When I met Tracy Dungo at a Six Degrees Society networking event, I knew I had to feature her in a Career Profile on Elana Lyn. Tracy is the founder of Kalaki Riot, a jewelry line and lifestyle site that promotes balance. Kalaki is the Hawaiian name for Tracy and “riot represents the disruptive fusion of ‘city’ and ‘island,’ a brilliant display and wild disorder of two worlds that aren’t normally placed together.” They advocate for approaching our busy city lives with a calmer island mentality. Their motto is to mix the hustle with the happy. (Yes, please!) Tracy told me that all of her handcrafted pieces are wearable reminders to calm down, slow down, and take a deep breath. (Even when you’re on a crowded 6 train on the way to work, then a networking event, then drinks with a friend.) The line also gives back to the community because Tracy believes that jewelry should be a token of positivity. She hosts DIY events throughout the year where all of the jewelry is donated to organizations that support people who can benefit from “tangible symbols of encouragement.” Get to know Tracy, then get an exclusive 10% discount to get your own reminder to relax.
How would you describe Kalaki Riot in a few sentences?
Kalaki Riot is a lifestyle brand that promotes finding balance in the things you own and in your life. We create jewelry for the modern woman who strives to do it all.
What logistical advice do you have for other people who want to start a business?
Starting a business is always risky. I started Kalaki Riot on the side while I was at my full-time job and still figuring out what I wanted the brand to be. It’s also a good way to measure if you love your idea enough — if you’re able to stretch yourself and make some sacrifices to get it off the ground in the beginning while balancing a full-time job, then you might have something.
What have been your biggest challenges in creating your brand and image?
Right now, our product is jewelry but we’re really a lifestyle brand. One challenge that I find is creating innovative content that will resonate with our customers. There are a ton of brands that are constantly putting some really amazing things out there, many of which have far bigger budgets than ours, so to maintain a good amount of variety as well as a certain level of quality that your customers now expect can be tough.
Also, having a case of “comparativitis” from time to time is no fun but, as an entrepreneur, you learn how to navigate around that and keep pushing forward on your own agenda. Because on the other side of things, it is so rewarding to see customers come back and share positive feedback about what you create. We even sometimes surprise ourselves with the levels of creativity we can reach after seeing the final result of a project whether it’s an article, lookbook, or new design.
What is the most important characteristic for entrepreneurs to have?
Be resourceful and absurdly persistent. And show compassion. From developers, to manufacturers, to clients, everyone has struggles they are dealing with that you may be unaware of. A bad day can easily be misunderstood for rudeness. (I think this is an important characteristic everyone should have though not just entrepreneurs!)
You were previously a marketing manager at Time Inc., a demand planner at Ralph Lauren, and an analyst at Ipreo. What were your responsibilities at those organizations?
At Ipreo, I was an investor relations consultant for Fortune 500 companies. We provided our clients with everything from capital markets insights to shareholder ownership data and competitor benchmarking.
At Ralph Lauren, I worked for the brand’s e-commerce divisions in finance and strategic operations where we were responsible for the P&L and supply chain management. Then I moved over to marketing and demand planning where I managed top line sales forecasting as it related to our marketing campaigns.
At Time Inc., I worked in consumer marketing for People Magazine and People StyleWatch and then oversaw customer experiences and partnerships for People Magazine. I launched the first-ever gift box subscription program by a publisher and managed our VIP program, working with other brands to create one-of-kind experiences for our most loyal readers such as VIP access to concerts, weekend trips to NY and LA, music festivals, and trips to the Oscars!
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Creative inspiration comes to me at the most random times. I think I’m constantly inspired by many things but creatively, I’m not one of those people who can say that they always get inspiration from one thing or place.
I do try to always make it a point to learn something new whether it has anything to do with my business or not. Like learning a new language, watercolor painting, taking up calligraphy, boxing, you name it! I love learning new things and I truly think mixing it up every so often can give you new perspective and even find inspiration in things that you otherwise would never have noticed. Similar to switching up your workout so your body doesn’t get used to your fitness regimen, I find the same thing is true for your mind. Gotta keep your mind and body sharp!
What is on your desk right now?
A cup of coffee, a water bottle, a Moleskin notebook, my phone, and lots of ring and bracelet samples.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Find three hobbies you love: one that could make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.
Tracy has graciously offered a discount for Elana Lyn readers! Receive 10% off on all of your May purchases by using the code ELANALYN at checkout.
All images courtesy of Tracy Dungo.