My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.


A Vat of Ink Inspired This Craft Ecommerce Company

A Vat of Ink Inspired This Craft Ecommerce Company
Image credit: Katherine Wolkoff
The Kindcraft’s Lauren K. Lancy eating it up.
Magazine Contributor
Entrepreneur Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the August 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

My husband and I took an “Around the World in 80 Days” honeymoon in 2010. We visited 13 countries in Asia and Oceania, the Middle East, Europe and South America. Then I returned to my career as a freelance fashion designer in New York. But I felt changed.

When you go to design school, you imagine yourself draping fabric and sketching ideas, but the work I was doing for big brands wasn’t hands-on. Mass-market American fashion is made overseas, which means you can come up with a color story, fabrics, prints and patterns, but the rest is text and emails with China. Back at work, I couldn’t stop thinking about my visit to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi, where I saw intricate, ethnic traditional dress designs. They weren’t made for the runway or sales; they were handcrafted by a community of women who pass down these garments and skills from generation to generation. It spoke to my heart.

In 2012, I began volunteering for a small ethnology museum in Luang Prabang, Laos -- but I was doing it from New York. A year later, my husband and I moved there. We were both freelancers who could work from anywhere, and I wanted to take a yearlong consultancy for the museum. I visited rural villages, and I took my first trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I stood over a vat of natural indigo dye and thought, This is magic. I have to tell this story. Chiang Mai had a lot of creative young people making contemporary art in a way that felt more organic than the artisan-style “maker movement” happening in Brooklyn, NY, and Portland, Ore. So in March 2014, we moved to Chiang Mai. 

That’s when I started The Kindcraft. At first, I didn’t even have a business model in mind. I just wanted to celebrate the makers of traditional art and contemporary craft, and I knew this would be the way to do it. I began developing products with some of the local makers I met. Being here and building relationships is what makes collaboration possible. There’s a mutual respect: “You’ve got some amazing skills, and I’ve got some ideas. Let’s put our heads together as equal partners.” 

But with only a $5,000 startup fund, I needed to be strategic about money. I learned basic business things like LLCs, bank accounts, production budgets and online retailing. A photographer friend agreed to do all my product and press shots for a reduced fee. Other friends helped me license and edit the music for a video. My mom had just retired and agreed to do order fulfillment, allowing me to offer quick shipping to my U.S. customers. I bootstrapped as best as I could.

In July 2015, The Kindcraft  expanded to become an online store, and I posted the first 25 products for sale on a Squarespace ecommerce shop that I built myself. I’ve since added about 15 more, and I occupy every role in the company -- buyer, designer, product developer, writer and editor. I’ve also set some goals: In the near term, I want to add staff, grow my audience and increase sales; in the long term, I want to open a brick-and-mortar space somewhere in the States, to function as a design studio, store and workshop venue.

None of this will be easy, I realize. But I stay motivated by remembering why I’m doing it. When I worked for big brands, I didn’t know what was going on along the supply chain. Were people being treated fairly? I couldn’t tell. But as an independent small-business woman, I know all the hands that touched the thing I am selling. I know how much they got paid, and I know they haven’t been working crazy overtime, because we’ve been working on it together. Sure, I want to make money. But my products have to be made by human hands, and by people who are happy to be making them. I can make that happen.   —As told to Ashlea Halpern

More from Entrepreneur

Kathleen, Founder and CEO of Grayce & Co, a media and marketing consultancy, can help you develop a brand strategy, build marketing campaigns and learn how to balance work and life.
Jumpstart Your Business. Entrepreneur Insider is your all-access pass to the skills, experts, and network you need to get your business off the ground—or take it to the next level.
Starting, buying, or growing your small business shouldn’t be hard. Guidant Financial works to make financing easy for current and aspiring small business owners by providing custom funding solutions, financing education, and more.

Latest on Entrepreneur