Kin Ship Goods is a quality of life brand.
What the hell does the mean? Well…
You know that feeling you get when a favorite song comes on?
Or how starry nights make you feel less alone?
How your favorite old t-shirt makes you feel snug as a bug?
That’s the stuff.
We wanna celebrate the small things and cozy moments that make life better.
The world can be a scary place and we could all use a lil more warmth.
We believe in fighting for comfort for all creatures.
It’s not always easy. But, hold on there, pal.
The grass is growing. Cats are purring.
Stay cozy. We’re in this together.
We might’ve been rambling a little there…
The quicker version is: we make stuff. We design cozy apparel and home goods inspired by rabble rousers, mountain mornings, labors of love, and dusty keepsakes. In addition to our inhouse line, we also carry things made by other independent artists that we admire.
Kin Ship was founded in 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky by Dan Davis and Hillary Harrison. In 2014, we moved to Hillary’s home state of West Virginia, where our studio and retail shop is now based in Charleston. Wanna know more about what happened in-between, after, and a little before? Read on for a brief history…
HH is living in Louisville and publishing a lil arts magazine called Bejeezus in her free time. She moved there for college 10 years earlier and liked it so much that she ended up staying. DD has been in Louisville since middle school. He’s working at a screenprinting shop and running an art gallery called The Snack Institute out of his apartment. DD sends in a drawing of a pirate to Bejeezus. HH loves it. We meet at the Snack Institute and become fast friends.
We open an art gallery called The Kin Ship and soon realize that artist types (including ourselves) are hard to deal with, so we decide to start making our own stuff. We start with some greeting cards. DD’s boss lets us print our stuff there at night. (Thanks, Hort!) We sell the cards in a couple of shops around town. It’s fun, so we decided to make some more things.
For some reason, we have it in our heads that this could be the thing we do for a living. We need to get our own equipment, if we really wanna make a go of it, but we’re broke. Like the kind of broke where sometimes in order to pay your bills, you have to overdraw your bank account with your ATM card & then pay it back, plus all the fees, when some money comes in. We don’t qualify for loans or credit cards, but HH’s best friend Amber (who is now our inventory manager!) loans us $1000—which might as well have been a million dollars at the time—to buy some used screenprinting equipment. We set up a little print shop in the spare bedroom of our tiny rental house. We buy a shirt, print a shirt, sell a shirt, and repeat. It goes that way for a couple of years.
We’re both still working day jobs. Kin Ship stuff is done at night and on weekends. We’re selling on Etsy and at craft fairs in Louisville and nearby cities. Two big breaks come our way. We’re on the homepage of Etsy for a week as their Featured Seller. (This was a big deal at the time.) Orders start to roll in after we were featured on some well-known blogs and in a few magazines.
Soon after ModCloth starts buying wholesale from us. We don’t have the lump sum to buy the shirts upfront for these big ModCloth orders, but our very supportive friends Brent & Ashley offer to let us use their credit card and pay them back when we get paid. They are true gems. Dan is printing all day at his day job and then more after that for Kin Ship starts and it’s starting to take its toll. He quits to work on Kin Ship full time.
Working out of the house is also starting to take a toll--tripping over boxes of shirts, cleaning ink off the hardwood floors, and having no separation between work and home. We make the terrifying leap of renting a studio space. It’s an old jamboree hall called Pine Ridge. Sounds great, right? We thought so too. But then we realize the heating and cooling are nonexistent. Turns out that’s something that’s nice to have in a workspace! We sweat it out in the summer and bundle up in the winter and work. A lot. We also adopt our first senior beagle. Our sweet girl Hazel.
After about 6 months we get to the point where it is impossible for HH to hold down a day job and get all the Kin Ship stuff done, so even though she is super scared, HH quits her day job.Our lil business is growing, but money is even tighter since weekly paychecks for, you know, living are no longer coming in. We eat all the noodles and all the peanut butter sandwiches. We stress when friends ask us out to dinner because dinner costs money. We worry about the water bill, the cats, the car, all the things. But we’re familiar with worrying about that stuff, even when we had day jobs, so we stick with it. And eventually things start taking off. That year is a real turning point. More people find out about Kin Ship, more orders start coming in, we’re able to pay our bills without stressing so much, and we start feeling like maybe we made the right choice.
HH is starting to get homesick after 15 years in Louisville, so we decide to move to her home state of West Virginia to be closer to family and mountains. Finding a studio space is surprisingly tough, despite all of the empty buildings in downtown Charleston. We finally find one in our price range and it happens to have a storefront. We hadn’t really planned on having a shop open to the public, but since there seemed to be a lack of independent retail in town, we decide to go for it. We figured we’d give it a few months and if it bombed, we’d close the shop and still have the studio space for our online business. The building has been empty for years and needs A LOT of work. We decide we can handle it. (Looking back on it now, I’m not sure what the hell we were thinking.) After many months--and lots of trying times (don’t get us started)--we somehow get it to look like a building that people should go in again. The storefront opens in August. We are immediately blown away by how supportive and excited people are and continue to be. (THANK YOU!)
Kin Ship is growing like crazy. We hire our first employees—real ones,
not just friends you pay with pizza to help you pack up orders all night! We’re having landlord issues (no one said running a business is easy!) and we’re already starting to outgrow the space, so we move to a larger studio and storefront on Charleston’s West Side.
Kin Ship has grown to a team of 12. In addition to our lil store, our goods are sold in over 60 shops across the country and beyond. (Not like outer space beyond, but we would happily clothe some ETs.)
Kin Ship Goods has been worn by some fine folks you might know, like: Patti Smith, Mindy Kaling, Tyler Childers, Jennifer Garner, Lucinda Williams, Reggie Watts, and The Strokes. We’ve done collabs, custom projects, and hosted events with Pathway to Paris, Stay F. Homekins, Wyatt Cenac, Aaron Draplin, Will Oldham, Michael Hurley, and lots of nice people doing good things.
It’s been a kinda wild 12 years. Sure, getting a business off the ground can be stressful, but there have been so many good times. And we’ve learned a whole lot. We’re looking forward to lots of fun things in the future. Thanks for helping us make this crazy dream a real thing. Stay cozy.
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