Shelly Kennedy, Drooz Studio
Name: Shelly Kennedy
Hometown: Skaneateles, NY
Current Residence (City, State): I currently live in my hometown of Skaneateles NY, a small town at the end of Skaneateles Lake â€“ one of CNYâ€™s beautiful Finger Lakes. I am lucky to live near my parents â€“ all of my family actually! After college I lived in Chicago for 10 years (my Husbandâ€™s hometown) â€“ as the kids were reaching school age we thought it might be nice to live â€œthe small town lifeâ€.
Education: I attended R.I.T in Rochester New York, (Rochester Institute of Technology) I began working on a Fine Arts degree in Illustration. I changed majors in my 2nd year to marketing â€“ I guess realizing that I would someday want to have my own business. I graduated with a Bachelors degree in 1993. I think it was a good move â€“ it is very important for creative people to have a good grasp of business as well.
Professional Background (brief, please): Ohâ€¦ Iâ€™ve done lots of stuff!
I have to say that I have been very lucky to always combine my love for art and business in each job that Iâ€™ve had. Right out of college I worked in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart for a few years as an independent sales rep. It was great experience â€“ and I learned many things that have helped me be at the other end of the biz as a wholesaler today. I then worked as a Director of Merchandise for a small chain of gift stores in Chicago for a brief time. Then I went back to working sales at the Merchandise Mart in Chicagoâ€“ this time working in the contract interior design section. I worked with fabric, furniture, wallpaper, and office planning â€“ consulting with designers and architects that were planning new spaces. I left that job in 1998 â€“ just before my daughter was bornâ€¦ drooz was started later that year.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: an artist!
What you are: an artist!
Brief Summary of your Start Up: It was the answer to a decorating dilemma! The perfect alternative to a traditional wall mural. In 1998 when my husband and I were waiting the arrival or our first baby we were inspired to create a magical mural for the nursery. However, living in Chicagoâ€™s hip Wicker Park, we found ourselves unable to paint the nursery walls our rented flat. Instead, we chose a large canvas, painted a whimsical design and hung in our daughterâ€™s room â€“ this was the first of many inspired ideas!
Company Website? www.drooz.com & www.tinytiara.com
What inspired you? It sounds clichÃ© â€“ but I was filing a need. I thought â€œhummmm â€“ I canâ€™t be the only mom who might like this idea â€œâ€¦ I looked and looked… but could find nothing like our large scale original art or “movable murals” for sale â€“ the â€œinternet boutiqueâ€ was just about to happen â€“ and there were maybe 4 or 5 online baby boutiques (ahh .. those were the days!) so I decided to start selling them locally in the city of Chicago at a wonderful baby store. I could not make then fast enough! The retailers loved the quality and the custom capabilities.
How long have you been in business? 10 years
How did you fund it? We made it happen with slow growth along with creative friends and family! Self-funded with baby steps.. The big expenses out of the gate were a website, photography, & sales materials.
I am blessed with a â€œdesignerâ€ husband .When we very first started my husband designed our website…he still today helps with the website, and does all the catalog and promo layouts.
The first catalog we shot at our house in our kidâ€™s room. We have a close friend that is a photographer, he came over after workâ€“ we put the kids to sleep â€“ and then we moved them to the couch so we could â€œuseâ€ their rooms! â€“ it took hours to prep, light, and â€œmerchandiseâ€ the shots! But we did it!
Do you have a Fairy Godmother (or Mentor)?Â No..
Do you belong to any Business Organization or Networking Groups? No! Iâ€™d like toâ€¦but seems to be at the bottom of my â€œif I have extra timeâ€ list.
Current Business Challenge? Copyright Violations of our designs and products. Unfortunately, the more popular and successful we becomeâ€¦the harder it is to control this. The whole copyright violation thing is tricky (what percent is same?..what percent is different?â€¦) but come ON! We all have eyes! It is just as easy as what is wrong verse right.Â It is a matter of trying to replicate the look, feel, and soul of a design. That is not done by accident or ignorance.
What are you doing about it? Trying to stay positive, creative and NOT take it personally (although I DO!) Continuing to work hard on new designs and try to stay ahead of the gameâ€¦ and â€œcompetitionâ€.
Getting the word outâ€¦ discussing with other artists.
Favorite motivational quote:
â€œFortune favors the braveâ€
Family? Yes, married with 2 children.
If so, how do you balance family and business? Still working on this one! I have great support from my mom and dad â€“ they help with the kids a lot. My husband is very forgiving if there are no dinner plans, or clean socks. Really the kids are most important â€“ and with this career I am able to have the flexibility to be there when they need me â€“ school events, sick days, soccer practice, music lessons, doctorâ€™s appointments etcâ€¦ Sometimes it means that I work late from home answering emails that I didnâ€™t get to all day â€“ Sometimes it means going to work when the rest of the family is catching a movie â€“ it is all a trade off.
Favorite book? Whatever Iâ€™m reading at the momentâ€¦ currently â€¦â€œeat,pray,loveâ€ by Elizabeth Gilbert, And
â€œthe girlâ€™s guide to being a boss (without being a bitch)â€ by Caitlin Friedman & Kimberly Yorio
What do you do to relax? Relax? Whatâ€™s that? â˜ºHave a glass of wine and chat on the couch with my husbandâ€¦ once the kids are asleep, of course!
What do you want to change most about your world?MY world â€¦. Or THE world!
For my worldâ€¦(as in the kids industry) I wish there was more honesty and camaraderie. Sometimes it seems so personally competitive and just down right sneaky! Iâ€™ve been burned a few times â€“ so I guess Iâ€™m pretty sensitive to this subject! I do have a handful of â€œindustry friendsâ€ that I know I can count on for advice, ideas, support, etcâ€¦ that is nice!
What are you most proud of? My kids.. I know it is clichÃ© â€“ but it is so true!
When ever someone tells me â€œyou have really great kidsâ€â€¦
It is like 100x better that any compliment I could receive about myself!
What advice would you like to offer other Startup Princesses?
1.Honesty is the best policy.
2.Listen to your â€œgutâ€™ feelings.
Gut emotion is goodâ€¦ and usually where youâ€™ll end back up even after much deliberation!
Favorite Magic Wand (tool/resource)?
Email! Keeps me connected to family and friends and allows me to keep up with work communications with at any hour. (usually ALL hours!)
If you could design a tiara, what precious stones would you use? Wellâ€¦ Iâ€™m lucky enough to say .. I HAVE designed a tiara! Mine is made of blown glassâ€¦ but If I were to design one of precious stones.. I would like to see one completely embedded with all stones â€“ just randomâ€¦ like it was dipped in glue and rolled aroundâ€¦diamonds to pond pebbles.