Joanne Engelhard, Kate Shafter, and Gabby Proeh, three seniors at Tulane, came together and began Funk Studio (previously known as JKG Acrylics) right before Mardi Gras started. All three of them are in the architecture program, and spent a lot of time in the lab, with access to tons of different technology. One day, they sporadically came up with the idea to make a pair of earrings with an acrylic laser cutter. The effective results sparked their idea to turn this into a jewelry line for students at Tulane. They have dropped a neon, galaxy, and weather collection and have big plans for the future of their company. I got to sit down with Kate in order to find out more information about the business and her inspiration for the brand.
What inspired your first jewelry piece?
The three girls started in the architecture lab with a pair of three-tier heart earrings and a pair of daisy earrings. They started with these two pieces because they were cute and represented their hippy aesthetic and were geared towards everyday wear. The girls get inspired by the materials and colors they use for their pieces.
How do you balance a business and school?
Kate says, “I set aside time each day, so instead of answering Instagram DMs all day, I save them for the end of the day.” Kate also mentioned that they split up all their work on a spreadsheet that is super organized, and is where most of their communicating happens. All three of them are in a major that takes up a significant amount of time, but they love what they do, so it does not really feel like work.
Do you have any tips for students looking to start a business while at college?
“Go for it, don’t hold back, it is a lot of work, but if you enjoy doing it the outcome is so rewarding,” Kate says. The Tulane community loves to support each other and wants to support new entrepreneurs, so it is the perfect crowd to start a business in. It also helped that Kate has Jo and Gabby to work with, so if one of them has a lot of school work, the other girls step up and ensure that work is still getting done. It is much easier to collaborate with others, especially during college, so that you can divide the tasks up. The three girls also had three different communities of people they knew, so coming together gave them a huge reach into so many different groups at Tulane.
What are you hoping the future of your company will look like, and how do you want to grow?
Kate explained how when they began, the girls just posted all their inventory quickly without much of a plan. After selling out of all their pieces from Mardi Gras, they are looking to regroup and come up with a real business plan. This includes order forms that will keep track of their orders and inventory. The company grew rapidly, with girls looking for unique pieces for Mardi Gras. Now that it is over, the girls can focus on dropping new collections. Especially in New Orleans, there is always an event coming up, and the company can focus on dropping pieces that match up with any future Nola parades, holidays, or festivals.
Kate mentioned to me that they are looking to rebrand, and while they still will be creating their iconic Mardi Gras pieces, they will also be incorporating some more “everyday” jewelry pieces. Be sure to check out @funk___studio to keep up with all their latest designs and events!
Cover Photo: Funk Studio