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Life & Business

Life & Business: Kera Thompson

by Sabrina Smelko

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Kera Thompson is the design-driven creative force behind the global textile brand, Interwoven. As a former model, a mother of three, and a world traveler, Kera’s collective experiences have shown her just how interwoven the world can be (which is exactly what inspired the company’s name). Kera sees the world as a giant community, and believes that beauty comes as a result of cherishing the good around us — and each and every fashion-forward piece she makes is just a small reflection of that beauty, be it a rug, cushion or quilted throw.

Today, Kera is joining us to share some honest and relevant insight into her brand and business, and the valuable lessons she’s learned along the way; from the importance of fear for building strength, planning ahead and self-belief, to my favorite nugget of wisdom: “the thing that keeps you up at night has to be acknowledged and fed.” –Sabrina

Portrait photography by Chaunte Vaughn

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

As a mother of young children, my desire was to be home with them. It was a luxury I didn’t have as a child, and I was determined to find a solution to being home full-time while still pursuing my passions. Working for myself allowed me both flexibility and the ability to shape Interwoven exactly the way I want to.

Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was and how you knew it was what you wanted to do?  

I’m constantly in the learning stage, but an overwhelming feeling always comes over me when I am on the ground working with suppliers and artisans. In the thick of travel and exploration, surrounded by the lives of people so different from my own, I see we really aren’t so different. The desire to share that “connected” feeling, and of course my love for textiles, was what inspired the brand.

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Image above by Jessica Peterson Photography

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

Probably the thing that my husband is constantly telling me: Never sell yourself short. Believe in yourself.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Dealing with shipping and international logistics. I was living in Abu Dhabi at the time, and finding the right partner to deliver goods, quickly and efficiently, was a challenge.

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Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

PLAN AHEAD. It’s so easy to get behind in purchasing, especially given that the goods I curate are often handmade from artisans in remote areas, often requiring longer lead times. Planning ahead is absolutely of utmost importance!

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

There was a moment a year or so ago where I made an ambitious decision to place a large order based on the convenience of it, assuming that people would love everything because I was already seeing success. I loved the pieces, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I would decorate with them in my own home. I think that directly had an impact on sales, and now I’m determined to truly ask myself: “Am I absolutely OBSESSED with this? Could I use it, and style it in my own home?” The buying process might take a bit longer, but things rarely go wrong when I trust and listen to my gut.

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If you were magically given 3 more hours per day, what would you do with them?

I’d use [them] to get outside with my kids. Hiking, park outings, anything where we can unglue ourselves from our screens and just enjoy each other.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

This may sound like a cliché answer, but I don’t look at anything I’ve done so far as a sacrifice. Every donkey used to carry rugs out of the medinas in Morocco, every drop of sweat and backache during photo shoots and back-end work, and most importantly, every fear and feeling of inadequacy when I look at the beautiful work my competitors are doing, has molded me into a better, stronger person and businesswoman.

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Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?

I’ve been lucky in terms of press to be featured in some really great print and digital publications. I’ll never forget when I got an e-mail from the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar Interiors to do a feature. I just about died, but then realized that there was a real chance of success for the brand.

What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

This D*S Life & Business column! I love how easy-to-digest, honest, and applicable they always are. I am also so happy to see D*S featuring so many businesswomen of color! Being able to see myself reflected in the media is so encouraging for me personally. Also, I LOVE the Magic Lessons podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity.

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Image above by Jessica Peterson Photography

Has failing at something or quitting ever led to success for you? Walk us through that.

I feel like I’m currently walking through failure and still searching for success in a lot of areas! So you’ll have to do a “Where Are They Now?” follow-up post in a few years. ;)

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

Your passion, the market, and having a financial runway. You have to truly love what you’re doing in order to stay committed to something when the going gets rough. I think it’s important to add that I don’t love every aspect of running a business. For some entrepreneurs, it may be the process, or maybe it’s the finished product, or it might simply be about the money – whatever it is that drives you, the thing that keeps you up at night, has to be acknowledged and fed. You also have to assess whether your business fills a gap in the market, and what is going to set you apart from your competitors. And whether it’s a business loan, $300 in your savings account, or a KickStarter campaign, having capital to sustain you while you are growing is essential.

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Image above by Kate Osborne

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

Staying motivated and focused. I can imagine how nice it would be to be accountable to someone other than myself. To be able to hand over the reigns when I’m feeling overwhelmed with all my other roles in life sounds dreamy. I think for me in particular, it’s really hard because I’m still running Interwoven almost entirely by myself. There’s an element of loneliness to that that I hope to remedy soon.

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