soft neutrals with pops of vibrant colour, all combined with interesting proportions of stripe and pattern.
It is our intention that our products are used for everyday by people who celebrate quality and the desire to have something a little bit different.
What inspired you to start your own label?
I have always made things and was brought up by parents who were very resourceful and a father who made furniture and jewellery. After I started my own family my hands just could not sit idle, so I began to knit again and made blankets for both my children. Friends and family began to ask me to make pieces for them and the idea to start my own business organically grew from there.
What were you doing prior to launching your own label?
I started my career in London after studying textiles at Chelsea College of Art and later on at the Royal College of Art. During my degree I was taught by Kay Cosserat, a Royal Designer for Industry and highly regarded knitwear designer. Kay was to become a great influence on my style and also my love of colour. And after offering me a job in order to fund my future MA, we became firm friends.
Kay was instrumental in pushing me forward for my dream job of knitwear designer at Orla Kiely. I started at Orla Kiely in 2003 as Orla’s assistant helping to design the knitwear and bag ranges, and later on became Head of Knitwear. It was an incredibly creative role in a highly exciting business and I remained very happy there until I started my own family and we relocated to Hampshire.
How did you come up with your product range?
I began making blankets which was a result of having my own family. After taking the plunge and deciding to set up my own business, it became apparent that I needed products at lots of different price points. I like making things that are useful or that will be worn and it was with this in mind that I started developing wrist warmers, snoods, wraps and pouches.
I’m always on the look out for new products to develop, and as I still make everything myself I can react quickly and introduce new lines.
Where can people purchase your knitwear?
We sell through our website and are also ranged in a number of independent boutiques in the South Downs area. We are looking to expand our online and retail outlets over the coming months.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Creating my website has most definitely been the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far. That coupled with self-promotion! As someone who has always naturally favoured craft over technology, creating a website seemed an enormous hurdle to get over. As a small business, budgets were tight so we decided to create the website ourselves. But thanks to a very technically-minded and patient husband we have succeeded!
And your biggest high?
Receiving great comments and compliments from friends and acquaintances about my business has been an enormous boost. Up until my website went live I think a lot of people didn’t really understand what I did, now I have a visual tool to showcase my products I have had so much support for my business – it’s been lovely!
What’s next for Kate Box knitwear?
I am really excited about the future, I have already got ideas for new products and colour combinations and ways in which I can meet new customers and embrace the online community.
What are your top tips for turning a passion into a business?
- Don’t undervalue yourself or your product – I think it’s an easy situation to fall into especially if you work mainly on your own.
- Learn to let go and ask for help when you need it. This was a real eye opener for me, I was inclined to think that running your own business meant doing everything yourself but I have had so much good advice and help from others that now I feel it’s invaluable to tap into other people’s knowledge and expertise.
- Make the most of every opportunity, you never know where it may lead you.