The "Bag" Lady
She could have been a starving artist. Instead, she's the bag
lady - but not in the usual sense of the word. Kay Stanley
lives in a lovely seaside cottage on Daufuskie Island where
she finds inspiration for her new line of linen and leather
handbags, Spartina 449 - a product born of her innate talent for
design combined with an unstoppable creative drive. But according
to Kay, this is "small potatoes" compared to her first entrepreneurial
Kay is the original owner of K&Company, an internationally
recognized, award-winning scrapbook and crafts company which
she founded in 1996 along with her husband, Curt Seymour. "We
were fortunate to get into scrapbooking right when it was starting to
take off," said Kay, explaining that they eventually sold the company
to a large private equity firm with the intention to retire.
A "born artist," Kay's inclination was apparent from the first
time she picked up a box of Crayolas. Influenced by her mother,
who was a painter, she knew what she would be when she grew up.
But when it came time for college, Mom pointed out the potential
economic pitfalls of her chosen career, urging her to consider a
field of study other than art. Kay chose journalism, taking a few art
courses on the side and gravitating toward graphic design.
"By the time I graduated, I knew I would be an art director," she
said. "Even the college saw that I picked the wrong degree." But all
was not wasted. Entering the advertising world, she found that her
journalism training went hand-in-hand with the design element. "I
think it gave me a bigger picture of how advertising agencies work,"
she said. And while she didn't know it at the time, she was building
the perfect skill base for her own business.
Kay and Curt discovered Daufuskie Island when searching the
Internet for a place to retire. "We were looking for a golf community
and water," said Kay. They knew paradise when they saw it, bought
a lot and spent a few years planning and building their home -
a historic, Lowcountry-style house, authentically constructed and
decorated. "There's no drywall in the house. It is built like a house
would have been built 100 years ago," Kay explained. She loves
antiques and has scoured the market for vintage furnishings and
accessories, right down to the light switches.
Kay loves the casual lifestyle and the slower pace of life here,
but retirement didn't last long. Creative juices bubbling over, she
began contemplating a way to put them back to work. Evaluating
her scrapbooking strengths, which centered around pattern design
and color, she set out to use those skills to create a line of distinctive
handbags. The business is booming, but Kay aims to limit its growth
by concentrating on independent small sellers. "Our goal is to enjoy
life and have fun with our product line, not to be huge," she said.
While Kay maintains offices and a warehouse operation on
Hilton Head Island, her personal design studio is located in her
home, framed by ancient live oaks and overlooking the calm waters
of Calibogue Sound. "Spartina, the inspiration for our name, is the
native marsh grass that graces our shores and protects our pristine
beaches," Kay said. The whole theme is based on Daufuskie Island.
The patterns are influenced by the beauty of the area, and a portion
of the profits go to the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation.
Kay has found contentment in a community she loves. She has
every intention of staying here and is doing her part to make a
difference. And to think she could have been a starving artist.
Hometown: Kansas City
Moved to Daufuskie Island: in April, 2009
Lives with: husband, Curt; Goldendoodle dog, Buddy
Describes herself as: hardworking and friendly
When not designing handbags, find her: decorating her house
People might be surprised to know that: she doesn't cook.
Life motto: "One day at a time."