Today we’d like to introduce you to Ysabella Delgado.
Hi Ysabella, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Kikay started in the summer of 2019 vending in person at @purenowhere shows. We had so much fun creating earrings and connecting with so many cool and creative people that summer that we decided to dive in and open up an online shop. At the time, we were rising sophomores in university. I was learning web design and my business partner Quinn was learning to code, so we thought it would be perfect to apply our skills to a new venture together. During my freshman year, I was dealing with a lot of anxiety, diagnosed with ADHD and was feeling really lost. As our little business started to grow Kikay became an outlet for me to channel my creativity and helped us to find focus in a productive way. It brought a lot of meaning and direction into our lives. Kikay is a really fast-paced business. We have very short turn-around times because we release a new line every two weeks which may seem a bit too hectic on top of our university course work, but the truth is that it’s the fast pace that really fuels our creativity and actually helps us to stay focused in all aspects of our lives. We are really lucky that as partners, we have complementary skill sets. Quinn takes care of all the back-end and business management – from coding, finances, customer service, fulfillment and production. I take care of design, production, social media, and marketing. We like to think that together there is nothing we can’t do and if we hit a stumbling block, our combined strengths manage to figure things out.
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?
One of my greatest challenges has been combining the artist in me with my entrepreneurial spirit. As a young artist, it took some time for me to find who I wanted to be and what I wanted to create. Then as an entrepreneur, I had to find a way to combine my art with the vision I had for my business while still staying true to my creative side. I think what is a little unique about us is that unlike many of our counterparts in traditional retail, we don’t view our earrings as products, we view them as pieces of art and our store was created as a way to share our art and then marketed in a way to promote creativity. It was a struggle to find this space because this isn’t the way a typical fashion brand is run. We don’t plan seasons ahead of time. We don’t even plan beyond the launch we are working on. Every two weeks, we start with a blank canvass and design each line based on whatever theme is inspiring us in that moment. While this is the part of the business we love the most because we get to start on a blank canvas so often, and each line’s foundation is built on an artistic vision, it was scary for us at the start because we didn’t really have a model to follow.
There were businesses that sold earrings that were made on a large scale in factories abroad, and there were smaller Etsy style shops that sold handmade pieces. But there wasn’t a model that combined the ethical creation of art with the ability to scale. That goal to provide our art on a larger scale remains one of our biggest hurdles today because as students, we are limited by the number of hours we can devote to our business. So finding that balance and continuing to push ourselves to grow is a daily struggle. Over the last decade, fast fashion has really changed the retail landscape. Although the rise of small businesses due to Covid has made an impact on this engrained landscape, it remains a hurdle for these small businesses to change the mindset of the average consumer. Factory produced goods are oftentimes seen as tried and tested and handmade products come with the stigma that they may not have the same standard of quality. However at Kikay, we work really hard to show consumers that handmade can be high quality.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
At Kikay, we create affordable, lightweight, and badass acrylic earrings! Our products are not designed with one type of person in mind and are each piece of art made to be worn by anyone who wants to wear them. We are a mom and pop shop – except we are two 20 years old who aren’t married – working out of our college housing to make our dreams come true. As a brand our goal is to make fun, handmade jewelry accessible to everyone. Whether you need your earrings as they come, clip on or nickel-free, we can adapt any pair to fit your heart’s desire. An aspect of our business we are really proud of is our ethical supply chain. We are acutely aware that our medium is acrylic, a plastic, but something that most people don’t know is that the majority of our materials are upcycled. We knew from the start that we wanted to work with recycled material but we didn’t want to be about just that. While we think it’s really cool to be a recycled material brand, we wanted to create things that our consumers would be surprised to learn were made out of recycled or upcycled materials.
Working with signmakers in the Los Angeles area, we purchase scraps of acrylic that are too small to be used in their projects, keeping plastic waste out of landfills and giving the material a new life by designing and making it into fun earrings and other accessories. We are committed to being conscious creators, whether that be the materials we use, the packaging of our products or the energy we share with our community, we strive to always try our best to think of our footprint and impact. We are young and don’t really have a plan. We are growing alongside the community that we’ve built while producing art that we love, candidly sharing our lives and connecting to an amazing world of people we love. When people see our company and see our successes, I don’t want success to be the only thing they see. I want them to see the mistakes that we grow and learn from, the hard days and our challenges. Because as young people making our space in this world, we have our flaws and we want others to know that they can also follow their dreams – flaws and all.
Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
I love to watch soap-making videos while working on earring production! The videos are the perfect mix of relaxing, educational and just inspiring to watch other entrepreneurs do their thing. I used to watch a lot of Netflix before while working but was finding myself a little uninspired by just binge-watching shows and I found that watching other creatives is a great way to keep my mind occupied while doing physical tasks and keep me inspired! My two personal favourite soap makers are Bramble Berry and Royalty Soaps.
- Earrings range from $12-$25
- Earring hangers range from $45-$60
- Refillable notebooks range from $45-$55
- We also sell hair clips in the $5-$10 range