A boutique geared toward helping local artisans grow their business is opening in downtown Raleigh. Kindred, located on Wilmington Street near Gravy, will feature up to 40 local designers and provide business mentoring and development classes for artists making luxury products.
“A designer who comes on board is buying a space,” said Michelle Smith, Kindred’s creative director. “We want a space that looks like a beautiful boutique but is an incubator at the same time.”
In addition to offering a retail space to generate sales, Kindred provides artisans business mentoring through a partnership with EntreDot—a majority partner in the operation—which aligns experienced business professionals with entrepreneurs to provide business advice through early stages of development. Kindred will also offer industry specific classes in its space on a variety of subjects, classes that will be free to artisans renting a shelf and available to the public at a cost.
Smith is not new to the local product scene. She founded the annual Rock and Shop Market in 2004 and created indienc.com, which began selling local products online before transitioning into a blog.
On Kindred’s calm blue walls, wooden wall units hang. Mas Satos, a Rock and Shop veteran who makes children’s furniture, designed and built the pieces. The modular units allow space for a variety of products—from jewelry and pillows, to wallets and stationary.
“All the artisans are coming from different places. Some have been doing it for 11 or 12 years, while some are brand new,” Smith said. “We’re trying to meet them at their individual stages.”
Kindred classifies as a non-profit. The concept is a combination of Smith’s previous business endeavors selling local wares with EntreDot’s mentoring angle.
“There is this cliché about starving artists, and its kind of true,” Smith said. “Everybody who starts a business is passion-driven. But I think artisans are less monetarily driven than, say, someone who starts a tech company. So our mentors are not industry specific. They come from different industries and provide generalized business knowledge.”
Smith sites a variety of stores selling high-end pieces—each a division of a larger company—that serve as a model for Kindred. Shops like Anthropology, a division of Urban Outfitters, Madewell from J Crew, and West Elm, a subsidiary of William-Sonoma, Inc. offer consumers an exclusive feel. Products in those stores are curated, chosen specifically for their individuality, and Kindred will operate with a similar mindset.
Smith has plans to help designers achieve a greater level of production if artisans want to expand. She hopes to connect makers with local seamstresses or manufacturers and help build a manufacturing base available to local designers.
“A shirt may be an $80 shirt but the artist is only making $6 an hour because of the time that goes into it,” Smith said, speaking of the work-intensive handmade items Kindred will sell.
Kindred will connect the work with profiles of the designers and their process, educating the consumer on the time and effort that goes into each piece.
Of the 16 wall units available, Kindred has two or three places open, places being held for whatever might come along after news of the opening spreads. Kindred will create exclusivity through its careful choosing of what is sold.
Kindred will open its doors to the public with an event on Friday, October 27, from 6 to 8 p.m., and will begin retail operations the following day. The boutique is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to purchase some final interior pieces, including shelving units, lighting, a partition wall and signage.
Much like the Makery, an online outfit recently profiled in New Raleigh, Kindred is tapping into North Carolina’s growing contingent of seasoned artists. Each company’s success hinges on a belief that the community will decide to buy locally.