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PR’s Impact on Khristian A. Howell’s Business

A close up look at how exposure gave this pattern designer’s business the push it needed.

My second What’s in Store business interview is with Khristian A. Howell of, well, Khristian A. Howell! I love when a business owner names their business after themselves. It’s gutsy.

We met up in a coworking space connected to a Tex-Mex restaurant in Atlanta. We’d rented out a small room where we could spend a few hours hanging out and getting familiar with each other and with Khristian’s product. In hindsight, we probably should have met up *in* the restaurant over margaritas. Next time, Khristian!

Khristian is a pattern designer. The cool thing about her work is that while her customers are buying items like throw pillows, phone cases, and wrapping paper on her site, what they’re really buying are original and unique collections of patterns.In fact, she does a whole lot more with her designs than just sell products online; she licenses her patterns to other brands and the product appears in large-scale retailers, like Bloomingdales, West Elm, and Target. I knew absolutely zero about design licensing, but Khristian’s a good teacher. Basically, you sell your design to a third party who handles all of the manufacturing and distribution of the products that get printed. All licensing contracts are a little different, so at any given time Khristian might have a single pattern that shows up on a variety of products from different licensing partners.

It sounds like a win-win, but it can take a long time to get going. Khristian told me, “Once you get your first partnership, you many not see profit for at least a year. If you are interested in licensing, you must be prepared to have other sources of income going while you get started.” As we got to know each other, I also became interested in her take on press and its impact on her brand. “We have been very lucky to have amazing press from the start,” she admits. “Press features lend credibility to your brand and have the power to open doors and get conversations going with key decision makers.”

But while KAH has reaped the benefits of some great press hits — Khristian’s work has appeared in well known magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, HGTV Magazine, and Elle Decor, and she’s been on The Today Show — she remains humble and is quick to emphasize that press isn’t an instant key to success.

Of course, sometimes press does convert to instant sales, and small businesses like KAH aren’t always prepared for that. Khristian told me about a time when a write-up in Real Simple generated tons of sales, but she didn’t have enough product ready to fulfill all the orders. She and her team had to do all the printing in-house at the time, and it was a real struggle to get everything done by her deadlines. I guess it’s true that all press is good press, but it comes with a price.

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