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Hidden Gems: Meet Kat Ruvalcaba of Poppy Chain

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kat Ruvalcaba.

Hi Kat, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Born and raised in LA, my story begins during my four years of undergrad at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was there amongst my fellow scrappy creatives that I had complete freedom to explore every artistic outlet imaginable. Like most college-aged students with very limited disposable income, I soon became acquainted with every resale, vintage and thrift shop in the city. What began as a hobby of tailoring and refurbishing my own unique ever, rotating secondhand wardrobe turned into a side hustle. After graduating from school and trying to decide on my next move, my side hustle became more financially stable and dependable than my service industry jobs. At that point, fashion had become my passion and I went all in–it was euphoric thriving off the excitement of everything I was working on. Eventually, I made the move back to Los Angeles to be closer to my family. Knee-deep into running my vintage shop, I became fixated with the idea of learning how to make jewelry. Somehow through trial and error, I ended up teaching myself. I started offering random jewelry designs I created in my online shop and the demand from customers allowed me to hone my technical skills. It’s been a wild ride throughout the years. Sometimes downright exhausting and bleak. However, it doesn’t compare to the rewards. Waking up every single day excited to make things for people as well as all the creative connections I’ve made over the years keeps me going.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Far from smooth. I’ve pivoted many times in terms of direction and my overall business plan. Everything is always changing, especially now with the pandemic, supply chain issues and inflation. Honestly, it’s taken the pandemic for me to really put things into perspective. I’ve finally started to pursue additional avenues of income and am not allowing that to make me feel like a failure. I think it’s just realistic at this point.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My business “Poppy Chain” actually began as “Poppy Chain Girl”. This was while I was still living in Chicago, working with vintage clothing and feeling nostalgic for California. Originally working as a resale buyer, vintage curator and tailor allowed me an alternative from fast fashion. I’m really stubborn about trying not to sacrifice my ethics or beliefs. Venturing into jewelry as “Poppy Chain” I never had to sacrifice any of my standards luckily. It just took me plenty of research to discover the best way/places to source materials. It still comes down to choosing quality over quantity. It’s still just me running every aspect of my business for better or worse. I enjoy being able to make decisions. I could easily listen to advice from others and source dirt-cheap-throw-away-chatski materials to increase my profit margins. In which case I might as well just close-up shop so to speak–as the mere thought of that goes against everything I’ve built. My customers can always count on a personal touch–I like to think of them as my friends. I’d never send my friend a piece of junk.

We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
A lot of people end up being surprised that I still run every aspect of my business myself. The jewelry design, online presence, art direction, marketing, ALL OF IT. It’s definitely a lot of work, but I enjoy every bit of it.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
My professional personal photo was taken by my friend Robert Chambers. All of the other photos were taken by my friend Kiele Twarowski.

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