Do not underestimate the result when the entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic of a young horse woman are combined with a mother that encourages her daughter to "dream big."
TKEQ is a result of founder Kaelyn Kennedy searching for a creative solution to both work and gain experience as she was applying to universities for Business School and also finishing her junior riding career. At the time, her primary residence was Alberta, but she was training and competing in B.C. She recognized e-commerce as a viable business regardless of her location. To make a long story short, TKEQ was formed in 2016 and the letters have a special meaning because "TK" represents "Team Kennedy" and the bond that connects Kaelyn with her mom through horses.
Today, Kaelyn is a student at the University of Calgary where she is studying, marketing and exponentially growing her line in both size and product offerings. While she has had to forego competing on the hunter/jumper circuit for the time being, her mission to promote confidence in the industry through positive messaging remains a cornerstone of her label.
I interviewed Kaelyn in the Spring of 2017 (the interview can be found at bottom of page) and I am beyond impressed with the contemporary business skills and "grit" she has utilized to build a successful brand that remains to grow and thrive. I recently interviewed Kaelyn to gather details about TKEQ's fall collection and it is evident that her business and creative acumen haVE created a line that is spot on for the fall season- from Street to Stable.
ENTREPRENEUR TO ADMIRE
Name of Company: TKEQ
Entrepreneur: Kaelyn Kennedy
Year Established: 2016
When we first interviewed you last year about your label, TKEQ, the brand was known for its clever quotes expressed in linear fonts and hand applied by small batch screen-printing on t-shirts and sweatshirts. After reviewing your 2018 fall catalog, your product offerings have become much more diverse in style and offerings.
As the lead creative designer, how have you grown your line?
Since the beginning of TKEQ, I have strived to take designs to a new fashion forward direction with each launch. The Fall 2018 Collection truly reflects this. Embroidery has proved itself extremely popular amongst the TKEQ clientele; majority of the Fall Collection features embroidery which has allowed use of more interesting fonts from Victorian/ Gothic to Modern.
Our garment colour palette has also increased substantially! TKEQ is known for focusing on a monochromatic colour palette, which is now complemented with hints of Light Blue (Capri), Muted Grey (Ash Grey) and, my personal new favorite, Burgundy (Cranberry).
Another key element of TKEQ is the fit of our garments! The “Competition Shirt” feel of our Tees is popular among riders. We’ve stayed consistent with this proven shirt as well as our tdie-for Sweatshirts! Fall presented us with opportunity to release the Boyfriend Tee, a brand new style and flavor for TKEQ. The Boyfriend Tee fits relaxed and casual, allowing you to tuck it, tie it or let it be with jeans and breeches. I am super excited about this new style and I hope our clientele is too! (Pre-sale Launch October 1st)
The original messaging on TKEQ clothing focused on the hunter and equitation disciplines as well as spreading positive messaging to women of all ages. Your audience has incrementally expanded. How would you describe today’s TKEQ clientele?
Our clientele has definitely expanded and diversified over the last year. I find the clientele has grown together with TKEQ and myself, which melts my heart! It’s exciting to see the evolution and maturing process take place. TKEQ’s clientele is definitely confident, positive and well fashioned.
The introduction of the Pony Kid Collection brought a whole new audience too! Our positive and confidence focused messages are evident in this Collection.
Pony Kids have been an amazing addition to our clientele. It seems to have created a crazy crossover between the two groups… Ladies want sayings from our Pony Kid Collection and Kids want the sayings from our Core Collection.
Being able to design garments with sayings that resonate for all ages thrills me! It’s awesome seeing girls journey from the Pony Kid Collection to our Core Collection!
This year TKEQ created branded clothing for one of the most prestigious hunter/jumper events in the U.S., the Devon Horse Show. How did TKEQ become involved on this level of representation and who chose the messaging for this event?
During AETA in Pennsylvania I had the honour of meeting Molly Klinges and the ladies from the Devon Horse Show Souvenir Shop. The idea of custom tees was bounced around initially, but it wasn’t until later in the spring that we collaborated to create the souvenir tees! It was extremely important to me that the tees represented both companies properly. We used the famous Devon blue of the Devon Horse Show and the well-known sayings from TKEQ. I suggested Ring Leader and Grand Prix Wanna Be for sayings, which were complimented perfectly with blues and white.
Being able to create Tees for the Devon Horse Show was such an honour. I am very grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity and hope that the Devon Horse Show and TKEQ collaborate again in the future!
What has been the most challenging aspect of growing TKEQ over the last year?
As of January, I officially moved back to Calgary, AB after being in Langley, BC for two years. Since moving back, I have been directly managing the majority of operations! I am able to be extremely hands on now as TKEQ and its artisans are based in Calgary. The quality and consistency of products has increased because of this. Forecasting is challenging – especially when your clientele is constantly growing. We have clients from Canada to Dubai to Denmark to Singapore to the United States.
It’s reassuring to see the colour scheme that I’ve forecasted appear in mainstream outlets like NYFW (New York Fashion Week).
