Meet Suzanne Akin
Say hi! Would you like to introduce yourself?
Of course! Hello! J I’m Suzanne Akin, founder of Akinz and I’m a fashion designer, graphic artist, and screen printer who also crochets and machine knits. It may seem like too many interests, but I knew I wanted to start a clothing line and didn’t have the funds to get things manufactured from the beginning so I learned to do it all myself. Now it’s what we pride the Akinz brand on, handcrafted elements and unique pieces.
What does being a creative mean to you?
I don’t think being a creative has to mean any one thing or be linked to any one creative outlet. I think it more has to do with the feeling inside of seeing something and thinking, I want to learn how to make that. I’ve always had a ton of artistic interests at one time and love learning new techniques.
Do you recall when you first realized you HAD to be creative?
I grew up with creativity all around me. My mother was an interior designer turned art teacher who since retired from teaching and now works in an art museum and my grandmother on my dad’s side was a professional artist. Creativity wasn’t something I realized, it was just part of life. I think I realized I wanted to be a fashion designer when I did a career project in junior high and really focused in on the fashion side of things. However my mother claims she knew much earlier, back when I was a little kid and she gave me the Sears catalog so I could circle the toys I wanted for Christmas and instead circled all the cocktail dresses. haha
What is your favorite work ritual?
I started using a bullet journal this year to try to keep my scattered artist brain in check and I like taking time on Sunday now to try to plan out my week. Of course it doesn’t always work the way I want it, but at least I have a guideline to strive toward.
It’s also always exciting to see a new product come into fruition for the first time, whether it’s a new beanie pattern or printing a new design for the first time or getting samples in the mail for something I’m having made for us. We used to have a ritual called First Try Fridays of trying to do a new beanie pattern we had been dreaming about for the first time. Seemed like no matter what, if we tried it for the first time on a Friday, it was always perfect the first time. Maybe First Try Fridays need to make a comeback. :)
How do you cope when you feel overwhelmed?
I haven’t always been the best at coping with stress. I’m easily excitable and I wear my heart on my sleeve. But over the years I’ve learned that in business there are always going to be ups and downs and that there are certain things that are out of your control. So now instead of flipping out when things go wrong, I sit down and make a list of things that I CAN control and start focusing on those instead.
What three traits would you say are a must for someone going into business for themselves?
1. Ambition – Sometimes there is a negative connotation with the word ambition, but ambition can be a very good thing. After all, dreamers are ambitious too. Ambition drives us to always be better, do better and work hard. If you are ambitious, then you can see the opportunities for your business and take action on them. You can also see the big picture. I feel like ambition is often the defining factor between a business and a hobby.
2. Dedication – As I mentioned before, there are highs and lows with any new business and with any mature business too. Having the dedication to start again or try a different marketing technique or admit a product failed and move on is what keeps a business moving forward. There’s also the side of dedication that means skipping happy hour with friends to go to a networking event or missing a mountain bike ride to go to a craft fair, etc. You of course have to find a balance in your life, but owning a business changes your social schedule too.
3. Courage – There are so many things I have done in my business that took a leap of faith. I think there is a certain level of risk you must be willing to take to be able to grow. And of course not all risks work out, but you have to have the courage to take them in the first place to see which ones will.
What is your definition of success? Do you feel that you are successful?
Success can mean so many things. When I first started, I said I just want to be able to see something that I dreamed up come to life, the ultimate goal was to be able to walk down the street and see someone wearing something I created. Now that I’ve had my shop for 4 ½ years, that happens at least a few times a week and I still smile every time it happens. My goal still remains the same, it has just broadened it’s boundaries. When I see someone outside of Colorado wearing something I made when I’m traveling, my heart does backflips. And of course you always continue to set the bar higher for yourself, but the fact that I have finally been able to get to a point where I can support myself from my creative outlet is success in my mind.
What has been the best advice you have received?
My cousin mentioned a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” to me last year. We were in a conversation completely unrelated to business, but I have taken that into my business life almost every day. It’s a good reminder. There is always another brand who started earlier, has a bigger audience, started with a great marketing budget or an amazing staff, or is simply just better than you in some ways and all of that is ok. You have to remember you are following your own business path. It has also inspired me to seek out collaboration opportunities over focusing on competition. It has kind of become my mantra when I’m having a down day.
Who is a female (past, present or fictional) you find inspirational?
My grandmother. She was the first example of a female business owner I knew and an incredibly caring and gracious person.