Katydid Collection: A Trip to Africa, 10,000 Stores and an Inc 500 Empire

What happens when nothing goes as planned? An unexpected turn of events led one unknown fashion designer to be named to the 2010 Inc. 500 list and recognized...

What happens when nothing goes as planned? An unexpected turn of events led one unknown fashion designer to be named to the 2010 Inc. 500 list and recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America.

A few years ago, Katy Messersmith learned firsthand how a change of plans could change her life. Messersmith first arrived on the fashion scene in 2002 by accident.  While volunteering at a women’s prenatal clinic in Africa, her life took a turn – literally, her luggage was lost and she was soon collaborating with local seamstresses. Her first designs reflected the vibrant, local culture and lit an entrepreneurial spark that set the stage for a future design empire.

Forever the risk-taker, Katy was determined to succeed, despite being self-taught in the worlds of business and fashion.  With a collection now sold in 10,000+ stores, learn how Messersmith created her multi-million dollar company based in the heart of the Dallas design district and why trial and error produces results.


Founder, Age:             Katy Messersmith, 33

Company:                     Katydid Collection

Location:                       Dallas, Texas

Industry:                        Retail

Startup Year:               2002

Startup Costs:             $200


How I Got Started:

I always knew I was an entrepreneur at heart – always making plans, but Katydid Collection actually started during a trip when nothing went as planned. In 2000, I took a two-month volunteer trip to Ghana, and my luggage never arrived – so off to the village seamstress I went. Creating a new wardrobe was such fun and sparked a fire in me to create more. When I returned to the U.S. I immediately began working on starting my own business and began selling my creations on eBay. I couldn’t have dreamed in those early days that I would be where I am a decade later.

Best Success Story:

The day I found out my company had made the Inc. 500. I think for any entrepreneur that pours their heart and soul into their company 24/7, it’s an emotional moment to find out you are ranked among the best. Now the trick is staying on the list.

Biggest Startup Challenge:

My biggest startup challenge was figuring out a way to develop a brand and not go into debt while doing it. I initially started out doing tradeshows and learned quickly that that route wasn’t for me, but getting online and setting up an ecommerce site was my best route. Learning the tricks of the trade on the internet and marketing were most difficult, at first.

#1 Tip for New Entrepreneurs:

Social media can drive traffic, but it has to be part of your business strategy from the beginning. Social media will soon be the engine by which all companies are measured. Engage with your customers early and often to develop a sense of community and build a strong brand following. Collecting emails and having a weekly email newsletter with specials and new arrivals also has played a large part in my growth.

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