Knox Senior Launches Online Business Focused on the Arts

May 16, 2012

Krista Anne Nordgren, at left

by Laura Pochodylo '14

A combination of imagination and innovation has inspired Knox College senior Krista Anne Nordgren to create her own online company with her sisters.

Called The Makery, the company combines new trends in online sales as well as a focus on handmade goods, like home wares, apparel and jewelry, from North Carolina, said Nordgren, a native of Durham, North Carolina.

She and her sisters put the idea together over winter break, while they were all home in Durham. They chose to spotlight local art from their state. (Photo at top: Krista Anne Nordgren, at left, with her sisters.)

"We want it to focus solely on North Carolina, which is where we're from, so that people can be supporting artists that live immediately around themselves," she said.

The local art concept was inspired by her experiences at Knox and living in Galesburg.

"Knox makes you focus on wanting to do good and wanting to be civically minded, no matter what, and that also has to do with coming up with a business idea that would be really helpful for a community," Nordgren said.

Nordgren's entrepreneurial spirit has broadened while at Knox, where she is pursuing a major in creative writing and a minor in dance.

'In Love with the Creative Process'

"Knox has inspired me by making me completely fall in love with the creative process," Nordgren said. "As a creative writing major and a dance minor, I am not, on the surface, very business-oriented at all. But I've totally fallen in love with the creative process and the idea of endless possibility, and the idea of problem solving and creating something out of nothing."Krista Anne Nordgren, at left, with Aerial Dance Chicago

"That's what I really love about creative writing and dance, and that's what I find in entrepreneurship, as well."

In her first year at Knox, Nordgren was selected for the prestigious Kemper Scholars Program. The program prepares students for leadership and service, especially in the fields of administration and business.

As a Kemper Scholar, Nordgren has received scholarships and summer internships. It was these internships -- one at a non-profit organization and the other at a for-profit organization -- that helped her develop a passion for entrepreneurship.

"My non-profit internship was working in development at the Joffrey Ballet. It was an awesome experience and a good way to dip my toe into the business world," she said. "From that, I really learned how to get people excited about ideas."

Last summer, Nordgren worked for a technology startup called Sifteo in San Francisco, California, where she handled social media and consumer advocacy. It was her experience there that inspired her to make the leap to develop her own business.

Nordgren never has taken a business class while at Knox. Nevertheless, she counts John Spittell, Professor of Business and Management and Executive-in-Residence at Knox, as a "really awesome advocate."

"I think one of the beautiful things about Knox College is I've never actually had a class from John, but without him and his advisement, I would be really many steps back," Nordgren said. "I wouldn't be as far along in this process without him."

Entrepreneurship is a family affair for Nordgren, and not just because she is working with her sisters. Her father, Carl Nordgren, a 1973 Knox alumnus, taught a class on creative entrepreneurship at Knox in the fall of 2007.

The Nordgren sisters' opportunity at entrepreneurship was inspired by a recent trend in online sales.

"In the past couple of years, a new kind of business has developed as e-commerce has become more prevalent as a way that people shop," she said. "They're called online private sales, or flash sales, and the basic idea is that it is a members-only business that offers members very discounted prices."

"Our idea (is) to find and curate a bunch of awesome, high-quality, well-designed, interesting, handmade goods and offer them to people through flash sales."

The Makery is off to a promising start. Nordgren and her sisters successfully ran a campaign for startup funds on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website that relies on donations from the public to provide seed funds for new endeavors.

'People Really Rally Around You'

"We raised $4,450 to seed fund our new business, which is really exciting," Nordgren said. "We had some Knox students who donated money, family, friends from home, and a whole bunch of strangers, so it was really a good spread of people who donated."

With that funding, Nordgren and her sisters plan to launch a beta version of their business to test it with a smaller number of people before it is launched for the public.

Nordgren and her sisters also recently won a contest sponsored by the Durham Chamber of Commerce called "The Smoffice Competition."

"We won a little office space in a popular downtown coffee shop and a nice condo (nearby) for six months," she said. "We can work on our business and have access to venture capital, legal and tech resources. I'm excited about the opportunity to work nearly full time and to have the support of my hometown to make it into something really awesome."

While at Knox, Nordgren also has been a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, a choreographer for Terpsichore Dance Collective, and she has served on the Student Senate. She writes flash fiction and has helped coordinate the Writers' Forum, which facilitates oral presentations for creative writing majors. (Photo above left: Krista Anne Nordgren, at left, participates in Aerial Dance Chicago's dance residency at Knox in spring 2012.)

Nordgren credits Knox with giving her the ability to pursue such a wide range of interests.

"It really is that ‘Freedom to Flourish' thing. I get to do whatever my heart desires," Nordgren said. "And also the thing that's really amazing about Knox is it is easy to have people really rally around you when you really want to do something."