There has been an explosion of entrepreneurs that are not in dot-com or finance. These new waves of intrepid business owners are embracing more traditional job paths that forgo IPOs and embracing alternative careers. They are artisans, crafts persons, shop owners and skilled collectors who are keeping time-honored traditions alive. ”Talking Out Loud” is a chronicle of the conversations with these people about their work, life and inspirations……
I was introduced to pillows and soft goods of Janet Kain by a mutual friend and business colleague. I am always excited when I meet individuals who find their passion a little later in life as I truly believe that it is that time we spend “marinating” that allows us so many distinct advantages in filling a market need. Janet and her business partner, Sarin, sat down with me to talk pillows and what it takes to make the ultimate place to rest a weary head……
With all the various home décor products you could design, why pillows?
(Janet) While I was decorating my own home, I found that it was very hard to find high quality pillows that made a statement – bold colors and graphics, without having them custom made. I realized there was a gap in the marketplace for people who wanted fabulous high quality pillows without waiting months and meeting fabric minimums to have them custom made. Pillows are the one home décor product that has the ability to transform a room and can easily be changed whenever you or your room needs a pick me up!
What makes a “good pillow”? What are the three key things consumers should look for when purchasing a pillow?
(Sarin) What we think consumers should look for is not just a good pillow, but a great pillow! The first thing to notice is the quality of the sewing (things such as pattern match up, high quality threads and invisible zippers). Next, great pillows should have the same high quality fabric on both sides of the pillow, not a less expensive fabric on the back. Last but not least, look for generously stuffed inserts made of feathers and down.
(J) I jokingly say that if a fabric doesn’t scream “touch me” as I walk by, it is left on the bolt. When selecting a fabric, what things are you looking for?
(J) Excitement of colors is the first thing that catches my eye, bold colorful graphics that make a statement. Linens, woven cottons, silks. Coolness to the touch for summer fabrics, plushness and luxury in heavier fabrics for winter and year round. When looking at neutrals we are drawn to dimension such as cotton velour on top of linen ground – those definitely call out to be touched!
Decorative pillows are what I call the “crown jewels” of a finished room. What are 2-3 other things you think complete a room.
(J) We fully agree with that! I always say pillows to home décor are the equivalent of dazzling accessories to a little black dress. A coordinating throw and a fabulous tray are two other finishing touches that tie a room together and complete the look.
All of your pillows are made in upstate New York. Why was it important to you to have your products manufactured stateside?
(S) Quality. To ensure the craftsmanship lives up to our high standards, we feel it is important to have the sewing done in the States to maintain the quality control. It costs more, but it is worth it for quality. We are also proud to be able to do our part in keeping jobs here in the USA.
You opened the business in 2008, right before the recession, but weathered the storm. What did that time frame teach you being a small business owner? Any words of wisdom you would share?
(S) What we found is that even when you’re not able to spend the money to redecorate an entire room, changing pillows is a great way to transform the room and freshen up your existing furniture. For this reason, our pillows sold very well during the recession. Starting a small business is tough in any economy, but as long as you don’t cut corners on quality, you can hopefully ride out the hard times. A great tip we can pass along that we have learned is when budgets are tight, social media is an inexpensive way to get the word out about your brand, so don’t underestimate the power of that medium!
Many designers dream about launching a signature line of home décor and accessories but you did. What do you think was the one thing you would share with someone contemplating a similar move?
(J) Stay true to your vision and don’t deviate from your look. Select items that complement your main product and fit within that aesthetic.
You have several collections on the web site. What goes into creating a collection? What can we expect from future collections? What’s on the horizon?
(J) Pattern themes, colors that work well in certain settings and where we envision them being used. We always stay ahead of the curve on home design trends. Right now, plum and charcoal are hot, which we had in our fall collection and we see that continuing through the winter. We watch fashion trends closely because of the strong tie between fashion and home décor. Not ready to give up our secrets yet on what’s next, but you can sign up for our email updates to see what we have in store for next spring!
Life, like pillows, often gets tossed around, so as the final question, what would you say is your “recipe” for being on course and not letting the things that life tosses at you get in the way?
(J & S) The partnership between Sarin and me really helps keep us on track and focused. We have very different skill sets and backgrounds and are able to bring both to the table to complement each other perfectly. Having passion for what you do, setting priorities and a great partnership is the recipe that has led to success for us!
Thank you Janet and Sarin! Check out all the beautiful pillows and soft goods on the Janet Kain website! I have my eye on a pair of the Criss Cross Pillows and the cognac leather tray for a client…..and perhaps the Sea Breeze Hourglass throw for me if I am a good boy come the holidays!
[photo credit: Janet Kain]