Dan Davis, the co-owner of Kin Ship Goods, which is located in Charleston, West Virginia, talked with Jim Matuga about his business, the market he serves and how he attracts new customers.
Kin Ship Goods is a lifestyle brand, retail shop and print studio. Kin Ship Goods also serves as a community space – hosting events, music and fundraisers for numerous social justice causes.
Davis has been making art for as long as he can remember and has been screen printing for over 15 years. He is self-taught and attributes any skills he has to sheer willpower and stubbornness. Dan was born in Nuremberg, Germany, spent his childhood in Idaho and his teens and twenties in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2014, he moved to Charleston, West Virginia with his partner, Hillary, not far from where she grew up. They live on the West Side of Charleston, with their two senior beagles and two sleepy cats.
When do you get started in this line of work?
“ In 2009, Hillary and I met in Louisville. She had been there for school and was gone for a good 20 years from West Virginia. I was running an art gallery out of my house which was getting some press in Louisville. She came to a show and we met there. Then, I got to know that she had an art gallery at one point. We talked and decided that we should start a more legitimate gallery,” said Davis.
“In 2009, we opened up The Kin Ship. There is a space between Kin and Ship and that gets left out a lot of times but this is a nautical play on words. We had an art gallery called the Kin Ship. Artists, I included, are notoriously difficult to work with. After doing that for about a year we decided that we wanted to focus on making our own things. We started with greeting cards and stuff like th
at. I had already been a printer for five years so it was easy for me to make stuff like that. We screen printed greeting cards and art prints and then t-shirts which lead to small craft fairs. We got a couple of big breaks through people being interested and we just felt like we could really make a run at this. In 2013, we both quit our day jobs and started doing Kin Ship full time out of the spare bedroom in our house. We moved here five years ago and have been in West Virginia ever since.”
What is the geographic market you serve?
“When we first moved to West Virginia it was probably 90 percent online sales, ov
er the country and overseas; 10 percent was the retail store. Now 50 percent of our stuff is going through the United States and the store now is 50 percent of West Virginians,” said Davis.
What’s the long-term vision for your company?
“To sustain. To be an anchor in the community and to keep giving people jobs. I am not trying to take over the world. As long as Hillary and I can drink coffee, our animals are fed, and I have a roof over our head, I’m totally fine with that. It doesn’t sound awesome but that is truly where we are at,” said Davis.
How do you attract new customers?
“We have been lucky that all of our growth has been organic. We do use social media like most modern businesses. Our Instagram has about 20,000 followers. Our motto at Kin Ship is don’t talk down to the customer. People are smart and we have a big thing where we don’t bug you when you come in. We are not a company that is big on the hard sell because it’s the year 2019 and with things like the internet, anything you want to find you can find,” said Davis.
Davis was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to his full podcast here.
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- PIECE OF ADVICE: “Draw a line in the sand, have a point of view,” advised Davis. “Make your own rules.”