photos by Joe Turic
Today’s Biz Ladies profile comes to us from Mandy Kordal, owner and designer behind Kordal knitwear. After graduating from college and learning the ropes in the fashion industry, Mandy decided to pursue her passion for knitwear, buy her first knitting machine and create her own collection. Today Mandy shares a bit about her career story. Thank you Mandy for giving us a glimpse into your journey. —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I have always wanted to have my own business, although it wasn’t until I had worked in the fashion industry for a couple of years that I realized how much I enjoyed working with knitwear. My university was set up in a way where you attend class for three months and then go out on an internship for three months. This opportunity was really wonderful because it allowed me to realize early on that I loved working on a small team and needed to be doing work that was more hands on. After graduating, I went to work with the designer Doo.ri, this experience was great because I was designing all of the collection sweaters and got to work with local manufacturers. It was at this point that I rediscovered my passion for knitwear and decided to buy a knitting machine. I had no idea that it would snowball into what my business is now. It’s been such an amazing journey!
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
When I first started the business I decided to take it step by step – do all of my research, and take a few months to re-learn the knitting machines. Allowing myself this time of development was really helpful for me because I was able to be more thoughtful about how I wanted the business to take shape. I knew that I only wanted to design knitwear, it was the most exciting for me and I thought that it made sense to focus on one category and perfect my craft. I also knew that producing all of my knitwear in New York would be a defining point of my business, I wanted to work with local knitters and keep the collections small and as sustainable as possible.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
I would say one of the best pieces of advice when I was first starting was to just start. Don’t keep putting off your launch, or making that website public, etc. until every last detail is accounted for and perfect. Your business is going to go through many changes and it’s never going to be perfect. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do your research and prepare. I just think it’s important to keep in mind that things will evolve and change and the best thing you can do is get out there and take that leap!
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
I would have to say being exhausted, broke, and did I say exhausted? :) There are a lot of highs and lows. One day your on top of the world, you just showed your work at a gallery and it was amazing! The next day your catching up on freelance work until midnight, realizing you haven’t seen your friends in months and wondering why you put yourself though all of this? But it’s those amazing moments that make it all worth it.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Be a nice person! Most industries tend to get smaller the longer you work in them and it doesn’t help you to burn any bridges. It also helps to make friends with other small business owners, they understand what you are going through better than anyone else. I am so grateful to know some really amazing designers who I can now call if I need advice about work. It also makes for some beautiful collaborations.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
Two summers ago I was in the DENYC program. It was a summer long program where we had three weekend intensives and then were guided throughout the summer to write a business plan. At the end of the summer a selected group was chosen to present to a panel of industry members. I was chosen to be one of the presenters, which is amazing except I am horrible at public speaking. By the time I arrived to the presentation I was already flustered and nervous. When I went up to give my speech, I had the worst stage fright I’ve ever experienced. It was probably the worst presentation I’ve ever given. I wish I could redo that opportunity!
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
I guess two things, but they go hand in hand. First one was successfully funding my business on Kickstarter, which gave me the encouragement and funding to actually launch Kordal. Second was getting an article in the New York Times for my Kickstarter project, which was honestly one of the most exciting moments! (It was also my birthday the day the article ran!)
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Eek, I actually don’t know if I have any books to recommend. I did a lot of online research, panels, and workshops. If the person is interested in a starting a business in fashion I would definitely recommend DENYC to help write your business plan. Also the Brooklyn Public Library has a small business competition and they set up great workshops to help with your business plan. I think its mostly about networking and finding meet ups with other creatives in your field.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Make sure you absolutely love this business. It is going to be incredibly difficult, you will be pushed to your breaking point and will have to really sacrifice.
2. It will take you on an unexpected path, so be open to how things unfold and flexible about how things will grow and change along the way.
3. Get some experience first, save up some start up capital or look into crowd sourced funding, and do your research!