KARRIE KANEDA // HAPPY HABITAT
Fellow Kansas City gal, Karrie Kaneda founded Happy Habitat after she was laid off from her job in advertising. Owning one of her blankets myself, I can tell you that they very high quality, and are warmer and cozier than I ever imagined.
How did you come up with the concept behind Happy Habitat?
Happy Habitat started with the thought that your surroundings affect your mood. Not knowing exactly where Happy Habitat was going to take me, I thought that name would encompass whatever was in store. I’m a homebody, and I like to look around and feel good about where I am.
Once you knew you wanted to launch Happy Habitat what steps did you take to make that a reality?
It’s funny because I actually didn’t really even know I wanted to ‘launch’ Happy Habitat. It just sort of happened. After getting laid off from my corporate job, I was trying to figure out what to do with myself. I went to what I love — decorating houses, and the thought of being happy in your home. So I started a blog. I didn’t really know why or what to expect from it, but I felt like it was a step in the right direction. At least I was moving towards something that I enjoyed and felt right to me. If nothing else, it was a place to document design ideas.
Looking back over those first blog posts, I see that my interests were often about pattern and color. While learning how to design a blog, I started playing with patterns. I am not a trained designer, so I downloaded GIMP (it’s like Photoshop but is free). A designer friend spent an hour with me explaining the general idea. I didn’t even know what a ‘layer’ was! I was stubborn and really just wanted to figure it out on my own, so I did a lot of ‘how to’ Googling to figure out how to use it.
At this time, I was literally collecting unemployment, so everything I did was free. GIMP was free, and I used it on my old PC, and my blog was on Blogspot, which was free. I spent a lot of time back then just Googling how to do things — HTML, pattern making, SEO, photography. It amazes me what one can accomplish just finding information on the internet!
After a while, I came up with some solid patterns, and was trying to find what to do with them. I tried my hand at stationery — I’d say my products were just OK, nothing special. Then I found phone cases — I could order them custom, one at a time, so there was really no investment. So I tried my hand at that, and had success with that. I added a shop to my blog at that point. It was $9.99 a month, so I was just hoping that I would actually get sales. And I did, somehow! Meanwhile, I had been looking for a person to make blankets. I really wanted a Moroccan-patterned throw, and there were none out there — so I thought that was a good sign.
After many attempts I finally found the right product. Over time, I changed from a PC to a MAC, from Blogspot to my own URL, got myself a decent camera, but I still use GIMP. Since my designs aren’t complicated, I’ve stuck with it!
Why recycled cotton?
This is the best part. I knew that whatever I did, it was necessary for it to be good for the world. I didn’t want to just throw another junky product out in the world. Finding the recycled cotton was the key. Using recycled cotton is making use of something that would otherwise be thrown away.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
When a magazine or any other press says they want to feature your product, don’t believe it until you actually see it in print.
What has surprised you about starting & running this business? Continue reading…