Jennifer DeKoeyer Crump took the plunge to start the interior design product line she had dreamed of starting for years, when COVID-19 hit. Suddenly, the mother of two found herself homeschooling while also starting a business. Every object in her line, Zatka Decor, is handmade in Los Angeles and created with the intention of bringing joy to customer’s homes. While everyone is stuck at home during the pandemic, DeKoeyer Crump believes now, more than ever, people’s interiors are in need of a bit of a refresh. Today the Los Angeles, California-based entrepreneur is focused on increasing sales and relying for support on her growing network of like-minded female entrepreneurs.
DeKoeyer Crump’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
My timing has not always been perfect. The last time I started a new business the 2009 recession hit on top of the devastating and unexpected loss of my sister and father. And most recently, I quit my job at my husband’s research lab to focus full time on my home decor business the exact month mother nature releases a world pandemic. Say hello to homeschooling two kids, along with a busy stem cell scientist under the same roof as the newly launched Zatka Decor business.
But with that unfortunate timing, I have also been able to take bold leaps that maybe I would not have done before. It made me more determined and protective of my time. I have focused on what a home needs to be and how my products can truly help. We could all use a bit of a home refresh right about now. I feel it’s more important than ever to surround ourselves with things that make us smile. Home is not a place, it’s a feeling. We all need to shake things up a bit, add a little spice, and refresh our homes with an influx of new decor. What better way to use my creativity than by helping others.
Success is like a chocolate chip cookie recipe. There are so many different recipes out there and most of them are going to be tasty. Dogmatic camps can divide: are you team butter or team shortening? The exact proportions of the flour, salt, and other ingredients can change between them, but in the end we enjoy that warm gooey goodness that puts a smile on our face. My ingredient list looks a little like this: Balance, thrive, creativity, ‘done is better than perfect’, take action, confidence, boldness, learning, community, and mindset. I have a hard time defining success as one thing. The ingredients and their proportions going into success can look different with each person. Success is not a destination for me but a journey. I obviously want my business to prosper and support my family with its profits but so much of this experience is teaching me about who I want to be, every day, step by step. I’ve learned lessons from years past and now I know how important it is to surround myself with powerful, supportive, and like-minded people. I’m investing in me. And it feels awesome.
I’m excited to see new doors open for me with the addition of wholesale. As a new member of the Bulletin wholesale platform, it will open up access to retail opportunities across the country. Bulletin provides a curated marketplace and focuses on building a relationship, where brands are more than a linesheet. Aligning myself with partnerships that support and empower women owned businesses is key. In addition, I continue to find great exposure using the website Help a Reporter Out and have submitted around 30 pitches in the past couple of months.
I see getting more visibility and having multiple platforms as a path to more sales and growing my business. I have invested in business coaching and my plan this year is to collaborate with other small businesses that share the same audience, to build our network, to share expenses, and to grow to new levels.
Lessons from my prior business have taught me that I cannot do it alone and the support I get inside these relationships are priceless. As I mentioned above, I have recently embarked on wholesale but will not be returning to in person markets until it seems safer. Another aspect of entrepreneurship that has surprised me is the importance of mindset. This ties back to my definition of success as a journey. No matter what my profits look like, I want to grow and be a better person on the other side. I find moments of imposter syndrome nagging me after recently being elected President of a nonprofit board. But taking these risks will build my confidence and empower more courageous business decisions. It’s all connected. I’m building the life I’ve always wanted.
In life, my mama is my role model. As a mother of two young girls entering the workforce as a police officer in the 70’s in the South, she can remember the dispatcher commenting at the interview that she should be at home raising her girls. It was a time when women in the workplace were often relegated to secretary work, but to be bold enough to apply to be a police officer in the ‘good ole boy’ southern heartland of South Carolina is beyond inspiring. She worked her way up the chain of command until the glass ceiling was apparent and unyielding. She eventually sued the city over the inequities and won.
In business my most important role model is Jacqueline Snyder, co-founder of The Product Boss. She is such a powerhouse. She and Minna Khounlo-Sithep have created a community of small business owners that see each other as lifelines rather than competitors. Jacqueline constantly shows me a path of authentic leadership and provides generous advice.