Name: Kim Kogane
Position: Creative Director, Owner and Founder of Fresh Tangerine
You’re currently in Seattle, but you said you were born and raised in Anchorage, AK. What was it like growing up there?
Dark and cold. I spent a lot of time pursuing different hobbies and interests. You have to get a little creative during the winter when it’s dark by 3 or 4. My mom loved to host “craft parties” where we would invite friends over to make random holiday decorations. I think I learned pretty much every craft that way. I spent most of my summers at my family’s cabin fishing and hanging out by the river.
What is the fashion, boutique, maker scene like in Anchorage?
There isn’t one? There are a few boutiques in Alaska. My favorite is Her Tern, which was one of our very first stockists and continues to be one of our best stores. Alaska is about 5 years behind everyone else, so I think that just now people are starting to discover handmade brands.
Would Fresh Tangerine have a place in Anchorage today or has the brand grown to be something much bigger?
I think that there is definitely an appreciation for Fresh Tangerine in Anchorage, but I can’t see our studio being there.
What brought you down to the contiguous 48 states?
While I love Alaska, I always knew that I wanted to leave and go to school somewhere else. I ended up at a small liberal arts college in Oregon where I double majored in Math and French. I had the opportunity to spend a semester studying in Paris, and it completely changed my life. I fell in love with the city (so much so that I had its coordinates tattooed on my wrist), and I discovered that my love for traveling and exploring new places. I originally planned on going to grad school for architecture, but I felt that I needed a break from school after graduating so I decided to spend a year teaching English in France. When I got back to the states, I decided to move to Portland, OR. I didn’t have a job or an apartment, I kind of just moved there hoping for the best.
So Fresh Tangerine was born in Portland, OR. Tell us more about the early years of FT.
I was working at a day job that I didn’t really like, and I was really wanting to go back to France and travel more. I also couldn’t really see myself working in a corporate office job, and I knew I had to find a way to have a flexible job that would allow me to travel. I originally started Fresh Tangerine with the idea that it would be a side job to supplement a teaching income in France. I bought a bunch of supplies, signed up for some local craft shows in Portland, and spent every night and weekend designing, making jewelry, and trying to establish my brand. After the holidays, I was approached by CRAVE (a guide book that features female owned businesses in different cities.) I spent another 9 months working full time and spending all of my free time on my business. In August 2011, I was able to quit my day job to work on Fresh Tangerine full time.
Tell us more about what inspired you to move the brand to Seattle?
After working on my business full time for a little while, I started to really plan out what I wanted the business to look like. I quickly realized that I didn’t see a future for my business in Portland, so I decided to pack up everything and move to Seattle in 2014. It was definitely a risky decision, and one of the harder transitions I’ve made for my business.
At what point did you decide to expand your team and hire help?
When I first moved to Seattle, I was doing everything. I could barely keep up with all of the orders coming in, and I was also trying to set up the studio. I realized that if I wanted to focus on growing the business, I would have to find people to help with the daily tasks. Looking back, I should have hired people right when I moved instead of trying to do everything myself for 6 months.
In what ways have you seen your business evolve since you moved to Seattle?
I feel like Fresh Tangerine has changed so much since moving to Seattle. Finding my dream studio and creating a space that inspired me was one of the best parts about moving.
What is your favorite part about working for yourself? What is the most challenging part?
I love that I have the freedom to make my own schedule, even though I usually stick to normal hours. It feels good to know that the work I put in has a direct result in my business, and that I get to choose how to grow and what I want my job to look like. I definitely think the hardest part of owning your own business is that you never really stop working. I don’t get to leave my work problems at work, and there are no guarantees. Sometimes I miss having a steady paycheck, but I wouldn’t trade what I have to go back and work for someone else.
What does your average workday look like at the FT Studio?
I feel like every day is different! I start my day by walking to the studio and listening to a podcast. The first hour or so of my day, I drink my coffee, check emails, and make sure that everyone has what they need to complete their tasks. Some days I spend a lot of time working on random tasks/troubleshooting and others I work on larger projects and long term planning. I would love to have daily time to work on new designs and inspiration. We always eat lunch together as a team. I think this time is important, because we get to know each other on a more personal level. After lunch I usually check in with everyone, and then at the end of the day check to see what I didn’t get done and what I need to focus on tomorrow.
I’ve seen a lot of inspiration drawn from Paris on @freshtangerine’s insta feed, have you been there before?
Yes! I’ve been to Paris many times. I spent a semester studying there in college, and could probably go on forever about how amazing it was. My first trip to France was when I was 15 with my school. I immediately fell in love with the city and knew that I would go back.
I saw your tattoo on your wrist has the latitude and longitude of Paris. Would you move back to the city?
YES YES YES! or OUI OUI? Paris is where I feel most at home, most myself, and most inspired. I would love to spend a few months out of the year there.
One of the hardest things about designing is staying inspired. What do you do to find inspiration and beat your creative block?
I wish I had a good answer for this. I feel like I’ve been dealing with a lot of creative block and burnout lately. I try to find something that gives me an idea or piques my interest and go from there. It’s also important to understand that you need breaks and to be ok with that.
Who is your idol and why?
There are so many people I look up to! I think my top 3 right now would be Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, and Diane Von Furstenberg. They are all strong women who are doing things on their own terms. I admire each one’s ability to be unapologetically themselves.
Where do you see FT in 5 years from now?
I would love to see Fresh Tangerine carried by a larger retailer. I want to grow our team, get our name out there, and continue create jewelry that is affordable and well made.
What advice do you have for yourself 5 years ago?
I would say that it’s ok that you don’t have everything figured out. 5 years ago I didn’t even know that I wanted to own my own business. I realized that my plan (which I made when I was 12) was not something I wanted to pursue, and I was just trying so hard to find a place where I could fit in. Now that I’m older I’m starting to realize that it’s better to just stand out.