Entrepreneurs and COVID-19 - Interview with Kjaer Neletia Pedersen of KOME Clothing (North Vancouver)

Please share a bit about yourself as an entrepreneur and what your business entails - brick and mortar store, online, product, etc.

I was born an artist and have always created. I have owned my own pottery studio. I made many charcoal portraits. I taught Art at every level in the public schools, finishing my teaching career with full time Art instruction for Grades 8 to 12 and teaching 2D, 3D and drawing at the University Level.

Enjoying a lifelong passion of artistic pursuits, these experiences evolved into my imaginative creations of clothing for all sized women.  I describe my pieces as "...clothing that is contemporary, sophisticated, easy to wear, and a fit for EVERY body. Clothing to LIVE in for all size women that lets them always look good and FEEEEL fabulous." I now sell only at highly juried BC Markets, Fashion Shows for women's events, online and out of my studio in North Vancouver.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, how did you work with your regular clients and reach out to new ones. What type of marketing worked best for you?

Word of mouth was my best marketing. My work is fabulous, of course, but I find that I love interacting with my customers. And if they FEEL good, as I do when I sell to them, then they want to come back and they happily recommend my line to their friends.

I do some advertising on Facebook, however, what is exceptionally amazing for my line is that I have linked up with promoters that support me with their markets and online. I sell only in BC, but at the highly juried markets like Circle Craft, Out Of Hand and the Filberg Festival.

I have a lovely studio right now, too, and as it is street level, I find that advertising in my window has been quite good. I also started a blog and hope that this will serve me as well. I love doing the blog as I am a teacher at heart and find I want to teach AND promote others. I will likely do more of that now that I have energy and enthusiasm back in my heart and life.

BTW… these are some comments that women have said about my line: "stunning designs, elegant, unique, striking fabrics, comfortable, versatile, flattering, FUN!, easy and effortless, sophisticated, casual, dressy, reasonably priced, all occasion, ideal for travel, always look and feel fabulous, easy to wear, timeless”

I always have hundreds of One Of A Kind creations in stock. To visit me is guaranteed to be, as one of my customers said… “a feast for the eyes and a pleasure for the soul”.

How has the social isolation required to combat the spread of COVID-19 affected your business? What about this has been hardest for you personally?

I immediately was in shock and slowed down to a crawl. I know I am not alone in this feeling or reaction. I thought originally that my line would not survive… however, I now know it will.

I guess when this hit the hardest for me was when the first two Spring Shows were cancelled and only one of them was able to give me my full amount back for my booth fee. It was hard to not have the shows that sustain my line, but quite shocking to not get all of my money back. And to make the financial burden even harder, I had just made huge purchases for new fabrics to create for my upcoming shows.

I quit going to my studio for a while and I have worked on having a positive attitude about life in general, but, it was a struggle on some days for sure.

Have you found new ways to interact with your customer? Have you developed any new products or services as a way to help your clients through this time, or to fill a new need you see? 

Out Of Hand just promoted all of their vendors in an online sale and it was wonderful. You can check out my page on their site HERE! I have had models ask if they could take some clothes for a couple of days and model them with their husband or friend as photographers to give me a hand. I just sent out my massive email to my customers and friends, and hope that will inspire them to support my line.

I like to remind everyone that small businesses don’t just need your financial support. We also need your support online. Going to our Facebook and Instagram pages and liking, commenting and sharing goes a long way to promote us. It inspires us, too! I wrote online a couple of days ago, after a purchase for the first time in over a month, that I was doing a HAPPY DANCE. Small business do celebrate our sales. We appreciate YOU!

What type of marketing seems to be working best for you in this time of social isolation?

At this point, it is most definitely the Out Of Hand online promotion that is getting the best results. It seems that this would be a great idea for anyone with a super large following. Gather small business and promote. For small businesses, offering what they can as coupon codes is a wise thing to do, too. I offered 25% off and it is keeping my line going right now, and motivating me to create more.

I am hopeful that the photographs and videos that I am now posting of my new garments might inspire women to buy.  I will continue to post on Instagram and Facebook and will also send out monthly newsletters. We will see.

Anything you'd like readers to know about you and your business? Any last words of encouragement you'd like to share with everyone? 

I am totally a one woman show and I do love every aspect of my business. I free hand create, sew, promote, take photographs, and sell. I am certainly not interested in becoming a huge business. I just want to make a nice living and enjoy my customers.

I will be slowing down during this pandemic and creating even more special one of a kind items, do more recreating and recycling, AND I will also do more ART. I have my studio to play in with a vast array of creative stuff, so am excited to enjoy a new way of working, creating and just enjoying.

Personally I decided that this was the year to connect more - take classes, go to more dances, accept and have more dinner dates, expand my world and make new friends. This plan certainly came to a fast halt. However, as a teacher at heart, I continue to teach, support and grow my world in other ways. I have links on my Blog Posts that certainly help me, and I can only hope it might assist others during these troubled times. I also read a story every day to my Grandson and put them on Youtube so that he can watch them over and over again. I linked my latest one on my blog.

Last words of encouragement you ask? I guess for us all to know that this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, it is still our lives, such as it is. Everyday be grateful for what you have. Everyday do your best to relax in the moment of the present. Even in the midst of the Coronavirus, and especially as Canadians that really don’t have it all that bad, just breathe and enjoy your moments. I am sure enjoying mine. Thank you for reading this :)

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