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  • Writer's pictureKaia Kento

Kento's Birthday Month - April update

It’s been almost a year since was launched and I just wanted to thank everyone who has supported this little business venture over the past year and share some of the milestones that Kento has achieved.

If you have ever read Kento’s Story or seen any of the more personal posts over on Kento’s Instagram you may be familiar with how and why Kento was created. But I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to reintroduce myself, the creator behind Kento.

My name is Kaia Yolanda Kento and at the end of 2017 I finished a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Media Studies. I do value my Bachelor of Arts and I am glad that I finished it, but I had wanted to study photography and design. However, as a teenager I never felt confident in my creative abilities and because of this I was easily discouraged from pursuing a creative degree.

Taking some edgy photos of my friend Sam for my Year 13 photography class (2012)

Pictured below: Some of photos that I shot for my high school photography class. Many of the photos were inspired by the paintings "Ophelia" by John Everett Millais and "The Lady of Shalott" by John William Waterhouse.

When I graduated from university I felt hopeful about my future and the job opportunities that my humanities degree could lead to. But months passed and I was still working in a restaurant as a kitchen hand. I kept getting rejection emails, or worse – no response at all. I started to lose confidence in myself and felt my mental health deteriorating. Finishing my degree had been difficult and I had worked so hard to get good grades while trying to manage my mental health throughout my time at university. I started to feel like the time and energy that I had invested was not enough because I just wasn’t good enough. I suffered an emotional breakdown and felt that the only thing I could do was quit my job and go home for a while.

With my cat Weasley while on my "Depression Holiday" as I refer to it. I am privileged to have had the option to go home for while.

I returned to Wellington after a month to attend a group interview for another role that I did not get. However, my time away had given me some clarity around what I wanted to do with my life and I decided to go on a waitlist to see a counselor and started to create again as a form of therapy. A few months earlier, a colleague at my kitchen job had been talking about polymer clay and how a relative of his had made some earrings. I spoke to him about making beads from Fimo with my parents as a child and remembered how I would spend hours creating cakes, roast chickens and other elaborate food items for my Barbie dolls from modelling clay.

These experiences and my obsession with earrings led me to purchase some polymer clay and create my first sets of earrings. Around this time I had also started working as a casual receptionist while receiving a Jobseeker Support benefit (with a disability certificate for depression and anxiety). I was on a counseling wait-list for 8 weeks before I was able to see someone, but as soon as I started to get help things in my life started to improve. Creating again was a large part of this because it gave the many days when I was not working purpose. I also started to recognise that I was getting better at creating earrings and that I should be proud of what I was making.

Pictured below: The first earrings that I made to sell on the website.

I was only making earrings as a hobby but my friends and family encouraged me to start selling my creations. I launched on the 28th of April, which was also my 23rd birthday. Kento didn’t make many sales in the first few months of launching and it was difficult to invest any money in to it while my financial situation was so precarious.

Pictured below: me wearing Big Banana earring at my fruit themed birthday party/ Kento launch, stock image of Big Banana Earrings, me wearing the earrings while assembling jewellery.

By the end of my 3 months of counseling I had finally found a job, albeit a fixed-term role with no security. But I was finally able to invest more money into Kento, although my time was more restricted as I entered the world of 9-5. I was doing the Wellington Underground Market with my sister at the time and working 6 days a week between my day job and Kento - 7 if you counted the work I would do on a Sunday. Although I was starting to feel overwhelmed I still loved what I was doing creatively and interacting with people at the markets was something I would have struggled to do only a few months earlier because of how bad my anxiety was.

I feel that I have grown with Kento and although business isn’t booming I am still chuffed about what Kento has achieved in the past just-about-a-year of being a lil biz:

· 28th of April 2018 was launched

· 14th of July 2018 Thrift on Cuba Street Wellington becomes Kento’s first stockist

· July – September 2018 Kento was a stallholder at the Wellington Underground Market alongside FLUFF

· January 2019 Kento was stocked at Kiwinana in Timaru

· 3rd of March 2019 Kento and FLUFF had a stall at the Newtown Festival

· 3rd of April 2019 Kento will have a stall at Sex in the Hub at Victoria University

Throughout the past year I’ve met so many amazing people and become so much more confident in my abilities as an artist and a person. In December 2018 I also finally secured a permanent full-time job that I enjoy – it may have taken a year but I am glad that events led me to my current role. I have invested more time and love into my relationships hosted a few crafternoon’s with friends during which I have shown them how I make earrings (shown below)

In Kento’s second year I plan to extend my product offerings and hopefully open up Kento Crafternoon’s to the public. I work full-time now but I feel more motivated than ever to grow Kento into a flourishing creative outlet and side hustle.

As mentioned in the April newsletter that accompanies this blog post, Kento will be launching new tees and totes later in April, as well as a new range of laser-cut acrylic earrings.

And of course to celebrate Kento’s birthday month please use the code BDAY28 for 28% off any purchase during the month of April.

Thank you all so much,

Kaia (Kento)

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