Maker Profile: Karrie Dean of Happy Habitat
Meet Karrie Dean, owner and founder of Happy Habitat. Karrie designs gorgeous, eco-friendly throws that celebrate color and pattern. Not only are they easy on the eyes, they’re highly functional, too. Created using recycled cotton, they’re fully machine washable. Read on for Karrie’s story of how she got started, her eco-conscious priorities, and her favorite way to stay caffeinated.
What were your earliest experiences with design?
I’ve loved art and design since I can remember. I wasn’t a sports kid- anything drawing-related always kept me occupied- I loved going to museums and was in art classes as far back and I know. I think it has always been a part of me.
Are there any artists or works that stand out in your memory from those museum visits as a kid?
Paul Klee, Matisse, Miró, Picasso, Van Gogh, Dalí, Gauguin- isn’t that what everyone would say though? As a kid, we like the colorful stuff, right?
When did you start Happy Habitat?
2011- two years after getting laid off from my corporate job. Those were soul searching years. I had a great job working in HR and the Technology Department (not sure how they let me in) at Barkley, a local advertising agency. I knew I couldn’t top that job, it was a great gig. I met smart, wonderful people that are still in my life today. I didn’t realize at the time that I was absorbing a wealth of knowledge about marketing, PR and design. I had no idea all of that information was sitting in the back of my head waiting to be used for my future. So for two years, I did a lot of thinking about what I cared about, what I was passionate about- what wouldn’t feel like ‘work’. The only thing to do was to work for myself. I couldn’t go backwards to work ‘for the man’.
Why the name, Happy Habitat?
At the time I started, I wasn’t quite sure what would come of it- I actually didn’t even know what Happy Habitat would be- but I started a free blog to catalog my thoughts- which ironically ended up being all posts about color and pattern. I knew that my future would have something to do with being happy in your home- and alliteration is a total cheap shot, but at the time I thought it was cute. Now it kind of annoys me, just a little too sweet and I can’t say it out loud without sounding sarcastic. Looking back, picking a name and just going with it, was really a big step. A small step, but it put things in motion. I need to remember those small things when I feel stuck.
Did you have a mentor or other entrepreneurs in your life to help with the process of starting your own business?
I feel like we are in a weird time where technology and business are changing so fast and old models no longer work, or maybe I’m choosing to think that so that I can forge my own path. I do have a few other friends in town that get together and share ideas and information which is great because it’s hard to be blindly moving forward without an example to follow. But exhilarating at the same time, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Chentell from Convivial Production is one of those people that I share information with, and always inspires me with how she has grown in an authentic way and still makes handmade product.
Tell us about the importance of earth-friendly practices in your business.
Being environmentally responsible is a priority for me personally and in business. Just like an appreciation for art, I have always been attracted to the beauty of the outdoors and the allure that mother nature has to offer. I’m sensitive about keeping our earth clean and maintaining its original beauty for my kids and future generations to enjoy. My throws are made from recycled cotton. Recycled cotton is pre-consumer cotton that would have ended up in a landfill, but instead the discarded scraps are collected, and made into new thread. There is no dying, or bleaching because like-colors are used to create the threads. It’s really pretty amazing!
I also am very aware of packaging, I use recycled when possible. My bags are 100% recycleABLE, are made from 100% recycled materials AND can be REUSED. I don’t add anything in my packaging, no extra papers, or materials that would just get thrown out. A business card is included (in case there’s an issue with your order- made with soy ink and recycled paper, of course!) I try to keep things simple and not add extras that are pointless, just for the sake of cool packaging, or branding. Less is always more. And if possible, I like to keep things digital, instead of printing. I like to direct people online if I can instead of handing them physical materials. I know I’m not doing everything that I can do, and don’t claim to. But I just try to be aware when I’m buying things, or producing something that people will buy. If there’s an option for it to be sustainable, then choose that option. Doing something, sometimes is better than doing nothing at all.
What advice would you give to other small business owners?
Be yourself. Be original- don’t draw from other business models, but create your own instead. Trust yourself. Unless you don’t have good instincts, then maybe you shouldn’t be a small business owner. Seriously, it’s not for everyone. Offer something that no one else does. Do nice things. Be ethical and mindful with your business. Don’t think about money so much, but instead think about what you can offer that’s good for the world. The rest will fall into place.
What do you do to keep yourself, your space and your time organized?
HAHA- this is funny. I’m not organized. I do try to keep things minimal. When I have less stuff around me it allows my head to do what it’s supposed to. I don’t like having time restraints, so I don’t really organize my time, but if I start to feel like I’m behind, I will make lists. And then lose them, and re-write them.
Where do you find color and pattern inspiration?
You mean where DON’T I find it? Here’s the cliché answer: nature, fashion, music… pretty sure everyone says that. But it’s true.
What are you working on currently?
I am currently working on new designs in wool and woven throws in an alpaca/bamboo blend. These have a softer hand and a rich depth, so designing for them is totally different. And ohhhhh, the colors- delicious.
Can you share a little bit about collaborations you’ve worked on? What is your favorite part of working with other creatives?
Collaborations are tricky because although it is a 50 x 60 blanket, there’s only so much ‘personality’ you can put in a throw that size! If I am to collaborate with someone, it’s someone who is doing something different than what I’m doing. Someone who has a skill and an aesthetic different than mine. I did some work with Morgan and Carrie from Ampersand Design Studio and it was great because they can design in a way that I can’t. I respect their work, and was happy to incorporate it in with my work. And equally important, they are FUN to work with! Good people, smart design, and a good time was had.
What design elements have you incorporated in your own home?
Keep things simple. Only keep what is functional or things that make you smile when you see them. (easier said than done with kids!)
What are some travel destinations on your bucket list?
Turkey, Morocco, Singapore, India, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Bali, Croatia, Australia, back to Spain, back to Italy….
What always makes you laugh?
Do you like or dislike surprises? Why or why not?
I dislike surprises a lot unless I’m in the company of someone who knows me really well. I don’t like being put a position where I have to censor my reactions.
Where’s your favorite cup of coffee in KC?
What makes you think I like coffee? Just kidding. I think anyone who knows me even a little bit knows how I feel about good coffee. I’m sure people are sick of me talking about it too. Broadway Cafe- it only took like 4 years but it’s pretty cool that those guys finally know my order when I walk in. Triple Short hits the spot so good.