When Kaycee Martin (she/her) isn’t working her recreation job at Cal Poly Pomona, she runs her jewelry business, Littlest & Co. out of Cypress, California. Starting in late 2019 with the encouragement and assistance of her brother, Ty, Kaycee started making earrings and selling them on Instagram. She quickly grew and opened her Etsy shop and website, branching out to in-person events and pop-ups post-pandemic. We sat down with Kaycee to learn more about the yonsei behind Littlest & Co.
Yo!: Where did the inspiration for the name Littlest & Co. come from?
KM: I thought of myself as being the littlest one in my kindergarten class, and having the mentality of being the underdog and wanting to grow my business and starting small. The name had a few different meanings that felt like it would be a good fit for my brand, and I really thought it would be this small side business, but it's really grown beyond what I anticipated and it's been such a fun journey to see where it goes.
Yo!: How do you balance working full time, and also having a small business on the side?
KM: I've always enjoyed crafting, so when I started making jewelry it was really a nice complement to my full time job in getting to be more hands on and make things. And I try, it's been a learning experience and figuring out how to balance both. But generally, it works out well. A lot of my Littlest & Co. pop-ups and in-person events are usually on the weekends, so I'm able to fit it into my schedule. When I need to make or craft pieces and send out packages, all of that usually happens either on the weekends or in the evenings when I get home from my full time job. So generally, they both work well together.
Yo!: Where do you get inspiration for the pieces that you make?
KM: Usually, a lot of the pieces come from things that I would want to wear for myself, and I want to make for myself. I also try to make a variety of pieces so there's something that hopefully everyone can find that they like.
Yo!: How does your Nikkei identity and background influence your small business?
KM: I grew up aware of other Japanese Americans, especially in past or older generations, that had small businesses. For example, one of my grandparents had a grocery store and my other grandparent had a family construction business. I think that mentality of being a self-starter and taking initiative and working really hard at something motivated me to start a small business of my own. It's been really, really fulfilling to be able to connect the business with the Japanese American community, through different organizations that have reached out and being able to give back and support them, however I can. That's something that I didn't expect, but I've really enjoyed… My family has [also] been very supportive and come to all of my pop ups and events. In the beginning, and even now, helping with packaging, polishing pieces, and things like that—I appreciate my family for being super involved.
Yo!: How has the pandemic and social media affected Littlest & Co.’s journey?
KM: I primarily only use Instagram, still to this day. I really was able to grow my following during the pandemic, via people sharing and recommending me to their friends and sharing the pieces they ordered. Social media played a huge part in getting my business out there and people finding me, and I'm so grateful for that. I think during the pandemic, with the support for small businesses, that was really helpful for getting established. And since then, I've been able to do more in-person events and meet people that way, as well. I think it's all really interconnected, but I would say I got my initial start very much from social media, and Instagram. I try to just put my pieces out there and showcase them because I really enjoy crafting and putting them together and hoping that other people will enjoy it, too.
Yo!: Is there something new or different that you're interested in accomplishing this year with your business?
KM: I think this year, since I just had my baby last month, is really about finding a balance. During the pandemic, it was a lot of online orders from my Etsy shop and my website that kept me really busy. Last year, I set the goal of doing more in-person events, so I was doing a lot of pop-ups and different markets. [But] this year, it's trying to figure out how to balance both and find the right fit, and be able to manage it with a new baby.
Yo!: Congratulations on welcoming your own Littlest, Avery! We do have a lot of moms and new moms in our community. How has being a mom for one month changed your life so far?
KM: I had no idea how much I would be learning when I had a baby. Every day I've been learning something new from her as she learns and grows, and it's been a really rewarding experience so far as a new mom. I feel so lucky to be her mom!
Yo!: Do you anticipate being a mom will change Littlest & Co.?
KM: I think it will change my business and what I make, but I'm not sure exactly how yet, right? It's only been a month. I like that my business creates the opportunity to show my daughter that you can have an idea and in being committed to your goals and working towards achieving them. I think there's a lot of great characteristics and values that you can demonstrate through working hard on a business that I'm excited to teach Avery about.
Yo!: As an Asian American female small business owner, is there any advice that you would give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business?
KM: My biggest piece of advice is to just go ahead and get started, and don't wait until it's perfect because you might never get started and it might never reach a point where it's perfect. Then from there, just keep chugging along doing what you can, and keep going. I think if you can put in a little bit of work at a time and be really consistent about it, you'll go so far with your business, versus waiting till it's perfect or having a ton of momentum than losing steam.
Yo!: Thank you so much for sharing! Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?
KM: One thing that has been unexpected, but really enjoyable about starting a small business, [is that] I didn't realize how strong the community would be and how enjoyable that would be to become a part of. There's so much that you have in common that you share and so many people you can connect with, it's really nice to become a part of that community. One of the best parts of starting my small business is getting to know other small business owners. Especially when you can relate to them, and you can connect about being another female small business owner, or maybe Asian American small business owner, and having other role models to look up to or to connect with—that's something that I've really valued and appreciated that I didn't realize or think about.
Thank you Kaycee! You can find Littlest & Co. linked below:
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