A toilet tank lever being on the wrong side of the toilet and a sink not being far enough away from the wall helped launch CK Design Co.
Courtney Kennedy opened her store at 550 SW 9th Street in Des Moines on Feb. 24, 2017 to sell vintage home décor with a mid-century, bohemian, eclectic style with a Southwestern influence. Her shop also features handmade tables and cutting boards from local woodworkers, along with handmade soaps and candles.
But despite some tears, Kennedy, 25, thanks that Fire Marshal because it allowed her to grow the CK Design Co. online brand.
“That allowed me to start selling online, and now its half my business,” Kennedy explains. “It’s cliché but everything happens for a reason.”
Now Kennedy utilizes social media – specifically Instagram and Facebook – to not only promote the new pieces she finds from various estate sales and auctions across the Midwest, but for direct sales.
“When I bring new stuff in I do live videos and half of that will sell right away,” she explains. “And I’m starting to do more with Facebook and boosting posts. It’s nice to pick a demographic on Facebook to target for my ads. I like how I can use some psychology behind it.”
Kennedy says, “Social media is huge and if you aren’t using that for your business, you are missing out on an untapped market.”
From marketing to retail
Kennedy graduated from A.I.B College of Business with a communications degree in 2015. When her and her fiancée Alec Kennedy were looking for their first home, they settled on a fixer upper.
“Because everywhere we went, I didn’t like a certain thing or wanted to change something,” Kennedy explains. “So we bought a piece of crap house and fixed it up. And I fell in love with that process. And as I was doing that I had a sign like this is what I’m supposed to do.”
After working for Farrell Brownell Group and Happy Homes in Des Moines doing marketing and interior design work, she decided to start her own company.
“I figured I would do it now while I’m still young and if I fall on my face at least I could say I did that and could do something else,” Kennedy says. “If I would have known how difficult and winding the road would be it might have deterred me to be honest. There’s a lot of red tape.”
It took eight months to turn an idea into a store.
Originally, Kennedy thought her store would have more of a farmhouse style. But she found a style that the Des Moines market was missing.
“So I liked mid-century, bohemian, textiles and it would frustrate me that there was nowhere in Des Moines I could go to buy that stuff,” she said. “You have to order it online. There wasn’t a store specifically geared to fit that style. So this offers something that Des Moines didn’t have before.”
A customer is put to work
Kennedy says she’s had customers travel from as far as Wisconsin to visit her store.
One customer, Nickalena Bedwell, not only shops at CK Design Co. but she will work there when Kennedy is in Italy getting married this summer.
“I offered to help out and ease some stress off her,” Bedwell says.
Bedwell lives in Altoona and first came across CK Design Co. while browsing on Etsy, a website focused on handmade and vintage items. She purchased a vintage spice cabinet and has since purchased a couch, chairs, bowls, wicker furniture and candles.
“After speaking with me she could point me to things she knew I would like and fit my personality,” Bedwell said. “Her store represents who she is: fun, unique and stylish.”
What about the dogs?
Kennedy says she’s obsessed with the dogs and since she doesn’t have any kids – yet – they are her babies.
So she brings her dogs with her to work.
“I get a lot of people who will pop in to see the dogs and buy something,” Kennedy says. “Or someone will message me saying they want to come to the store this week, but they want to know when the dogs will be here. So they are kind of a good marketing deal but I genuinely like having them here.”