This week I had the opportunity to interview the creator of my favorite socks, Kristina Lake. Kristina Lake is the creative director and CEO of Dreamers & Schemers, a company which creates uniquely patterned socks.
Why did you start Dreamers & Schemers?
I started D&S because I grew up in the Hunters and Equitation and there was not much room for personal expression, silly socks are a conversation piece and they let you express yourself in a way that is usually acceptable by almost all trainers :)
The sales side of me would tell you that under $20 impulse purchases are really important to have in your shop and add up at the end of the day!
What inspires your new designs?
Everything inspires me, my friends, my family, hanging out at horse shows, conversations... Anything can spark a ridiculous idea!
What is your design process through production like?
Like I mentioned above, I get inspired by pretty much everything, so I have a list on my phone, and I refer to it often. Sometimes we test patterns or themes using our 'Limited Edition Collections,' and if they sell out quickly, we tweak them and add them back the following season. I always have a few unfinished graphics that are open in AI, sometimes they get completed, and sometimes I get over them, and they get scrapped.
The production process used to look much different than it does now, let me assure you! We used to print all the socks by ourselves for a spell. It was very labor intensive, and we could only crank out about 100 pairs a day; it was not enough.
After about two years of going through multiple manufacturers in North America, we got hooked up with a fantastic manufacturer overseas, and we are so happy with them! We have toured the factory and have met everyone who works on the D&S production team. We are headed back in the Fall for our annual meeting and to go over a few new products... stay tuned!
What is your favorite item to sell?
I love selling anything that I am excited about, so the new socks are always my fave.
What is the hardest part of running a small business?
Keeping motivated and on task. I get bored quickly so staying focused on what I am doing is sometimes a bit of a challenge. I also used to feel very lonely and isolated. I love talking through issues and brainstorming- it helps me sort out my head and conceptualize, and it was frustrating for me. I have a GREAT TEAM now, so it is much easier for me to get what I need.
What is your favorite part of owning a small business?
I have two things-
1. I love seeing people react to the socks. Not a lot of people know me by sight, and I have always kept a low profile in the equestrian industry, so it has been easy for me to observe people discovering the socks at different shops and events. Some of the emails and DM's that I have gotten have been so kind; they make me cry.
2. Helping other people. I am always so honored when someone reaches out and asks for advice, I love working on other peoples issues, brainstorming and sharing my experiences. I have no problem sharing ideas, I do not feel threatened in the least and I believe there is a place for everyone and every business if you are going to put your own spin on things. But I am not into carbon copycats. You need to find your own passion or else it will always be an inauthentic journey, and how is that satisfying?
Have any tips for our readers about building up a small business?
Be open and ask lots of questions. You need to be able to accept criticism with grace and dignity. Not everyone is going to be into your idea but be realistic about its viability and, be ready to pivot to something else if your first, second and third idea do not gain traction. Because you will fail, you NEED to fail to get better and develop yourself as a business person. Learn to recognize the type of people you need to surround yourself with. Some people that you may have in your life might not realize it, but they do not want you to change, and unfortunately, those are not the people you need in your life. Release them with love and move on. You only have one life to live, and you need to follow your own path!
What is your equestrian experience?
I used to ride competitively on the Trillium and A Circuit in Ontario, Canada when I was a teenager. I was a working student for Jennifer Gray for many years, and I learned so much about proper horsemanship, independence, and hard work. I get a lot of satisfaction from physical labor; it clears my head and puts me in almost a meditative state. I was not a particularly great rider, but I loved working with the young horses and loved the flatwork.
I look back on those years fondly, I think at one point, I would have continued on to be a professional groom- I have quite a passion for it.
After school, I got completely out of the equestrian industry and moved into the Action Sports Industry for many years, I worked for Burton Snowboards, Gravis, Ripcurl and Hurley and had a wonderful, successful sales agency, but no time for ponies :(
Then, an opportunity came up in my home town- I opened an Equestrian Boutique called Dapple Gray in Collingwood Ontario and jumped right back into the Equestrian Industry with both feet. After I sold that business, I started to help equestrian brands with their social media, and that turned into an equestrian specific social media agency... I have worked with so many of the top brands and media groups and have learned so much... But last year it was time for me to focus on Dreamers & Schemers, and the agency was dissolved.
I have not had horses in my life for a few years (outside of stuffing them with treats at HITS Coachella outside of EQU Lifestyle Boutique), but I would like to work on my fear of trail riding this summer. I would also like to be confident enough to be able to exercise ride in the morning's next winter at HITS with my EQU Fam Jam. It is frustrating when your brain and body do not work together- My nerves get in the way, and I have a bit of a problem with being too hard on myself, but it is something that I am aware of and actively trying to work on!
You can get your own pair of Dreamers and Schemers socks here for 10% off using the code BITS.
Don't forget to check out my review of Dreamers and Schemers socks here!