Meet VALLEY’s Fall 2019 Fashion Section Opener: McKenna Kimmel

Photo by Shannon Soboslay

Like many young girls, McKenna Kimmel fell in love with “The Hunger Games” in middle school. She was inspired to take up archery and quickly noticed the lack of clothing for girls in the sport. Soon after, Quiver Archery Apparel was born. 

Years later, Kimmel once again found there was a disparity in a market, this time in Penn State game day clothing. Go State Designs was born in her freshman dorm room and has thrived ever since. 

An entrepreneur since the days of lemonade stands and jewelry making, now a junior at Penn State, Kimmel has always had a side hustle to keep her busy. Although she plans to go into investment banking after graduation, the Mandarin Chinese and Finance double major has found passion in fashion entrepreneurship.

“All throughout growing up, I’ve always had something creative on the side. This is my creative endeavor right now, and I want to continue it out of college,” she says about Go State Designs.

During her time at Penn State, her main focus has shifted to Go State Designs rather than Quiver Archery Apparel, but Kimmel is doing this intentionally. 

Photo by Shannon Soboslay

“At home in Lancaster, it was a great market for archery,” she says. “In State College, I was just trying to find the best thing to do now.” 

Coincidentally, the archery team Kimmel shot for was located at a major archery hub not only just for the country, but the entire world. A previous lacrosse player, she had spent a lot of time at tournaments and competitions where vendors sold clothing and accessories meant for the sport. 

At archery competitions, the lack of female-specific clothing alarmed her and she was able to start designing with the help of a local screen printer and her coaches. Starting off with only two designs and 30 shirts, they were all sold by the end of a two-day tournament.

“My coach is the owner of Lancaster Archery Supply, which is the largest in the world for 3D and target archery,” Kimmel says. “They noticed there was a big demand as well, so I was able to partner with them and get 1,000 products made overseas, and they were sold at different vendor trucks and tournaments.” 

What started as a brand geared toward women, Quiver Archery Design began offering unisex designs as it grew in popularity. An archery blog all the way in the United Kingdom even featured one of Kimmel’s designs one year on a Christmas wish list shared on its site. 

The fact that her products were able to have a global reach was really impactful to Kimmel, and it planted the seed for her future in fashion entrepreneurship and design. With Go State Designs, she has been able to corner the market by integrating vintage clothing with Penn State football. 

Once recognizing the hole in the market when it came to quality, vintage game day pieces, Kimmel took to the thrift stores and realized she could purchase items at a low price-point and transform them into something new. 

After purchasing denim jackets and other thrifted items, she likes to “add value to them through upcycling them,” often by painting and embroidering her pieces. Upcycling is a major part of the vintage clothing business, and Kimmel has been able to bring new life to items of clothing that were previously tossed away.

“The retail market is the second largest industry for pollution, which I didn’t realize before,” she says. “I’ve become a big advocate for reusing.” 

Having run into overstocked inventory issues with Quiver, Go State Designs is more likely to have the opposite problem. With a high demand and fluctuating supply, Kimmel has found that the best strategy for her business is to create custom-ordered jean jackets while also creating T-shirts and other game day styles to auction off on her Instagram page. 

Photo by Shannon Soboslay

In an effort to keep her company running smoothly, Kimmel evolved her business model to include products other than denim jackets because of the high demand for game day clothes in general. 

“I realized there was such a demand for it, and jean jackets are slower to make,” she says. “The other stuff is way faster and I can sell it at a variety of price points as well, which is better for taking to shows.” 

As Go State Designs has progressed, marketing and getting the name out has become key to its success. In fall 2019 alone, Kimmel has not only participated in Pop Up Ave, but she has also sold her products at Doggie’s Pub on three game days and will take part in a sorority trunk show event in November. 

Selling her designs has proved very profitable, but Kimmel isn’t in it for the money. 

It makes me really happy to be able to create something and for it to have an impact on someone,” she says. ” I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the reason that I’m able to add value in some way.

Kimmel’s background in business and love for entrepreneurship go hand in hand, and she has been able to have a true entrepreneurship experience in Go State Designs, a marriage of her passions. 

“I just love business so much. I got into the investment banking realm because I’m interested in what makes a business great,” she says. “With that, you really see how to make company better.” 

Going forward, despite her aspirations to become an investment banker, Kimmel wants to one day land back in entrepreneurship. She has seen friends go into investment banking, create connections and transition a year later into a job in entrepreneurship and would love to do the same. 

“There’s so many paths,” she says about the opportunities to come. “I just love that, being able to live in the moment and still think about the future, but realize it’s what you want to do with it.” 

A great example of modern day entrepreneurship and someone who truly understands how to identify a disparity in a market and break into it, Kimmel has taken a regular hobby and turned it into a unique and scalable business endeavor. 

Her favorite thing about it all? 

I love seeing [my designs] on people. I don’t think anything makes me happier. It comes down to just being able to create value, being able to have an impact on other people, no matter how small.

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