Let's talk: Meet the face behind Karatoya

Let's talk: Meet the face behind Karatoya

Last time we spoke with Sandy, the founder of Esthoria Box - Botanic & Terre. In case you missed it, read it here.

This week we caught up with Anika, the creator behind Karatoya, handmade jewelry curated from luxury gems. 

Karatoya's pieces are sourced from Anika's travels, primary women-owned vendors and makers. Every single piece is hand-picked and hand-made with love. Let's chat!

What inspired you to start Karatoya? How did it all start?

I've always been creating things, and I've always designed my own jewelry. For me, jewelry isn't meant to be thrown away; I think it's made to be meaningful and long lasting by incorporating high quality materials. Karatoya was born through my background in palliative health care, where I really learned the effect of energies and memories and how beautiful gemstones can bring out our inner peace. I started creating pieces for my husband, friends, and family and people loved it- so I just went from there. All of my pieces are created exclusively for my customers to become part of their memory.



What does packaging mean to you and Karatoya? How important do you think the packaging and unboxing experience is?

Oh, it is critical. I mean, Karatoya is for moments, so the packaging, the branding, the presentation, the unboxing - it's all part of the experience. I love the idea of someone receiving a beautiful, high quality package that makes their eyes light up. When someone takes off the satin bow off my Karatoya gift box, I want it to be an experience. Whether it's something someone bought you, or even if you gifted it to yourself, you want to feel that anticipation. Because that's what you remember. You remember experiences.

Where are you selling your brand now?

I'm sold in a few stores in Toronto, where I do a lot of pop-ups, as well as Ottawa and Halifax. As for online, I'm currently rebranding, but I primarily sell through Little Black Sari, another woman entrepreneur that manages an online marketplace. She has a really great website and she supports a lot of local businesses - she's incredibly talented.


How does your retail packaging compare to your online packaging?

The packaging is definitely different. When I ship, I have the time to package it nicely, getting the bow tied just perfect. With my pop-up shops, it’s a lot busier, especially since I enjoy talking with my customers and making relationships. It’s hard to keep up. Pop-up shops for me are not about the sales. They’re about that one-on-one interaction, and giving people the Karatoya experience. I do try to box and put a card, but other than that, I spend time explaining what the stones mean, how to care for the product, and helping out with sizing.

What were some of the struggles you experiences with packaging? What were your biggest pain points?

Oh my god, where do I begin! (Laughs). Well first of all, it's very hard to find a supplier who can help me from start to finish. Pricing for jewellery packaging is a pain, particularly because I’m a small business. I’m not buying thousands of boxes to get that quantity discount, and if you’re not buying an inventory of that much, it’s too expensive to really print and customize your packaging.
Another one is shipping. Finding packaging that is a good size that can ship within Canada appropriately was a big struggle. I’m learning how to maintain size specifications so that I can keep shipping costs down for my customers.

Do you have a separate shipping station for fulfillment?

I do. I don’t like anyone else doing my fulfillment because I like packaging everything myself. I have a set-up in my studio, and I have it organized so that I can package my orders all together. Otherwise its just chaos. (laughs)

Who do you like to use for shipping?

Right now I’m with Canada Post. Its just down the street from me, so I can keep all my shipping timelines and avoid hassles that way. A lot of my orders also come from outside of Canada, so I expedite my packages to ensure that they’re trackable and will get there safely. That’s all I care about – if someone is ordering from that far away, I want it to show up perfect.

What's the most important piece of advice you’d give to new makers or sellers trying to break it into the market today?

Make sure you have a good website! And a really good photographer that can really capture your brand’s image. Photos are a presentation of your brand, and if you have a high quality product, you want people to be able to see and experience that. There’s a reason I get hand-cut gemstones  - the facets are different, they sparkle. Having a good photographer to capture that is so critical.
A good user experience through a good website ties into positive brand experience as well. I want people to go to my website and be inspired by it. The importance of UX design is part of the reason for my rebrand, to really make it about the Karatoya experience.

Looking back, what are some of the things you wish you knew when you started Karatoya?
I think that no matter what someone tells you, it doesn’t hit you until you go through it yourself. You can prepare and research 'til you're blue in the face, but every business is unique and things will turn out differently that what you prepared and planned for. I think that’s what I wish someone told me – that things are going to get really, really tough. But you just have to keep going and figure it out as you go along, and always with the right intentions. You have to do what works for you and make the right judgement calls for yourself. Everyone has their own journey and you have to believe in yours, and be okay with it.
Follow Karatoya’s hand-made journey on her social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Website.

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