We’re so excited to be a part of Create & Cultivate this month here in our hometown of San Francisco! With C&C’s mission front of mind, here’s how our founders, Renee + Tiffany, seek balance as modern working women:
When sisters Tiffany and Renee Tam set out to build KIM+ONO, they knew it would be hard work. That’s because entrepreneurship runs in the family with their parents running their own stores in San Francisco’s historic Chinatown. They saw firsthand through their childhood that a successful business requires focus and grit. But even knowing what it takes, these two sisters didn’t want to just build a company, they wanted to build a product and an ethos that supports the modern woman, breathes life into the things that are important to her, all while recognizing that walking the walk (not just talking the talk) would be the key to KIM+ONO’s success.
You might say that Tiffany and Renee were destined to open KIM+ONO from childhood. Their parents owned two stores on Chinatown’s Grant Ave — Canton Bazaar and Old Shanghai. From a young age, the sisters were always running around the store and hanging in Chinatown when they weren’t in school. They watched their parents navigate their small business and as they got a bit older, they pitched in at the stores and running the shops truly became a family affair. Not only did this teach Tiffany and Renee how running a retail business in Chinatown worked, but their parents also took them on business trips to China as they worked with vendors and artisans to source the inventory for the stores. Not only did they have the hard skills of entrepreneurship, but this gave them the soft skills of collaboration, communication, and working in harmony with other artists and entrepreneurs.
This childhood experience of the process, from sourcing to developing to selling, gave Tiffany and Renee a firsthand knowledge of what it would take to build their own branch of the family business. They had seen kimonos in their travels to Asia and, as adults, they were inspired by the beauty and tradition of those pieces to the point where they finally asked themselves, “How could we make a traditional kimono work for the modern woman?”
As Tiffany and Renee considered their question, “How can we make a traditional kimono work for a modern woman?” they decided to take the same elements of traditional kimonos — their versatility, importance to the family, and kimono fabric — and weave those elements into a modern kimono robe.
The best parts of the traditional Japanese kimono were also elements the Tam sisters believed modern women craved: luxurious kimono fabrics to make you feel beautiful and versatility to work as an everyday garment. Using the history of kimonos and inspiration from vintage Asian art, they set out to build their line of short and long kimono robes. Now, you can wear their creations as a kimono jacket over jeans, a maxi kimono robe to pair with a dress, or simply a piece to lounge in while hanging around the house.
Tiffany and Renee started their business solely online. For years, KIM+ONO built it’s following and created a tribe of customers who valued the same things they did — heritage, handcrafted works of art, and the idea that luxury should be part of your every day, not just special occasions. They loved the idea of how their customers were coalescing around the message they were inspired to impart and felt buoyed by the fact that the longing for balance and beauty was shared by their community. They began daydreaming of what a physical space would look like for KIM+ONO and how they could some day, years and years from then, could bring a store to life with the same principles and aesthetics as their online presence.
Then, as fate would have it, a serendipitous opportunity to open up a shop right on Grant Avenue, where they had worked with their parents all those years before, came to them. The chance to nurture a space where the community could gather for empowering events, wander in for a breath of fresh air, and find something that could uplift their day was too perfect to pass up. So the sisters decided to jump in and bring their kimono store to life.
Now with the kimono store and the online shop running in tandem, Tiffany and Renee are busier than ever. But their commitment to the values that inspired them to create modern kimono robes remain the same. Renee explains, “We always try our best to have a balanced lifestyle — being conscious of what we eat (sometimes), going to Barre class, traveling for a much-needed reset, spending time with friends and family.” They know what brings them back into balance, and if they can find that, they can bring that sense of calm and groundedness to entrepreneurship, which often times doesn’t easily lend itself to balance. Tiffany agrees, “Most important is to check in with myself and give whatever it is I need for “me” time. Otherwise in the midst of all this hustle and bustle and being a mom, I’ll literally go insane. As an introvert, I enjoy being by myself and doing things alone. This is when I get the time to mentally check in and allow myself to focus on the positive things in life and take the time to appreciate them. Instant reset and back on the go!”
Tiffany and Renee’s value of handcrafted heritage lives in every piece they offer, and their principles of balance, gratitude, and community guide how they’ve built their (two!) businesses from the ground up. This desire to find the right balance for their own lives also serves as inspiration to bring that into other womens’ lives. Whether you’re shopping for your kimono style online, stopping into the kimono store to pick up some wellness goodies, or checking out their booth at the Create & Cultivate conference on September 21st, their hope is that you feel the good intentions and guiding principles in every interaction with KIM+ONO.