Kent State Fashion Merchandising Student Turns Passion Into Pay
For most college students, the search for a post-graduation career is one of the most stressful aspects of their collegiate experience. For Kent State University student Anne Skoch, a junior fashion merchandising major, her post-graduation career has been in the works since age 13.
Upon graduation, Skoch will transition from full-time student to full-time entrepreneur as the owner of Anne Cate.
Inspired by Skoch’s full name, Anne Catherine, Anne Cate is an online boutique that features skyline silhouette pillows, zippered purses and other accessories.
“Anne Cate is a simple, sweet and sophisticated accessories boutique with an adventurous twist,” Skoch says. “My products are great for the passionate travelers, the city dwellers and the adventurers, but they’re also for the people who want to take the comfort of home with them wherever they end up.”
Skoch says she always has had a knack for creating things, hosting craft shows with homemade purses and other accessories she would make in her spare time. At age 14, with the help of her mother, she turned her hobby into a business.
“As I started to sell things locally, my mom suggested I create an actual shop and begin selling things on Etsy,” Skoch says. “At the time, the website was fairly new, but I still use it today. It’s been really cool to grow with the website.”
Skoch began selling an assortment of handmade products, but in January 2016, she decided to hone in on a specific product line. The business she had been running online since age 14 needed a fresh face, and Skoch decided to focus her efforts on skylines she has grown to love.
A Cleveland native, Skoch began to create accessories based on the Cleveland skyline and soon decided to expand. Currently, her product line includes more than 50 skylines, including those of Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh and other American cities. She also sells products with international city skylines of London and Paris.
“If a customer comes to me and asks me for a specific skyline, I’ll make it and add it to my collection,” she says. “I’ve received orders for skylines such as Honolulu and places that people might not first think of. The expansion of the skylines has really offered great success. My popular skylines aren’t even just Cleveland; they’re St. Louis, Seattle, Denver and Portland. It’s been beneficial to get that data and see what has really gained popularity.”
When rebranding, Skoch decided to take her business to the next level. She reached out to LaunchNET Kent State, a free resource for students, faculty and alumni of Kent State. LaunchNET Kent State provides entrepreneurs and innovators the tools to excel in their ventures, hosting pitch competitions, weekly workshops and speaker series.
Through LaunchNET Kent State’s services, Skoch was able to trademark her business and structure it as a limited liability company (LLC). Skoch also has participated in and won regional pitch competitions to which she was invited through LaunchNET Kent State.
“LaunchNET Kent State really helped me with the next steps because you’re always thinking forward to grow the business,” Skoch says. “They got me into pitch competitions and helped me develop my pitch and grow my business in all aspects. I’m so grateful for them because they really have guided me through things I wouldn’t have known how to do without them.”
Anne Cate has seen great success since the rebrand, which Skoch attributes to LaunchNET Kent State. In October 2016, LaunchNET and University Communications and Marketing secured Anne Cate a media spot, where she was featured locally on WKYC and nationally on TEGNA-owned stations. Skoch says the national media attention has led to a 900 percent increase in sales.
“There has not been a day without sales in October, and we have already surpassed our holiday season sale projects before December even started,” Skoch says. “This company is growing faster than we can produce products, but with proper investments, Anne Cate can scale up and grow not just our product, but more importantly, the brand.”
LaunchNET Kent State will help students at any phase of an entrepreneurial endeavor. Working with Lynn Buchinsky, a part-time venture adviser at LaunchNET Kent State, Skoch is able to receive advice from a seasoned professional.
“As LaunchNET advisors, we want to spread innovation to all areas of any Kent State campuses,” Buchinsky says. “We aren’t just for business majors or entrepreneurship majors. We are for every major, every minor, every student and every faculty. We want to teach people the tools to be an innovator.”
Buchinsky says she assists Skoch with everything from the legal aspect of a business to general advice for day-to-day operations.
“I’m watching her get home run after home run after home run,” Buchinsky says. “We’re giving her the tools, but she’s such a charismatic, passionate, detail-oriented individual who is wise beyond her years. I’ll give LaunchNET some credit and give myself a tiny bit of credit where it’s due, but it takes a student who is willing to put the time in. She’s such a sponge; she’s so willing to learn.”
For Skoch, learning in the classroom translates to better learning her business. Along with her fashion merchandising education, Skoch is minoring in entrepreneurship.
“Kent State, on so many different levels, has helped me,” Skoch says. “This success is coming at a weird time, but I honestly don’t think it would be happening if it wasn’t for Kent State. I am applying the things I’m learning in my classes at the Fashion School and the business school directly to my business."
In addition to her web sales, Skoch has begun to sell her products wholesale. Her products are sold at American Greetings and Monica Potter Home boutique in Cleveland, along with six other boutiques in the Cleveland market.
To view Anne Cate’s product line, visit www.annecate.com.