If you have followed me for a while now, you most likely know that in January K (Kristine), and I decided we were stronger together, and I became the COO of RARE. An apparel and accessories brand that dedicates its platform to raising awareness for rare diseases and invisible illnesses. K started RARE. as a way to begin communicating and accepting her new life. We realized, however, that there are so many unique parts of RARE. that you probably didn’t know. There is meaning and intention behind everything we create at RARE. and we wanted to let you in on ten things you may not know about our brand.
- How did RARE. Get its name?
When K’s symptoms began back in 2016, she started to find her creative side. She was getting pretty good at it and decided to make a small shop to help keep her morale. It was named The Krafty Kousins and featured all custom made to order items. It wasn’t until Kristine, and her wife got into a fight in September of 2018, that RARE. was born. [Fun fact, K was only ever going to put RARE. out as a seasonal line! It was not until November of 2018 that she decided to move forward with RARE. as a business]
- How/ Why did RARE. Start?
RARE. started as a way for K to have a safe place to go. At the age of 27, she began to experience the onset of symptoms of her disease. She felt alone and isolated. She felt like there wasn’t a space that she fit into, so she created one!
- Where are the items from RARE. Made?
Everything at RARE. is handmade by K and I. We do not outsource any of our items as of now. They are all made and packaged by us with love, sweat, and tears. [And maybe some alcoholic beverages on the side for the rougher days!]
- Where is RARE. Located?
RARE. operates in two different states. K operates from her home in Washington, DC (were hoping to change that), and I work from my home in Pennsylvania. We spend roughly 4-5 hours on the phone daily between texting, facetime, phone calls, and of course, Alexa drop-in. In constant communication, we make all our decisions together. Our conversations usually start before 7am and at times lasting way past midnight.
- How did K and I become business partners?
The short answer? (the one that makes K cringe every time we say it) We met online! Insane, we know. I found RARE. and K through a hashtag I was searching. I reached out to her to work together and to help promote her brand because I strongly believed in its mission since it aligned with my mission so well. One thing lead to another, and a few months later, I was on her Verizon bill! [Fun Fact K has my original email to her from August 2019 hanging in a frame in the RARE. studio. A reminder that always makes us laugh when spotted]
- Her Verizon bill?! What?!
Yep! Her Verizon bill! K officially asked me to be her partner in January, not long after she offered to put me on her Verizon Plan. K knew that we had a long way to go before we started making money and would be able to pay ourselves. She knew the work that we would have to put in and she felt one way she could help compensate me was to add our family to her business account. Mike and I went to our local Verizon store that day, and by nightfall, we were all on one big family plan. The best part is this all happened before we met in person. Yep we know, we’re borderline certifiably insane! [Fun Fact: the Verizon man who assisted us thought I was K’s sister, and I had no problem making any of the transactions!]
- What was it like when we finally met?
Honestly, it felt like I already knew her. By the time we met, we had been talking every day and were planning Rare Disease Day for February. For me, I felt like I was meeting someone I had known for a long time. K, in her typical awkward fashion, was so anxious and nervous that she made her wife meet me at the door. She hid upstairs, her face beat red when she finally came downstairs. I gave her a huge hug despite already knowing she hated hugs.
- What have we accomplished so far since starting to work together in January?
Not to pat ourselves on the back or anything, but when we look back at the last four months and all of the hardships in the world and our lives, we wasted no time. For being only two people who jumped into business together, working in different states, merging two entities, and learning each other’s work styles, we have to say we have accomplished more than we ever thought possible. In just the first month of joining forces, we planned a rare disease event in DC, created an ambassador program and onboarded 56 ambassadors, and revamped our social media platforms. We did this all while K manages her rare disease in DC, and I manage Owen’s rare disease in PA. We quickly knew that this was our destiny, and with that faith, we continued to hustle through and create more contacts and community.
- How do you come up with the designs on RARE.’s website?
Honesty, through pure inspiration. Everything we do and create has meaning and intention. There is not a single design on the website that doesn’t have some sort of a story behind it. That’s what makes RARE. so special. There is meaning behind every single piece we create. It has been amazing to see the inspiration that has come from other stories, our pain, and the strength that we have found in each other.
- What is your shop with a purpose feature?
Another massive accomplishment that K and I listed as a 2020 year goal was our shop with a purpose feature. We have always donated 15% of every sale to support the research and advancement in rare diseases. However, we wanted our customers to be able to choose where that 15% was going. To allow your purchase to have a voice and for your purpose and passions to be known. At check out, customers can choose from a list of several different organizations and decide where that 15% from their purchase will go. We will continue to update the non-profits listed as we highlight different causes throughout the year. [Fun Fact : In the first two weeks of June we have raised over 500$ for the seven non-profits that are currently listed to choose from]
I am sure there are still so many things I am leaving out or so much more I could tell you about this crazy journey that we have been on, but that could and would take all day. At the end of the day what I hope you take from Kristine and I’s story is that our goal is to make a difference. Through RARE. and our crazy story we hope to advance care and research in rare disease, as well as give people a community where they feel like they belong. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who has believed in us along the way and who continues to support our crazy dreams. You’ll be remembered when we hit it big one day !
Live Large & Stay RARE.