By Gwinn Volen
One thing I love about our area is that there are oodles of smart, savvy women. I can easily name several in Ponte Vedra who, if challenged, could pool their talents together and resolve many a business problem or major crisis. Many of these women put their careers on pause to raise their families, but their talents are always there, manifested in everything they do.
Meet one such woman, Susan Kelly. And now, after raising her kids into the teenage years, she has embarked on a new challenge, an entrepreneurial venture where she can use all the business savvy she has from her pre-parent career and meld it with one of her passions. She’s oh so stylish, charming, sophisticated, and super intelligent, and she has just launched a new fashion business, Milly Kate Designs.
Recently launched, Milly Kate is a line of affordable and fashionable hand bags all designed by Kelly. I stumbled upon the bags in my Facebook feed and had no idea who was behind it. Low and behold it was Kelly. Read more to find out how it all began.
Tell us a bit about Milly Kate and when did you start it? Milly Kate is a line of fun and stylish handbags, clutches and totes. I started the company this past summer and was able to manufacturer the first line of items to have product available to sell in December!
What gave you the idea to start Milly Kate? As our kids got older I had time to think about the next stage of my career but I wanted to have flexibility. After doing market research I discovered that purses, bags and beach totes are a great market because most women like to own a variety. As a fun bonus my fourteen-year old daughter has been involved in most aspects of the start-up including naming the company, choosing colors and products, and photo shoots!
How do you come up with designs and inspirations? I think about what I personally would be excited to buy and use. The products offered now reflect the bags I carry in a typical week. I have the crossbody for everyday use, the larger camouflage tote for going to kids’ practices and games, the smaller leather clutches for going out, and the straw tote bag for going to the beach or pool! I want to create items that are fashionable and classic yet fall within a price range that allows people to “treat themselves” or give them as gifts.
What was your previous career/what’s your background? I worked in fashion retail in high school and my first job out of college was as a Manager and Buyer for Belk Department Store. After graduating from business school I worked in brand marketing for Colgate-Palmolive in NYC and Campbell Soup in NJ. I stopped working to stay home with our two children and now that they are teenagers, I am enjoying starting this entrepreneurial venture.
How can people stay on top of new products? How do they purchase? You can view and purchase Milly Kate products at millykatedesigns.com . There is free delivery in the Ponte Vedra area but make sure to select that option at check out!
To see the products in person you can also stop by Model Citizen in Ponte Vedra Beach. In the next month you will be able to buy the products on Amazon which includes two-day shipping if you are a Prime member. For the latest news and product introductions you can find us on Instagram and Facebook at @MillyKateDesigns.
Where did you grow up? I grew up in Winston-Salem, NC. It’s a beautiful medium-sized Southern town.
How long have you lived here? Our family has been in Ponte Vedra Beach for over 10 years and my husband Sean grew up in the area.
Other places you have lived? I went to college at UNC-Chapel Hill and business school at Duke and then lived in New York City, Philadelphia and Atlanta before settling in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Your favorite thing about Ponte Vedra/Jax etc? I appreciate the relaxed nature of our community and the genuine kindness and helpfulness of most people I meet. And I love the beach!
Your favorite time in Ponte Vedra? I love the Spring and look forward to TPC each year.
Dream vacation other than Ponte Vedra? I’m hoping to travel to Croatia this summer and Italy sometime soon!
Last time you went to the beach? This week! Even in January I love walking on the beach!
Favorite area organization? I really enjoy being involved with the community through the Ponte Vedra Women’s Civic Alliance. My husband and I are also active in supporting the Beaches Area Boys & Girls Club in Jacksonville Beach.
Favorite Ponte Vedra restaurant (or area)? Lunch at JJ’s Bistro, Happy Hour/light bites – the bar at Medure, and dinner at Doro.
For more information, please visit Milly Kate Designs.