Makers 1-on-1 is our original interview series featuring today's makers and DIYers. We're sitting down with new makers every week to learn more about their projects, how they acquire information, their purchase processes, and their passions.
This week, we’re interviewing Anne Skoch, owner and designer of Anne Cate accessories boutique from Mentor, OH. Anne’s made-in-America zip pouches and pillows feature her city skyline designs printed on custom fabric. To keep her longtime sewing business going, Anne sources high quality pillow inserts, labels, and fabrics. If your brand sells to makers who sew, this 1-on-1 interview with Anne will give you some important insights to help you connect with makers like her.
What's your name and what do you do?
My name is Anne Skoch, and I am the creator and owner of Anne Cate accessories, which is a hand-made boutique focusing on “Made in America” accessories. Right now I have the skyline design, and I have over 50 different skylines – just a simple silhouette on purses and pillows that kind of caters to the adventurous and the lovers of travel and home.
How and when did you get started doing this?
So I had my own business for seven years. I started when I was 13, and I would sell at craft shows and to friends, just minimally. I started on Etsy when I was 13, and it grew from there. A year and a half ago I decided to take a serious route and have this product that I was really passionate about. So I rebranded, changed my name, changed the whole brand, and introduced skyline silhouette products and just three skylines. I tested it on Etsy, and from there it showed success, so I scaled up 900 percent within three months. Now I am just enjoying the full-time running of a business and giving my creations and passions to other people.
When did you start sewing?
I have been sewing for as long as I can remember, since I was probably around six or seven. And it has been quite a progression from really bad purses and doll clothes to prom dresses, blankets, and other clothing. It has been so cool to see the growth of my sewing skills.
What are the steps that are involved in the projects that you do?
Creating a skyline purse starts off with researching the skyline. Probably five of the cities I have taken direct pictures of, visited, and researched. But the rest of the cities I have not been able to travel to, so I research online. I find three to four images that really depict the skyline in my best opinion. From there, I take those and compile them and sketch something up on Illustrator. Once I feel comfortable with the skyline I designed, I have it printed. Then the fabric comes in. I cut the fabric, sew it up, and then photograph it. Then it ships out!
What materials do you use and how do you choose them? What is your purchasing process?
Sourcing the materials for a product is important to the Anne Cate mission of creating a “Made in America” business. The pillow inserts, labels, and fabric are sourced from the states, supporting the local economy as well as offering a higher quality material. The skyline fabric is custom printed by a company called Spoonflower (Durham, S.C.), that uses eco-friendly inks to bring to life a design.
Is there research involved with your projects? Where do you get inspiration?
Research is crucial in creating a great product. In both the skyline motif and design construction, I am constantly searching for images that will inspire a design. I find inspiration in the small details of a big picture. Growing up in Cleveland, I was always so fascinated by the beautiful combination of the shoreline and the skyline. As I traveled past Cleveland, I fell in love with the unique and distinct personalities every city skyline presented. Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh, New York – all had a different story, purpose, and adventure within it. Seeing these breathtaking sights inspired me to start my skyline collection. What I love most about my products is that just as each skyline had a different meaning behind it for me, every purse I sell has a different meaning for each customer. I love hearing the reason behind a sale.
What social media platforms are you active on and how has it been beneficial for your brand?
I am active on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. These platforms have helped grow brand image as well as spread product awareness. Instagram even draws in more business than a Google search online. I love being active on these platforms because it offers a great opportunity to interact with customers as well as express the key elements of my business.
How much time do you spend on each piece?
From conception to production to shipment, a custom product can take several weeks to finish. But on average, an Anne Cate skyline product can be created within 25 minutes.
How do you balance owning a full-time Business and going to school at the same time?
I can’t admit it’s easy, but it is well worth it! School always comes first, but any free time in the evenings and weekends is dedicated to sewing, networking, and marketing Anne Cate. There are advantages to going to school and running the business, as I am applying what I am learning directly to the business. So I am working even when I am in class! Staying organized is key to help the balance of work and school. I do not know what I would do without my planner and Post-It notes!
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Being able to create products that have a different meaning for every customer is a highlight of Anne Cate. I love creating and developing products that move people. Alongside the customer interaction, it is very rewarding to be able to create my own success through a job I love. Running my own business means working all hours of the day and night, but most days it does not feel like work. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work at a job I love.
Is there a community of makers that you're apart of? Where do you find support?
Over the past year I have met so many inspiring and unique artists. Meeting business owners through trade shows in both Cleveland and New York, I have learned extremely beneficial advice. Alongside these connections, the Etsy artist community is strong and offers great support and advice. Many of us have similar passions of quality and creating, so the support comes naturally.
How do you deal with problems or challenges that may arise in the process?
Problems are inevitable when running any business, but remaining positive and strong helps me get through the hardest of challenges. Seeking out advice from advisors or other business owners is always beneficial. Above all, the customer is always first along with the quality of a product. Customer service is very important to the business and Anne Cate will do all it can to resolve the problems that arise.
What's next for you? Any new projects or developments?
I am very excited about growing Anne Cate. Anne Cate is currently working on scaling up to grow not just the product, but more importantly, the brand. I am in the process of developing new product accessories aside from the skylines with a focus on quality, practicality, and simplicity that I am hoping to release this fall. This summer, I am excited to be participating in the Cleveland Flea, the Cleveland Bazaar Markets, and the Randolph Street Market in Chicago. As I am finishing up my last year of college at Kent State, it is my dream to pursue Anne Cate full time one day, whether it is via eCommerce or a brick-and-mortar boutique. I am driven to continue creating quality, meaningful, Made in America products!