Battling the 'Fast Fad': An Interview with Kyla Donner
Let's start with a little bit of background. Who are you? Where are you from? Can you tell us a little about your background (education, previous jobs etc)?
My name is Kyla Donner, I'm from Albuquerque, but have lived all over. I'm 25 years old and I'm a jewelry and woven goods designer. In addition to designing, I do large scale art installations for retail businesses and social strategy consulting (sleep is not something I do much of). I went to UNM and studied strategic communications with a focus on marketing. Prior to owning my own business, I was a marketing manager for a college housing community. I've also been a nanny, commercial event planner, and a visual merchandizer.
Currently, you own your own business, and you also do consulting work, tell us more about those and how you got started with each one.
I have always loved working with my hands to create the things I could see in my mind. In the same way I've always loved communication both verbal and written because of the way we are able to articulate really intangible thoughts, ideas and perspectives.
So I wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to blend the two of those things. Last year, I decided I was going to leave my full time management position in favor of building the kind of life that I was proud of and passionate about. With some trust in Jesus and a whole lot of confidence in myself, I just quit and started over. I knew that Genuine & Ginger wouldn't support me fully right off the bat, so I started taking on side projects working with other small businesses to help them build a social strategy and develop a voice that fit their brand and mission. I was doing the same thing for my own small business so I got to take those same practices and share them with other people. Seeing people be so passionate and sold out on an idea, product or concept gets me super excited and invested.
Most young entrepreneurs want to develop an app, hope it becomes the next Snapchat, sit back and collect revenue. You make things by hand that take a lot of time, energy, passion and resources, what is your hope for your brand in a generation of instant gratification and hyper-consumption?
My choice to build a business based around tangible quality, hand made items, is in direct opposition to the fast fad culture that people are submersed in right now. Apps rise and fall, are popular and die off faster than imaginable. I wanted a company with longevity, something to build a legacy around. I'd rather have a company I can grow over the course of my life instead of ever becoming a trending topic on Twitter. However, as a product based business we do want people to buy from us, but we don't want that to be at the expense of our brand integrity. We have an opportunity to challenge people to be really intentional with their purchasing behavior. We want our customer base to buy good products that will last for a long time, have personal value and express individual style both personally and for the home.
You just got back from a makers market in Denver, and you're headed to Texas next week for another one, with cities like Austin, Portland and Nashville that may be more suited for your business, why have you chosen to keep your home base in Albuquerque?
After living in LA last year I realized how much I had to work just to exist and live there. I had no time or money to put into the business, so in all honestly it's really just smart business at this point to live in Albuquerque for now. The cost of living is really affordable, which allows me to keep most of my money in the business. This city has so many beautiful landscapes and there are so many cool things and creative businesses popping up in Albuquerque that it is easy to stay inspired. It has been a great place to build a customer base. The community has been so supportive of my work, between all the local pop up shops and collaborations.
The internet and social media has made it easy for me to get visibility from those bigger cities like Portland and Nashville without actually living there. Many of the boutiques I work with or know of find a majority of the brands they carry via Instagram, so while I might have to work a little bit harder to get noticed than I would if I lived somewhere else, I am still seeing an increase of traffic, sales, and brand recognition. So for the moment Albuquerque is perfect.
Looking to the future, what are your hopes? Are there more business venture ideas you have? Do you see a family in those future plans? Anything else you would like to say?
My hope first and foremost is that I get to work for myself for the rest of my life and that I get to do that with the most integrity, honoring Jesus in all things along the way.
I have massively enjoyed the community we've cultivated around this brand because of the honesty and real talk approach we've taken, so ideally I want to get a studio space where I can venture into real life community workshops, sharing my craft with people, getting folks around a table to have great conversation while creating something.
I want to travel more, sharing this brand with people, do more artist collaborations, and really build out our home goods and lifestyle products. I also want to do some speaking events at some point, since I have a unique perspective as a single-female-millennial-Christian-entrepreneur that I think could be encouraging to other people—maybe, or maybe not. I also have at least a couple coffee table book ideas that I really wanna make happen.
Do I see a family in my future plans... I am so not a planner, but I do have a desire for a husband and kids, I think that would be rad, but I also know that marriage and children are not promised to me, so I have to operate within the promises and reality that I do have. I will live full of intention, work hard, love people and pursue my passion.