Distribution is another factor that has had its ups and downs! We’ve been extremely lucky with an amazing team of retailers across North America. Our very first Tack Shop was in Arizona, Halo Horses Boutique, and after that it took some time to find more of the correct retail partners - then it was a dozen at once! Finding likeminded partners and collaborating to curate the right mix for their clients, is an extremely important practice to me.
As a company that has successfully grown from being considered a start-up to that of an established label, what is the best advice you would like to share with entrepreneurs in the early stages of their business?
As cheesy as it may sound, don’t give up! There have been a few times where I have been ready to throw in the towel. Being an entrepreneur is difficult when you have to be your own boss as well as your own full-time employee. It may take some time but once you fall into your rhythm, things take off!
Patience, my grandmother always taught me, it’s a huge aspect of life. I have also learned to focus on the little victories as well as taking mistakes I have made as learning experiences. At the end of the day, trust yourself, work your butt off, don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s and be patient!
TKEQ is known for fantastic pop-up shops. Where can we look to find the label in the future?
TKEQ Pop Ups are super fun!
I love meeting our clients; it’s always a blast. We just finished the Spruce Meadows Masters, which was a whirlwind! Next stop for us The Royal West (Calgary, AB) then The Royal Winter Fair (Toronto, ON)! We do have some plans to go to the States for some Pop Ups too. The locations and details will be released very soon on our website. We have a Pop Up Shops page so you’re always in the know!
ONLINE STORE: https://www.tkeqtheshop.com
CUSTOMER CARE: email@example.com
ORIGINAL INTERVIEW: SPRING 2017
Name of Company: TKEQ
Entrepreneur: Kaelyn Kennedy
What inspired you to start TKEQ?
I really wanted to gain some work experience as I was applying to Universities for Business School. My primary residence is in Alberta, but I train and compete in B.C. for most of the year, so I knew I had to come up with a creative solution in order to work regardless of where I am based. I have always loved fashion, and thought it was a great fit for starting an e-commerce business. Since my life is based in the horse world, designing equestrian inspired apparel is great mix of my two passions.
TKEQ is specifically known for witty horse show related quotes. Who is behind the creative process and deciding what reaches the consumer?
I am the creative force behind TKEQ. I personally make all of the decisions relating to the selections of the quotes, graphic design of the fonts, garment styles, and color choices. I test the shirts to make sure the fit works for my style, as well as being comfortable to wear when riding. The overall aesthetics of TKEQ has been carefully curated to represent my riding experience I enjoy the traditions of the Hunters and the precision of the Equitation classes. That being said, I also want to offer positive messages that focus on building confidence but are also fun. All equestrians, regardless of their discipline, somehow relate to my shirts.
Who is involved in running TKEQ?
I am grateful to have my mom helping me with the business side of TKEQ. I am in my last year as a junior rider, so technically I needed an Adult for all of the legal aspects of starting a company. Luckily she has been a big supporter of TKEQ, and has encouraged me to dream big!!
What is the most challenging part of running your own business?
The most challenging part of running my business is adjusting to it’s growth. The learning curve has been interesting, but I have found many amazing mentors along the way. We recently did Mother’s Day collaboration with Amy from Hunt Seat Paper Co, which was great fun and we are partnering with Shelby from Mane Jane to do a pop-up shop at the Spruce Meadows Masters this September. I have been overwhelmed with the positive feedback within the equestrian business community. It is really amazing to see your product worn or incorporated by someone who believes in what you are doing. Now I am trying to adjust as the consumer level increases to ensure that our products, and customer service stays at the same level.
What differentiates your TKEQ from others in the same category?
There are a couple of details that differentiates TKEQ from other shirt brands. I think the most oblivious is the understated approach to the design. Our designs are more modern in their color palette and linear graphics. The style of our tees is very rider friendly, with a tapered fit, and conservative crewneck. The fit allows for a streamline look with enough length to neatly tuck into your breeches.
TKEQ is not mass- produced but rather hand printed in small batches, ensuring quality over quantity. Most of our tees are 100% cotton, but I am testing some performance fabrics for long sleeve schooling shirts. All orders are inspected and packed by hand. I wanted to ensure that when you receive your order that it is better then you expected.
What is your connection (to the equestrian lifestyle?
Horses have been part of my life since I was five. My mom also rode, and together we were known as Team Kennedy, which later was shortened to “TK”. We had so much fun showing together until I started to compete in the higher levels and she became my groom.
For the past three years, I have been competing in the Junior Hunters and Equitation Medals. I moved to Langley, B.C. in 2016 in order to compete in the USHJA divisions. Last year, I purchased EZ (Easy Street) who is competing in the Second Year Green, Junior Hunter and Derbies. This is my last year riding as a Junior, and I hope to continue riding as an A/O next year.
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Read below for this week's interview with Arianna discussing her vision for Le Fash Lifestyle, her collection for 2019 and insight into the future of her popular label.
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