We had the good fortune of connecting with Keilee Simms and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Keilee, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor that I credit to the success of The Kitschy is Godʻs guidance and love Without Him, none of this would be possible-from the actual conception of The Kitschy to the amazing customers (Kitschy Chicks) who continue to support my business, it has all been from His doing. God has graciously given me a platform to share my love for Him, while having the privilege to make a living off of the passions I had since I was a child. A Bible Scripture that summarizes why I think The Kitschy is successful is summarized with our brand’s Scripture, 1 Peter 4:10-11. It states, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” And one way I serve others is trying to give back to the Hawaiian community that has raised me, The Kitschy donates 15% of profits each month to two non-profit organizations that uplifts Native Hawaiian interests. This includes donating to organizations that help Native Hawaii community members and another that helps to restore the ʻŌhiʻa Lehua throughout the islands. As I use my God-given talents to glorify God and serve others, I am confident knowing that I am successful in God’s eyes.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As of right now, Iʻm focusing my art of handmade polymer clay earrings and linocut prints. Iʻm currently researching new product ideas that I want to implement in the near future. Some things people can expect are polymer clay hair clips, naturally-dyed tote bags, upcycled apparel, and much more! One aspect of creating my art is ensuring there is intention behind it, meaning, Iʻm not simply creating an excess amount of products just to make a profit. As one of The Kitschyʻs core values is sustainability, I want to align the creation of my art with that value as best as possible. I interpret intentional creation as having multiple uses for something. For example, I hand make the paper I stamp my linocut prints on from failed sketchbook drawings. This ensures that Iʻm giving trash one more chance at life before ending up in the landfills. It was important for me to do in-depth research of how I can conduct my business in an eco-friendly manner that translates into my products as well.
In addition, one of the most proud moments was actually developing my 100% recycled packaging! Staying on path with my eco-friendly values, I drew inspiration from TikTok videos to have my sister sew paper grocery bags as the actual packaging of The Kitschy (again, trying to repurpose “trash” one more time before going to the landfills). Then, I make the earring cards and thank you notes from the same method I do as my linocut print paper. And finally, I use shredded paper as my packageʻs cushion instead of plastic bubble wrap. With these efforts, I got positive feedback from customers who appreciated the detail and intention behind the packaging which made everything worth doing!
Of course, there have been many trials along the way, with one of them coming into my role as a maker and business owner. From a young age, I have always wanted to become an artist, but never saw it viable in high school and early in college. No one directed me on the path of going to an art school or pursuing it seriously. I only did it as a hobby that brought joy and pride when I created something. However, taking my first ceramics class my sophomore year of community college opened my eyes to a world of makers whose job is to create art! How awesome is that?!
With that being said, the biggest lesson I learned is that if youʻre passionate about something from your childhood, chances are you still like it! That has been a huge wake up call to me throughout college because art has always followed me along the way, there was no escaping it. So, instead of watching what other people are doing, hone in on the skills you have right now because I wish I was more serious about pursuing art from a younger age.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I think if someone was visiting a special place like, Hawaiʻi, with a unique and heartbreaking history, I would recommend them booking a tour at ʻIolani Palace first and foremost. It only seems right that if you are visiting a new place, their history and culture is something you should want to research and be sensitive about. You will be transported back in time when touring the magnificent palace and really see the intelligence, innovation, and heart of Hawaiians from the very beginning. My father took me to ʻIolani Palace as a child to learn about the place I get to graciously call home, while remembering the selfless actions of the Aliʻi (chief, monarch) and Kanaka (Hawaiian people) who came before.
Next, being from a town like Kāneʻohe, Iʻd say itʻs the perfect mix of country and subtle city. The Koʻolau Mountain Range is breathtaking and I would instantly tell my best friend to take in the beauty of the mountains that have brought me so much peace from childhood. You will be awestruck with amazement of something that looks so unreal!
And of course, some of the best places I like to walk around, get some lunch and dessert is Kamukī! This city is filled with tons of mom and pop shops who have overcome many obstacles within this past year due to Covid-19. You can find various shops along the strip of Waialae Avenue! Some of my favorite spots to visit are Pipeline Bakeshop (my favorite ice cream is Averyʻs Chocolate Avalanche), Via Gelato (a great place for people with dietary restrictions: vegan and keto), Every Day Better by Green Meadows (eco-conscious boutique), Shaloha PITA (get the Shaloha plate), and Donut King (the best maple bacon donuts)!!! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, my family has always been a huge supporter of my endeavors. They have always been encouraging and never once instilled doubt within me of opening a small business. I am forever grateful for their genuine excitement to see me accomplish my ultimate goal of growing The Kitschy into an art-cafe that will (hopefully) reside in my hometown of Kāneʻohe. In addition, I was humbled by my 2-year experience at Windward Community College! Without going there, I don’t think I would’ve realized what I want to do as a business and I’m thankful for the positive resources I was able to take advantage of. One of them being my employment at ʻUala Leaf Cafe (ULC) under the supervision of Dan, Noe, Steve, Mahana, Char, Carolynn, Aunty Iwi, and Nat. Without my ULC ʻohana, I would be lost trying to navigate the food service industry. From their extensive knowledge on business, culinary, agriculture, and Hawaiian culture, they have bestowed me with life-changing values that I hope to implement for The Kitschyʻs art-cafe!
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