By Fathima Riznaz Hafi
We met Kraftsy Founders Crystal and Kanthi Koelmeyer last year, shortly after they had launched (one month after, to be exact). The mother-daughter team had come up with a beautiful idea to start an online business producing hand-made crochet slippers – which were an instant hit – unsurprisingly – as they were not only gorgeous but comfortable too!
Kick-starting with bright, colourful crochet slippers, they gradually added more varieties as they played around with straps and various patterns to create a trendy range of strappy sandals. Alongside the slippers and sandals, they tried their hands on crochet bags as well as tie and dye products that included t-shirts and sarongs.
At their first interview with us last year, they said one of their biggest goals was to empower women from the fisher-folk community by taking them under their wing once Kraftsy expands. They also hoped to eventually carry their sales to the international market.
A successful year
The Weekend FT met up with them again recently – this time in their new workshop (they used to work from home) – and started off by congratulating them on Kraftsy’s one year anniversary. Looking very spiffy, Crystal filled us in on what Kraftsy has been up to the past year.
Due to the high demand for their slippers, they have decided to keep the spotlight on footwear, leaving aside the other products that they were experimenting with in the beginning (for now). This has enabled them to focus on their lovely slippers and expand the type of footwear they make – initially it was only flat slippers and sandals but now they have started making shoes with heels, covered shoes and bridal shoes. The covered shoes are only for brides, bridesmaids and flower girls.
“We have expanded to retail channels and are at Beverly Street now. Orders have been streaming in and we have sold more than 2,000 pairs to date! We get many orders but only accept up to 60 orders at a time because the products are handcrafted and therefore take time. We don’t want to take too many orders and then compromise on quality; we do a little but we do it well,” she said.
“We have started doing customised orders as well, whereby customers either describe what they want or send a picture of sandals they saw somewhere – usually on the internet and ask us if we can make it that way. We don’t replicate – we look at what they want and give them something similar to that because we have a policy of not copying another designer’s work – just like I don’t like my designs being copied. We do a sketch and run it by them and if they are okay with it we go ahead,” she explained.
“We also use different types of fabric now, such as ‘cheethe’ (chintz) and denim. We even use them for the soles as some people are allergic to rexine– so when the sole is also fabric it’s super comfortable for them,” she said.
They are now a registered business and have embarked on their goal of empowering women by taking them on board. Though their initial plan was to employ women from the fisher-folk community, they have gone further, taking in other women in the area as well, who are in need of jobs. They have seven women in their workshop from 9 to 5 at present and four more who take the material home and do the work there.
Delivery is another issue that they have sorted. When they first started, Krystal and her mother used to deliver the products themselves and one of the obstacles was they only had time to deliver once a week and on a particular day but when customers weren’t available to receive them on that day it was problematic. Now they use professional delivery service, taking a whole load off their shoulders. Through the service they get to send out their products more frequently and enjoy other conveniences too.
They have started exporting– all the way to Japan and got an offer from a gallery in India but are currently trying to work out the payment plans for the Indian deal. “The mode of payment is often a barrier when it comes to doing business with other countries; we are trying to sort that out,” she said.
It looks like they have been very busy the past year, achieving one goal after another and are striving to achieve more. Reiterating that they haven’t dropped their other products and experiments altogether, Crystal adds, “There is still potential for our other products like the tie and dyes; in fact just recently I had posted some pictures of tie and dye shirts on Instagram and got a dozen orders within hours! We might get to that in a few months but for now slippers is our core business.”
Kraftsy’s pretty little crochet slippers and strappy sandals have created many happy customers; their innovative ideas and undying zest have no doubt brought them thus far and at this rate their future looks quite promising. Weekend FT wishes them success with their colourful footwear and hope they produce many more of those beauties!
Pix by Shehan Gunasekara