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Meet Kristin Oldach of KraeO HANDMADE

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristin Oldach.

Kristin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Its funny, my story about the start to of my career is not one of passion, its one of necessity. The passion came later. I Started KraeO handmade in 2011. I had just finished a graduate program at SAIC in May of the previous year and was planning on being a painter in the art world. My partner at the time and I found out we were expecting a baby just one month after I graduated, and my whole world changed. I had just finished school and didn’t have a job.

I was pretty sure no one was going to hire a pregnant lady, not to mention it was 2010, so there wasn’t a whole lot of hiring going on as it was. Especially for an over-educated artist. I made the really tough decision to stay home with my son for the first few years of his life. But I wasn’t going to stay home without figuring out a way to make money doing it.

Etsy was at the top of its game at the time and I saw all these people working out of their home selling all kinds of crafty stuff. I thought I can do THAT! I tried to be really practical about it. What was something I could make that would be cheap and easy to ship? The answer? Knitwear. So I took to youtube and taught myself to crochet (it was way faster than knitting). A few months later I listed some items in an Etsy shop and the rest is history.

I like to think I was lucky. It was that the timing was just right. Selling handmade goods was at the height of its trend. I had a lot of things fall into my lap. Stores started contacting me to place wholesale orders.

Organizers were contacting me to participate in their craft shows. It was great. But all the while it was still just a side hustle. It wasn’t until a few years later when my partner and I split that I had to take it to another level. I was still just a stay at home mom who had been out of the workforce for a number of years. I again decided to make the tough decision not to seek a 9-5, but to make KraeO handmade my full-time gig. Instead of waiting for opportunities to fall into my life, I started going after them.

Has it been a smooth road?
Running your own business has its ups and downs. Especially when you’re a one-person show. Because I primarily make and design winter accessories, there a is a season for buying. Spring and Summer are always rough months for me. So my biggest struggle is managing my income during my busy season to set myself up for the spring / Summer drought.

Other struggles I come upon have to do with designs. I make a few new designs every year, and when they don’t sell, I have a hard time letting them go. I always think its because I’m not marketing well enough, but really its just that people don’t want it. So its got to go! I often have to check my emotions at the door.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with KraeO handmade – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I’m a knitwear designer. I primarily make winter accessories and also handmade knit accessories for the home. I’m also in the process (along with my better half) of developing a line of luxury hand-dyed yarns for other makers.

I’m most proud of growing this business all while maintaining an accessible price point for everyone. It’s important to me that my products are affordable while maintaining the integrity of being handmade.

I get asked what sets KraeO handmade apart from other knitwear designers a lot. We’re definitely in a time where everyone and their grandmother is teaching themselves how to knit. I get the proverbial ” I can make that” all the time. So instead of dismissing those people as “not my demographic” I’ve worked to develop products to MAKE them my demographic. I now sell my patterns and yarn so they CAN make it!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
OH CHICAGO!! I love this city so much. I grew up in Boston and have lived in many cities throughout my life, but Chicago is the first city that really felt like home to me the way Boston always has. The people are amazing. I’m so grateful that I get to raise my son in such a diverse community. He goes to school with kids of all different races and socio-economic backgrounds. It’s very important to me that he grows up around all different kinds of people.

I love that I can walk around the corner to get a cup of coffee before walking down the street to the park. I love being able to support so many independently owned businesses. I love that every weekend in the summer there’s a group playing music in the park, where I will inevitably hear one of my favorite Buena Vista Social Club songs.

What I like least? parking tickets, potholes, and sales tax! Sometimes I feel like they’re getting me every which way! hahaha

Pricing:

  • Abington Infinity scarf -$88
  • Burlington Pom Pom hat -$36
  • Patterns- $4-$5

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Lynn

    April 18, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Awesome interview!

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