If you’ve seen or purchased something from Anne Cate, the chances are incredibly high that owner Anne Skoch sewed the piece herself. Talk about a girl boss! Anne has always had the entrepreneurial bug, starting to sell her creations at the age of 13. Today, Anne oversees a product line of 5 SKU’s - cutting and sewing each piece herself in her newly renovated Mentor studio. I met with Anne in her studio to learn about how Anne Cate came to be… and let me tell you - I wish I could work in her studio all the time! Read on to learn more about Anne & her future plans for Anne Cate.
Haley Mills: How did you get started with Anne Cate?
Anne Skoch: I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 13. I always loved to create and I would sell handmade purses and jewelry at craft shows - it just was kind of a passion of mine. I wasn’t necessarily a sports kid so I used my creative outlet to express myself. I loved being an entrepreneur so much that I pursued fashion and entrepreneurship when I went to college. Anne Cate was still nonexistent, but I did have an Etsy store where I would sell these things and it did well enough that I didn't have to work throughout high school and my first few years of college. I was really passionate about running my own business. I loved being able to bring joy to people from things I created but also being able to make money from things I created. My sophomore year of college I had this idea to put some skylines on pillows just for my dorm room of my favorite cities. So, I sewed up some pillows of Cleveland and New York on some fabric. One thing led to another and people loved them - my mom put them on Facebook, and so I thought, ‘I’ll try them on my little Etsy store.’ Six months later, I was wholesaling to American Greetings’ flagship store in Crocker Park, which completely changed my life and made me realize running my business was something that I truly wanted to pursue. So, I re-branded my little childish Etsy store into Anne Cate; my full name is Anne Catherine Skoch, so I felt it was very representative of me. I also loved how simplistic Anne Cate sounded and that's what I founded our brand on - the beauty and simplicity. Right now we only have the skyline silhouette product; we started with just the Cleveland skyline and over the past two and a half years we’ve developed 85 others, capturing cities around the world. I was lucky to pursue my business while I was in school, which allowed me to gain many resources and opportunities that I would not have learned post-college. I graduated last May and have pursued Anne Cate full-time since. It was the right place, right time and I was supported by so many people who believed in me. We’ve sold over 5,000 products in the past two years and just about every single one of those has been sewn by myself. Anne Cate started with a little passion and has been transformed into a full functioning business and my career. Eventually I want to develop other simplistic accessories, but for now we’re working on growing our niche skyline product and running with it. There are so many cities that impact people and our products exemplify that. They bring out the memories and the meaning behind each place and I love the emotional connection behind them. They are truly more than a purse or a pillow; it’s something unique and fun but it still has a lot of meaning.
HM: Where do the skyline designs come from?
AS: I’ve designed each skyline myself using Adobe Illustrator. I started with just one skyline, Cleveland, and as we grew we started naturally receiving requests for more places. I was featured on a national news segment that aired to 48 different cities, so I planned for all of those cities. Opportunities like that helped us grow our skyline offerings, but in terms of designing each skyline, I design them very intentionally. The city skyline name is not listed on the products because I design them to be as depictive and accurate as possible; so that everyone who is from that city should instantly know what city that is. It should kind of provoke the feeling of joy and excitement one feels when they start to see a city skyline come into view. I try to add a lot of detail and combine every angle of the skyline into one unique design so that they are truly representative.
HM: What would you say is the hardest part about owning your own business?
AS: There are so many hard parts! I think the hardest part for me is balancing my life and my business; I’m always working, always thinking about it, thinking of new things. I dream about it, I wake up thinking about it and I go to bed thinking about it. The hardest part is stepping away and doing some self-care time. Burnout is real! Finding the right ways to market our product and our brand to the appropriate customers is a challenge as well. I am always thinking the best way we can spread the word about our fun product!
HM: What was the progression of the different products that you have? How did you grow the product line?
AS: I actually started with just pillow cases - which we don’t even offer anymore. It’s so funny to see our products - how they were then and how they are now. They’ve definitely improved immensely in quality and design. After the pillowcases, I introduced a basic throw pillow, a pencil pouch, a mini purse and a little zippered pouch. They weren't poor quality, but they were extra simple - just a little bag you’d throw into a suitcase or something. I did a lot of research on what our products could be and what was popular. As we grew, I discontinued those designs and developed a mini purse, makeup bag and our best seller, the wristlet. We’ve our current product line for about a year and a half now and they are made out of an eco canvas fabric. They have a nice durable feel, but are also lightweight and simple. Not to mention, they are machine washable - which is great as well.
HM: What other products do you have in your pipeline? Do you have any new ideas you want to work on?
AS: Definitely going to stay with accessories, but I have hemmed and hawed with the product line expansion and I’m not one to necessarily want to throw a skyline on everything. More so because I want to focus on building the brand and stay in accessories. So actually, I’m doing a collaboration with an artist; we’re going to be adding some color to some of the purses and then I’m going to introduce a new makeup and wristlet bag with some new designs on them that are not skylines. We’re going to test it out but that's the next avenue I want to start going with. As well as I want to do regulation size NFL bags. Since you can’t bring any purse unless it’s a clear tote or a really small wristlet into any NFL stadium, we want to do brown and orange skyline mini purses that are regulation. So we are going to test out some of those and get those launched for sports season as well. Other than these five product SKUS, we’re going to stick with those and then kind of grow our accessories but not necessarily put a skyline on a mug or keychain. I want to be known for my brand, not necessarily just do skylines. I like the Kate Spade polka dot or the Louis Vuitton checkerboard; I kind of want the skyline thing to be what made us but not necessarily who we are.
HM: Where do you sell the majority of your product?
AS: The majority of our products are sold direct on our website. That's where we have our broadest assortment so you can get all 85 skylines on any of the products. Some of them are made to order, but most we have in stock. We sell in 30 stores and we're working on expanding to more cities around the US. We’re in 8 Ohio Hallmark stores and many wonderful local boutiques like Intro Boutique, Lovely Paperie and Gifts, Banyan Tree, Milo & Me, Knuths, and a whole list of others which are listed on our website.
HM: Do you do custom products?
AS: Yes, people can reach out to me. I can design any skyline, small or large. I’ve had the smallest, randomest skylines designed, but I’ve also done big city skylines.
HM: Where is your favorite place to have dinner in Cleveland?
HM: Where is your favorite place in Cleveland to be?
AS: I know I just said this but I love to be in Tremont. I love walking around and shopping at Banyan Tree. I love the coffee shops there and the vibe. If I could walk around anywhere I’d just walk around Tremont all day. Between Tremont and Ohio City - those two neighborhoods are so unique and old fashioned and they remind me a lot of the West Village in New York and I adore that. I love the vibe and it makes me happy to be outside around there. I also love being downtown; it feels so invigorated. I love all the unique things you can find.
HM: What is your favorite season in Cleveland?
AS: I love being at the lake and because I live in Mentor, we’re on the lake so it’s what I’ve known all my life! Summertime is wonderful just because I will spend at least one day a week at the beach or relaxing. I like to take runs along the water and be refreshed by the lake air. I also love Spring in Cleveland. After a long harsh winter, everything is fresh and refreshing. Spring in Cleveland is a beautiful season. There is nothing more exciting than when everything starts warming up and turning green...not to mention all the ice cream shops begin opening back up!