For many college students living on a budget, high fashion clothing and accessories aren’t a part of their daily look. But Kikay, an earring business created by two Iovine and Young Academy students, aims to change this narrative.
The business’ tagline says it all: “Being extra shouldn’t cost extra.” IYA sophomores Ysabella Delgado and Quinn Jones wanted to create an accessory line that encouraged people to be bold, while still being affordable. Prices for Kikay earrings range from $10 to $18.
The two students were able to showcase samples they had worked on and talk to potential customers when a friend invited them to a concert with artists and vendors showcasing their work. After hearing positive feedback at the show, they started an Instagram page for Kikay and turned their ideas into an e-commerce business by selling their jewelry on Shopify.
Kikay, a Tagalog word meaning “girly girl,” is a reflection of Delgado’s Filipino culture. She wanted to draw from her background to create a brand that was true to its name.
“I am Filipino, so I was coming back to my family,” Delgado said. “I wanted to pick a name that was reflective of where my family is from.”
Using her experience as a makeup artist and photographer, Delgado wanted to draw design ideas from the makeup industry as she believes that the earrings people wear should complement their outfits and makeup.
“One of our goals as a brand is to not only produce things that people want to wear but also to kind of create like the perfect topper to a creative look,” Delgado said. “So with our Instagram marketing, one of our goals is to also send [our products] out to a variety of artists so that they can use our earrings in their way.”
Drawing inspiration from ColourPop Cosmetics’ fruit line, Kikay’s first line features fruit earrings: large cherries, oranges, lemons and apples, among other food items. Delgado and Jones are also partnering with other IYA students to create a line inspired by the Area 51 raid, a viral Facebook event that was created this past summer in an effort to storm the Nevada Air Force facility to search for aliens.
To gain more exposure for their brand, Delgado and Jones connect with makeup artists on Instagram and send them free samples that they can use to create makeup looks based on the accessories. This leads to user-generated content on their Instagram feed, which mainly comprises of pictures sent in by customers and has led to an increased interest in their earrings, they said.
“That’s mainly where we get our new audiences from,” Jones said. “We branch out because we send stuff to people that have a lot of followers and they post the look that all those people see and then they follow us.”
Alexia Sambrano, a sophomore studying neuroscience and cognitive science, knew Delgado and Jones before they started their business. When she heard they were starting a company, she was supportive about what they were doing. Sambrano also tried their products and said it was the uniqueness of Kikay’s earrings that drew her to the line.
“I’ve seen other earrings inspired by fruits and space but all of this is handmade, and you can really tell all of the effort they’ve put in each earring pair they’ve made,” Sambrano said. “I wear a lot of metal earrings and they can get really heavy, they can hurt your ears and pinch at them. [Kikay’s] are really lightweight and affordable and comfortable and that’s one of the reasons I decided to make the purchase.”
To balance their work, Delgado manages production and graphics while Jones focuses on web development and marketing, but they discuss all of their decisions together. This year, they’ve converted the garage into a studio, where they make the earrings by hand and get them ready for shipping each morning.
Delgado and Jones credit their “Disruptive Innovation” class with teaching them to design a brand, create company values and have all of their business decisions reflect those ideals. They believe the class taught them how to go about decision making while staying true to the brand and helped them come up with a core philosophy for Kikay.
The two young business owners credit IYA for giving them a supportive environment where they can manage their business and still attend class because their classes teach them skills they can use when running their business. A multimedia class they’re taking this semester requires them to create advertising campaigns, which they plan on catering toward their brand.
“One of the big philosophies of the academy is if you have an idea, just do it, like try it as fast as you can and see what will happen,” Jones said. “[Business] grown a hundred times, we’ve just been around for seven weeks. So much has happened, we’ve been moving based on gut decision. It was only like a week from idea to implementation.”
Delgado and Jones hope to continue to expand Kikay through partnerships with other artists and social media reach. On top of earrings, they also sell scrunchies and hair clips and want to soon include other clothing and accessories like bags, hats and shirts.
“I think our goal is to expand into a fashion business but more focusing on statement pieces. Instead of just selling a lot of shirts and a lot of pants, more like here’s this one awesome piece that’s low cost and you can wear.”