New Jersey is home to many ambitious and talented women who juggle family, career, and home. A select few of these women are also extremely busy building their own companies to help better manage the balance of work and family. At NJMOM, we want to highlight these extraordinary women who build businesses in New Jersey, and learn the secret to their success.
Co-Owner of Poor Cat Designs & NJMOMpreneur:
When Krista Karingas teamed up with her business partner, Joseph Romanowski, to create Poor Cat Designs in Red Bank, New Jersey, it was a match made in a jewelry-lover’s heaven. Crafted by hand with precious metals, their line of high-end jewelry is more than sterling silver, 18 and 24 karat gold, and platinum pieces – it’s a brand that men and women in all walks of life associate with throughout the country and beyond. Krista’s background in marketing and fashion holds responsible for the “think globally, act locally” approach that her company seems to have adopted. Thanks to their unique model of virtual personal shopping, customers can actually text with a Poor Cat stylist to find the perfect piece, without ever coming into their Broad Street shop. Despite the national reach that Poor Cat celebrates, Krista and her team continuously give back on a local level by supporting countless community charities and causes that directly affect New Jersey families.
NJMOM had the pleasure of chatting with Krista to find out what goes into operating such a successful business, the lifestyle and community that Poor Cat created online, and pro-tips on which beachfront restaurants are absolute musts for her family.
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Krista: Poor Cat Designs offers hand-crafted jewelry consisting of charms, rings, earrings, bracelets, and more. We work in solid sterling silver, solid 18 karat gold, solid 24 karat gold, and solid platinum, so everything is precious metal; everything is solid and substantial, nothing hollow or chintzy, and it’s all crafted by hand right here in Red Bank. Our original designs are our own, as opposed to ordering from a catalog or a vendor. We are constantly creating new pieces and expanding the line, as well as creating new ways to wear our pieces.
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Krista: Marketing and fashion were always my forte, but jewelry was something I never dabbled in. Since I’m always up for a new challenge, I decided to give it a try. After working at Goldtinker in Red Bank for 15 years, my business partner, Joseph Romanowski, created the Poor Cat line in late 2008. By mid 2009, we formed a business partnership becoming co-owners of Poor Cat Designs. Now, we have a staff of 15 jewelry stylists and four managers in our retail store at 69 Broad Street, where things are sold and shipped from. Down the street at Goldtinker is where we work with our designer and my partner, Joseph, and our jewelers. It’s great to be in close proximity because it’s extremely important that both aspects run smoothly and things are being done correctly. We have extremely high quality control where things are double-checked after the manufacturing process before they hit the selling floor.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Krista: My favorite part is making our customers happy. Our customer service is exceptional. Each customer is treated like a king or queen walking into our store, and there is no commission or high-pressure sales environment. The first thing customers should expect when they come to our store is to become educated about our line if they aren’t familiar. That’s a big thing; we go over our history, where it’s all made, price points, and what the jewelry is made of. What sets us apart is that it’s for everybody. We literally have a following of three- and four-year-old children to grandparents. It’s fine jewelry, but there really is something for everyone, and I think that’s part of the reason for our success. We don’t have a target demographic, which is kind of an anomaly because not many businesses could say that. We could never pinpoint our target customer. They call from all over, from all walks of life – from children to adults.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Krista: I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and management from Monmouth College. I became a sales manager at Macy’s Monmouth Mall and then went on to manage Wilsons Leather in Monmouth Mall and Menlo Park Mall before taking a year off when I had my first child.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Krista: I’m proud of my amazing team of stylists and the successful business we continue to grow.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Krista: I never set an alarm clock, I just rise with the sun.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you for the rest of 2017?
Krista: I expect 2017 to be our best year to date. I strive for perfection each day, personally and professionally, which keeps me from getting too comfortable. There’s always room for improvement in all aspects of life. We’re continuing to grow our business online by doing national advertising; we’re featured as an editorial in an upcoming issue of Men’s Fitness Magazine, and we also have a national ad in New York Times T Magazine and advertise in New York Times Sunday Style, which is also international. That’s our plan right now. We find that we really don’t have to open up another brick and mortar right now. Every day, we’re texting and emailing with customers, and that’s how we do a lot of our business.
NJMOM: What is a charity or cause you are most passionate about?
Krista: I don’t have one in particular. We make countless donations to many different charities and foundations each year. Be That Girl is a fairly new organization operated by a friend of mine who is raising two teenage girls. The organization empowers girls to love themselves and in turn, be kind and respectful to others, and know that we’re all in this together. That’s one organization that we donate to, but it’s countless. We have a folder of things we go through from local groups to helping underprivileged children, cancer foundations, and pet foundations – we really do it all.
NJMOM: Who is your role model?
My father is my role model. He taught me to live my life with passion and integrity, and to give every single thing you do in life your very best effort.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom ever gave to you?
Krista: “Kindness is the greatest virtue of all.” It’s the way that she lives her life, and it’s carried over to me. I never try to degrade or berate anyone. There’s no reason to be mean to anybody – humans or animals. My mother doesn’t have a mean bone in her body and that’s really the biggest thing. She was a teacher and has always been about kindness.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Krista: Some of our favorite things to do are to go biking along the ocean and enjoying the many restaurants along the Jersey Shore. We go to either Allenhurst Beach Club or Little Monmouth in Monmouth Beach – Little Monmouth, not the big one!
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Krista: The best part is reminiscing about the memories we made through all of the different stages of childhood into early adulthood. My children and 21 and 23 years old, and I have an amazing sense of pride and happiness as I look at the two of them today.
Krista: I go to Rook every morning for coffee. My favorite restaurants are Trama’s Trattoria in Long Branch, Beach Tavern in Monmouth Beach, Sirena, and Avenue, both in Long Branch. And of course, Poor Cat Designs and Goldtinker for jewelry.
NJMOM: Where do you reside in New Jersey?
Krista: I live in Oceanport across from the water. It’s the perfect place to raise a family since it’s a nice, small community. I knew that I wanted to raise a family and thought it would be the perfect place. I’m originally from Ocean Township, which is a much bigger community than Oceanport, so I wanted something smaller with good schools. It’s just a beautiful, quiet place to live with really close proximity to the beach, which I love.
Krista: Follow your dreams. Have patience, be persistent, and learn from your mistakes.
When the going gets tough – get tougher.