Kayti O’Connell Carr | Founder and Designer at MATE the Label
Introduce yourself to the LFC community by curating your dream outfit and where you would wear it to.
Hello, hello! If we are talkin' dream outfit and setting it would be a white threadbare tee with worn-in white denim, while dining outside with a good bottle of vino!
Talk us through the process of starting MATE the Label. We’ve read about the traditional story (in your lovely interview with The Cult Collective), so tell us about the bits and pieces of building your own brand that you may not have been aware about until you were already knee-deep in the water.
I started MATE as a hobby without knowing anything about the apparel industry. With each step, there have been very challenging moments accompanied by major learning curves. The industry is tough. You have to trust your gut and accept that in order to grow, you must make those scary yet necessary decisions. No one can tell you when it is right to get your first office space, or hire your first employee. The process of creating a business feels similar to having a baby (which I haven't experienced), but is kinda like this thing that you have to nurture on the daily and pray that it doesn't fall on it's head.
You were working in finance before you took on your own venture with MATE. What steps did you need to take while making that transition and what insight could you provide to women who may want to enter a new industry but hesitate due to fear of the unknown?
For about a year and a half, I was working a full-time finance job and juggling MATE on the side. It was absolutely terrifying giving up a salary and benefits to see if I can make it work. Fear of the unknown is inherent but also is a woman's intuition. Go for it!
When you were starting out with building your brand, were your friends and family supportive of it?
Yes, 100%. I needed daily support and reminders from my loved ones to just KEEP GOING . My husband definitely walked me down the "what the hell am I doing" ladder on many occasions.
When starting out, did you have a team that you could work with? Or were you doing everything on your own? How big is your team now?
When I first started, I was handling everything from design, production, wholesale, shipping, marketing, etc., etc. I now have four amazing full time employees that make my world go round. It's an exciting time and I feel so fortunate to work alongside a talented and hardworking team.
What was one of the most exciting moments for you as the founder and designer of your own label? The jaw-dropping, hey, I made it, moment?
That feeling hasn't quite hit me yet, but seeing MATE in the wild or girls emailing us how much they love the brand is the BEST.
How do you maintain a balance between providing your customers what they want when they want it with your dedication to sustainable and ethical practices as well as working with local factories?
Being made in Los Angeles is a big part of our brand. We have partnered with factories that are all within a 5-mile radius of our HQ. This means that we are able to check in on development and production on a daily basis. We are very hands on with each step of the process and love being able to build relationships with the people that are making our product.
You’re clearly a woman on a mission with a passion for leaving the earth a better place than you found it; we love that so much. What advice would you share with someone looking to turn their passions into a business?
Reach out to as many people as possible in the business and ask as many questions as you can. I think connecting and sharing experiences with other entrepreneurs is vital.
Explain a typical work day for you! Day to day what are you spending the most time working on?
I take 15 minutes each morning to prioritize and plan my day. After that, I check in with my team about their own priorities and then we each set out on our own tasks. Lately, I have been spending a lot of time on researching and evaluating new operational systems and also growing our e-commerce business.
What does being an #entrefemmeur mean to you?
Being an entrefemmeur means relentless persistence. So far, it has a crazy difficult ride but also has been filled with immense satisfaction and joy. Entrefemmeurs are a major source of inspiration; thank you for doing what you do, LFC!