Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your business?
My business is Karen Adams Designs. I actually went to Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. I majored in fashion design. When I had a family, I decided I wanted to spend some time at home, so my work segued into art on paper. I also did faux finishes and murals and that type of thing, but then I started doing invitations for some nonprofit organizations. I had a lot of fun doing the invitations, so one thing led to another!
Are you originally from Memphis?
Yes, I am from Memphis originally.
Your business is nationally renowned. Why Memphis? Is there a special reason you wanted to come back home and start something here? Why not any other place?
I was born in Memphis. My father worked for a grain trading company, so we actually moved a lot when I was growing up. I’ve lived in quite a few different places. My family had settled back in Memphis when my father brought his last job here. I was working in New York, living in Connecticut, and it just came to a point where I wanted to do a little bit more settling down with my family and thought Memphis would be a good place to come. I started my business after moving back to Memphis.
I know you already have a location here on Broad. What made the Medical District the perfect place to move your headquarters to?
We wanted to locate to a vibrant area in the city that had the physical space and creative character to fit our needs. We started looking around the Memphis area and found a building in the Medical District that was perfect for what we needed. We’re really excited to be a part of a great community, and I think it’s a perfect fit!
Have you received any supports from MMDC?
Yes, some great support! We received a Predevelopment grant and a Façade grant from MMDC.
Your business is very unique and the designs on your products are gorgeous. Can you talk about what inspires the designs and how you came up with them? Do you create those designs personally?
It is constantly changing. Because I was doing apparel design, I’m really conscientious about staying current and bringing new stuff into the market. One great thing is that we have young women who work in our offices, which helps me stay on trend with things. My daughter works with us, so that’s also great. As far as what we come up with, it’ just sort of what I think is in the moment. I like to do things that would bring a smile to somebody’s face or be something that makes them feel good. I do all of the artwork. As far as product development, we do that as a team— figuring out what we want to present and that type of thing.
How did you come up with your business concept? It’s very unique (office supplies, cards, etc.). How did that come together?
When we first started out, we did only custom design cards, and then it evolved into things you can go into a store and pickup and buy. Now, we come up with products that we see a need for, have the ability to provide, and have good sourcing for. We like to work with as many local suppliers/businesses as possible. Our pencils are done by a company in Musgrave, Tennessee—one of the oldest pencil manufacturers in the United States. So, that’s kind of cool because it’s fun and we can work with someone who is relatively local and come up with a fun product that fits the category of what we do. We are continuing to try to develop more items in different areas because a lot of the stores now aren’t just paper stores; they’re gift stores. That has evolved because of economic downturn. Due to this, paper stores have had to reinvent themselves. Our variety of products helps accommodate them on that end.
Will this be a space for residents/consumers to come in and interact and shop, or is this a manufacturing/product development space?
It’s really just an office for taking care of business production, product development, product fulfillment, shipping, and storage. Half of the space is warehouse space. The other half is production, offices, and that type of thing. We may have some pop-up shops or something like that, but, on an everyday basis it will just be a place for us to conduct our business.
When is your planned opening?
We don’t have a definite date right now. It will definitely be before October. We’re hoping around July/August we’ll be able to move in. It may not be completely finished, but we start ramping up business that time of year, so it would be nice to be in place then.
I know you mentioned possible pop-up shops. Do you have any other visions for any type of special events, specifically a grand opening?
I think it would be really fun to do a grand opening party! That would be a lot of fun. As for the parking lot to our building, we are creating a space that can be used as a nice outdoor space. It’s not just going to be asphalt and parking spaces. Hopefully this can be a vibrant and regular gathering and relaxing space.
What are your signature/most popular products?
Our calendar is definitely our number one item.
Do you happen to have any upcoming specials or sales online?
That’s something that we are working on developing. We would be happy to give anyone who reads the newsletter a discount code!
How can people get in touch with you and your business? Do you have social media or a website?
We have Facebook, Instagram, and a website. Right now are re-developing our website, which is exciting. It’ll look great and will be easier to navigate. All staff emails are listed on our website as well.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the Medical District and greater Memphis community about your business?
I am really excited about Memphis promoting minority and women-owned businesses, and promoting the growth of the arts and areas like Downtown, The Edge, and Broad. It is really important that we support creative entrepreneurs and all their unique paths. For those that have succeeded in their own businesses, it’s important to reach out and try to boost those who are trying to do the same thing.
I know you mentioned possible pop-up opportunities and that there is a lot of growth amongst the arts community in the Medical District. Do you see any possible opportunities to partner with other arts-related District businesses for pop-ups?
Definitely so. There are opportunities to partner with businesses all over the Medical District both in and outside the Edge.