Making It: Kent State grad fashions Anne Cate accessory business

Makers: Anne Skoch
Business: Anne Cate, skyline purses and accessories handmade in Mentor    

Anne Skoch [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

How did your business get started?

Anne Cate started when I was a sophomore in college, when I went to create some pillows for my dorm room. They were just some simple pillows with my favorite city skylines on them, and one Facebook share led to another and people really encouraged me to start selling these products. I've always been a creative entrepreneur and have had my own business since I was 13, selling random purses and accessories on Etsy. So when it came time to start selling these skyline products, I knew where to start. I started selling them on Etsy, and within several months, my 19-year-old self was having many sales and had a national retailer inquire about wholesaling. From that moment on, I realized that there's so many places that impact us and that our products exemplify that, and that there really could be a unique business idea within these skyline products. I spent the rest of my college career working on Anne Cate and growing it, which led us to where we are today: Five years later in our own manufacturing studio with a team of three wonderful women sewing, creating and fulfilling our products.     

Skoch in her college dorm room at Kent State University. [Anne Skoch]

Early designs of Skoch's skyline pillows. [Anne Skoch]

Describe that entrepreneurial spirit you had back when you were only 13 years old.

When I was 13, I realized I could make money from the things I was creating, which as a 13-year-old, I was fascinated and loved that entrepreneurial realization of, ‘Hey, I'm making these things for fun, but I can also make money out of them.’ They were very whimsical and very childish, but it allowed me to realize that I could potentially create my own future with my hands. And from that moment on, I really continued to create and sell and do craft shows up until the point when I chose to go to college. I knew the only job I really loved doing was creating and selling my own products. So Anne Cate was not born at that point, but that passion for creating was and it led me to where we are today.

Skoch as a young teenager, selling her accessories at an arts and crafts show. [Anne Skoch]

Even though you knew for a while that you wanted to start your own business, I imagine there were still plenty of moments early on that felt… scary?

The decision after college to go fulltime with my business was very scary. In that first year, I started growing my business and opened up my manufacturing studio. I was working on it alone, and that was very difficult. There were a lot of challenges that came up, and there still are. But that first year I learned so much that allowed us to really grow. And, you know, we wasted money. We made major mistakes, but it got us to where we are today, now being able to employ individuals while growing and becoming a national brand. So although I didn't spend years gaining experience, I was lucky that so many people supported us along the way to help me when I didn't have that experience.

The current skyline pillow design being assembled at Anne Cate's manufacturing studio. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

Now that you’re three years into your business, how have you expanded and grown?

When I first started Anne Cate, I was sewing products in a dorm room, and it was very crazy. I would come home from class, do my homework, cook dinner and then sew pretty much until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. But it was a hustle and I loved the success that came from it. Scaling the business was the biggest challenge we have faced and overcome since starting. And figuring out how to take the business from a dorm room to a production studio where we can sell products in larger scales. We've just been blessed with amazing employees that have helped us, who started part-time and are now fulltime and willing to invest in Anne Cate and who see the same vision I do.

Skoch (center) with the Anne Cate production team of Emily (left) and Grace (right). [Anne Skoch]

Even though you’ve grown in a big way since Anne Cate’s beginning, all of your products are still handmade in your production studio. How does that make you unique?

Being made in America was at the core of Anne Cate. No matter how we scaled, I knew I wanted that to be at our foundation. After looking at all of the options and overcoming those hurdles to scale our business, we realized that scaling vertically and creating our own production team and manufacturing studio was the best route to take. So everything is still made by hand, one by one. It's designed in-studio. It's printed, then it's cut and sewn and fulfilled, all in Cleveland, Ohio. We are at times sewing hundreds of zippers into a purse a day. One person is in production cutting threads, the other is inverting a purse. Although it seems like it's a timely process, being done one-by-one via our own hands has created a lot of success for us.

Anne Cate is in full holiday mode, creating accessories in festive colors and plaids. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

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