Shore Society is an apparel company inspired by Cleveland’s coast! Their products reflect the midwestern nautical lifestyle of the Great Lakes. We interviewed owner, Rachael Koenig, to learn more about her awesome local business. Meet Shore Society at our Spring Maker Mart on April 7 in Cleveland!
Tell us about Shore Society.
I started Shore Society in 2012 as a creative outlet, and a way to express my love for the lake and all things coastal here in Ohio. There wasn't much on the market here that focused on Lake Erie, or the Great Lakes in general, and I wanted to capture the unique coastal feel that we have here in Cleveland. I design all of the products myself and have them made locally whenever possible. I work and manage the business out of a home studio in Lakewood, and while I sell mostly online, I wholesale to a few boutiques in the area as well!
What drew you to your craft?
I'm a graphic designer, and have always created my own personal work in addition to my full-time job and freelance — so I had created a few prints for fun and started selling them online. This was back at the time when Etsy was exploding, and it kind of snowballed for me from there. I never imagined I'd be making products or running a business like this, but I totally fell in love with the process of selling products and with building a brand. I love being able to think conceptually — to have a lofty idea or a piece of inspiration — and execute on it, make something tangible with it.
What is your favorite thing you have ever made?
That's tough! If I had to say, I've loved creating the local city map totes along with my friend Blair Ritchey, who is a handbag designer. I pour a lot of time and effort into designing and illustrating the maps, and when we decide what landmarks or businesses will appear on them. It's a fun, collaborative process and I love the excitement we feel from customers each time we launch a new one. Otherwise, I love the Salty tee, and it's a fan fave!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist! I didn't know what type, at the time, but I have always wanted to be involved in the art and design world. I've gone from dreaming about interior design to fashion design and back again. I just wanted to make things. I try to remind myself that my 10 year old self would be really pleased to see this in my present.
What is your creative process?
I don't really start off with the intention of designing a product, things become too narrow too quickly and I think you lose the creativity in it. I like to gather inspiration for the look and feel of what I'm trying to capture, and sketch some lettering, icons, or a full design from there. I'm always thinking about color and how other elements, like textiles or fabric, come into play — then the design sort of tells me where it wants to live. My business mind is then of course thinking about what my customers would like to see, and how they'll want to wear or use the product — I keep them top of mind while I'm creating, too.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Don't quit your daydream. Walk through the doors that open for you, even if you're unsure. And hire an accountant — girl, you can't do math.
Why is it important to support local artists & makers?
We are all making/creating because we love it so much, and when you shop with us, you're buying a little piece of our heart and soul. It's such a fulfilling feeling and it's a huge part of what keeps me going, and we need people to keep going. Keep creating, keep enriching the community around us. I also love that you're getting something so unique, and almost collectible. I love filling my home and life with meaning and you're getting that when you shop handmade.
Why do you love doing what you do?
It's a form of expression for me, and also a form of pride — I love to draw attention to the beautiful lake and coastal landscape we have here. I love sharing photos I've snapped at the lake and having people from all over the country see and acknowledge its beauty, I want to shine a light on that. When they say, "oh my gosh, that's Lake Erie?!" I feel like I've done my job! Along those lines, I also love connecting with other people and my customers at shows, online, or at events. I've met so many incredible people who have been integral to my business journey and my life!
What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?
Start before you're ready. Things will never be perfect, and you can't avoid the process of learning along the way, which is inevitable. You have to allow that to take place in real time, so put your project out there without fussing too much and let it evolve. If you wait until it's perfect, you'll be waiting forever.
What is your favorite thing about exploring Ohio?
That it's always surprising me! On the lake, you'll never see the same sunset twice. The leaves in the fall won't look the same from one place to the next. There's so much to discover and I love the change of seasons — I've learned to embrace winter and I have the beautiful frozen lake sunsets to thank for that!