If you haven’t come across Kraftsy on Facebook or Instagram, hate to say this but you have been living under a rock my friend. Kraftsy is a Sri Lankan handmade footwear business run by a daughter and a mom (Crystal Koelmeyer and Kanthi Koelmeyer). Currently Kraftsy is specialized in footwear made out of “crochet.” Other than crocheted shoes, they also have leather, handloom, denim — basically ‘something for everybody’. They are passionate about conserving crochet but the mission is to provide customers with stylish and comfortable shoes; those two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Starting their journey back in September 2015, their business has grown steadily while gaining a wild popularity on social media. If you check their Facebook or Instagram pages, you’ll see how satisfied their customers are!
Kraftsy is a successful business now but things haven’t been the same when they started. Crystal Koelmeyer, the spearhead at Kraftsy shares with us how she went from 0 to where she is now. We read so many stories about “accidental” entrepreneurs. The same theory is applicable to Crystal Koelmeyer. If you’re are a creative who enjoys crafting and building things, maybe this is your “triggering point” to start your own business!
If someone asks you in a cocktail, “what do you do?” How would you answer?
I make shoes. I also write.
Can you outline a typical day in your “shoes”?
In my Shoes! I saw what you did there. Well I have a day- job. I am the business editor at a weekend newspaper and I also manage all promotions, marketing, customer affairs for Kraftsy. I try to give my 100% in both places. Not easy, but possible. Luckily for me, my jobs don’t conflict with each other.
I check my mails, Facebook, Instagram and take orders, respond to mails and messages first thing in the morning. Then before leaving for work, I go to the workshop and brief my team on what has to be done within the day; basically give them targets. Then I work 9 to 5. I come home and my assistant gives me a status update – how much work is done, how much work is left etc. Then we wind up for the day. That’s pretty much how I roll.
I do have a life outside of work though. I think it is important to have hobbies, friends etc.
What is the potential in Sri Lanka for handmade products?
Handmade things are not cheap (labor intensive) So, locally, it’s hard to compete with cheaper alternatives/imports. That’s the reality. But, there is a niche, a segment of customers, who understand the value and are willing to buy handmade products. They don’t look for cheap. They look for good. Unique. This is my market.
Outside Sri Lanka, there is potential; especially in developed countries. There is a demand because our products are handmade – those from the west know the value but don’t have the time to sit down and make things themselves. Also, we have a story to tell. They are happy to buy from us because they know by purchasing these; they contribute to empowering women in a country less developed than theirs.
Did you always want to become an entrepreneur? What was the triggering point in your journey?
Nope. I was a journalist. Long story short, I was a journalist and I used to break my shoes frequently. So my mother who is a vocational trainer by profession made me and gave me a pair of shoes that I wore without an issue for a longer time. I posted a picture of them on Twitter and thereafter I had people asking me where I got those from and if I could make for them too. That’s how it all started. We’ve sold quite a lot since and never looked back. I never wanted to have anything to do with business. But then, look where we’re now –business editor, running a business.
What do you most enjoy about “being your own boss”?
It’s stressful. The responsibility and the notion that there are families that you have to feed or depend on you for a living itself is stressful. And there are a lot of third parties you have to deal with. You have to make sure your staff is happy, your customers are happy. They say you can’t make everybody happy but you have no choice but do the impossible when you’re an entrepreneur. Not trying to scare away aspiring entrepreneurs but things are not as fancy and smooth as they seem. You have to grow a thick-skin and stand your ground yet and be flexible sometimes. You will learn as you go.
I don’t think I am boss. I’m just a team player. I have my specific duties and responsibilities. So do others. We’re all bosses at Kraftsy.
What was the biggest fear you had when launching Kraftsy?
You can’t be afraid and be an entrepreneur. I launched Kraftsy as a side gig. But three months in, I quit my job to do this fulltime and streamline things a little. That was a risk. First three months the sales were good and then next three months, after I quit the job, things started to slow down. Imagine the horror. Now I was unemployed and on a sinking ship. I just kept at it anyway. Things picked up after we launched heels two months later. You just have to keep innovating. That’s the only way you can survive actually. You don’t have to be afraid really – channel all that fear into productivity and creativity instead.
Do you ever feel demotivated? How do you overcome it?
You’re not going to be liked by everybody, but that’s perfectly fine. Getting a grip on this reality is key. As cliched as this sounds, when one door shuts ten will open. Just do what you do and give it your best.
If nothing goes right, go sleep. You will wake up with answers.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in your life? How do you feel about it now?
Can’t really think of anything.
What are your hobbies? Apart from Kraftsy?
I write and I make shoes. Other than that, I’m very much into DIY (Do It Yourself). I break things and make things. I try to make my own clothes as much as possible. I sing (my friends don’t let me, I do anyway), I watch reruns of Modern Family, try to keep fit and I like hanging out with my friends.
If a person with a 9-5 job wants to start their own business, what is the best advice you can give them?
Hold on to your day job. Trying to live off of your business is a very bad idea. It will come to a point when you have to quit and focus. But when things are stable and the business can run by itself, get back to working; while you’re young and you can. Depends on the job also. That’s just my personal opinion. I’m in a field where I get to meet people. My job itself is where I learn from, to become a better businesswoman.
What movie, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, do you have to watch when it’s on?
I’d like to say something serious and fancy but it’s gotta be Borat.
What are some of your favorite books?
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary and the Holy Bible. These are my go to books when in crisis.
If someone wants to learn about “crochet” in Sri Lanka, what’s the best path available?
Come to my mom. I wish there was a place where people can go to learn, but unfortunately there isn’t any such.
What are you excited about?
Men’s range. In the works.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Just do it. You have to start somewhere. Take that leap, opportunities will find you. You just need to start somewhere.
What are your future plans?
We are looking for more retail outlets so we can make the brand and its products more accessible. Hoping to shift to a bigger production facility, maybe around early next year. To launch the website, mid next year.
How can someone reach Kraftsy?
Did You Enjoy This?
Then sign up to our weekly newsletter so you won’t miss out on great posts like this. We share practical guides on starting your own business, money and creating a meaningful life in Sri Lanka. Add your email and hit submit!