I have often wondered what it would be like to live in the south. Southern culture, hospitality, food and some good ole’ fashion southern charm- it sounds like utopia. There’s something inviting about the relaxed, carefree nature of the South.
After spending a little too much time in middle school watching re-runs of the Disney Channel original movie, Johnny Tsunami, I became intrigued. Although this movie was filmed in Hawaii, I imagined it to be similar to the south (makes sense?) I pictured myself living in a small house with a hammock and ocean-front view, spending my days swimming and sun-bathing near crystal blue waters. Maybe I’d even learn to surf, although the thought of wearing a black full- body suit in ninety degree weather confused me. If all else fails in college, maybe I’ll carry out with this plan.
Anyways, as November approaches and temperatures hover right around freezing, let us pause and assume a southern state of mind. This week, I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Anna Kate DeBerardino, senior at the University of Georgia and creator of lifestyle brand Kiss My Southern Sass. DeBerardino, an advertising major, started the company in March of 2012 in her apartment in Athens, GA. Since 2012, KMSS has grown enormously. Orders have shipped to each of the United States and countries such as Canada and Australia. They have an online store found here and have recently expanded to in-store retail in several fabulous, high-end boutiques in the south. KMSS sells gear for men and women, including tank tops, t-shits, long-sleeved shits, kooizes, hats and croakies, among other items. They even outfitted for the Kentucky Derby Royal Court 2013. Their motto? “No matter what state (or country) you’re in, southern is a state of mind.” Sounds pretty good if you ask me.
Here’s nine things that you probably didn’t know about this cute, classy and sassy company.
M: How did you come up with the idea to create KMSS? Where did the ideas come from?
I always had the twitter account as an anonymous account under an anonymous name. I had about 10,000 followers. It was a spur of the moment thing. After coming back from spring break, I decided to design my own things and I created a website. I changed websites a couple of times. This is my favorite version so far. I just started selling merchandise. I am in charge of the website and Twitter account now.
M: What clothing brands or companies inspire you?
I love Kate Spade; she does a lot of things with bows. I think KMSS is a more casual version of that. I also love Lily Pulitzer.
M: How do you spread the word about KMSS?
Social media is the primary way to connect with people. Our target audience is females ages 18-24. It’s easiest to reach people through social media. We are bigger on Facebook; we have about 80,000 likes on our page. We also have campus reps on different college campuses. They do Facebook posts, Twitter, Pinterest boards. They go to different sorority chapters and inform them of what we have and what is going on. We are still growing.
M: According to your website, your motto is “No matter what state or country you’re in, southern is a state of mind.” What constitutes a “southern state of mind?”
It’s always about being warm, welcoming and kind and it’s the lifestyle. It doesn’t realy have anything to do with where you live. It’s really relatable.
M: There are several retailers for KMSS. Some are located in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. What types of shops are these?
Most of them are high-end boutiques and lifestyle brands. There is one chain of specialty outfitters across the South that sells our merchandise. The rest are higher-end boutiques. Right now, we are not really focusing on more retailers or actively searching for them. We are really trying to gain credibility.
M: What’s your favorite item that you sell?
In general, my favorite is the “Running the World” tank for the fall. I also love the long-sleeved shirts because they are perfect to wear with leggings and boots and are so comfy.
M: You are involved with several different charities and organizations. Do you have any upcoming philanthropy events planned?
Right now, we are organizing a can drive. The campus reps are donating cans. Food banks all around the U.S. are contributing to a Chili Cook-Off at UGS. It’s fun to give back when you have the money, and I realize that we have the money. We help where we are needed and are always there to lend a hand.
M: What advice do you have for young college women who dream of starting their own business?
Don’t wait! Start now, start working on your business and you’ll be ready. Pay attention to details! The quality of a product is very important. They are things that make you memorable. The fastest way a company can grow is by word of mouth.
M: What do you see happening in the future for KMSS?
We just hope to grow in the future. It will depend on how fast we grow. It would be nice to break into our own retail and our own boutiques. It’s something that will take time.
Check them out!