My mother has a favorite quote that I’ve always loved: “It’s more than blood that makes you family.” Over my nearly 20 years of leading a business, I have come to realize just how true that is.
I have always used the word “family” to talk about my team. Of course, at the start of my business, my team was made up of my immediate family. My mom was employee number one — and after that, my team included my sisters, cousins, and friends who wanted to lend a hand. But when the business finally grew and I was able to hire a small team that wasn’t made of relatives and close friends, the word “family” took on new meaning.
I was a new mom when I started my jewelry business, and I needed people on my team who understood the demands of motherhood. So many of my first employees were mothers as well. I brought my baby to work with me every day, and I encouraged the women on my team to do the same. We set up a pack and play in the corner of our tiny office and passed the babies around during meetings. We worked around each other’s schedules to allow for doctor appointments, soccer games, and school pick-up times.
Those early days of growth bonded us. My success was their success. Although we were barely making enough to pay the bills, we worked together to support one another, and bring our business to life. It was a crazy, fast-paced, and yes, sometimes terrifying time. But the culture we fostered in those years is the foundation of the strong workplace environment we have in our business today.
Over the years our brand began to grow and change faster than I could imagine, but maintaining a “family first” culture was always my top priority. Soon it became an asset to our company, a differentiator that set us apart from many other businesses — particularly in the fashion industry. We chose to celebrate kindness and collaboration over competition and individual ambition. I learned firsthand working alongside a handful of women in our tiny office that there is no reason why women can’t do it all: they can be good mothers and follow their dreams and have a successful career. All they need is someone to give them the support they deserve.
And this is important for business leaders to know. I believe that tangible investment in your people is so important. You cannot simply say that you support your employees. You must listen to them, invest in them, and make sure they know they are valued (a comprehensive benefits package is a great place to start). And they will be immeasurably more loyal to you because of it.
My family has grown to over 2,000 members across the country, and I am “Mama K” to every one of them. The first thing I say when I greet a new employee is “welcome to the family!” I don’t ever want someone to see this as just a job, I want them to feel they are part of a company that is genuinely invested in their future. I realize not everyone will stay with our company forever, but I believe while they’re here, it is my responsibility to mentor them, nurture their growth, and give them the tools to succeed in their career — wherever that may take them. I believe once you’re in the KS Family, you are always in the family. And as a family, we will always care for each other, cheer each other on in our successes, and support each other — within our own walls and beyond.
The world around us is changing every day. Technology is allowing us to be more flexible, more connected, and I am looking ahead to what we will bring to our KS Family next. It is my dream to be the best place for women to work in the country, and I will go to bat for my family every day until I make that dream a reality. As I say to my team all too often, “Mama K doesn’t play for seconds.”
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