Christine Kirn of Grainwell
For Christine Kirn, Grainwell is more than a company. It is family, community, and most importantly, love. After quitting her full time job, Christine Kirn and two of her sisters decided to open the shop, a customized wood centric decor company in the heart of Covington. As I sit with Christine at her office, the smell of fresh wood surrounds us, and we dive in.
Interview by Aparna Singh. Photography by Angie Lipscomb.
Before we start off, please tell us about yourself.
My name is Christine Kirn. I grew up in Fortwright, Kentucky. I went to architecture school at the University of Kentucky. I worked for about two years after and decided that it wasn’t for me, so I quit. My sisters and I came together to found Grainwell. One is a graphic designer; one had a website for monogrammed T-shirts and cups. I had an architecture background, and we had laser cutters at school, so that is where I learned to use the lasers.
We started in our parents’ garage and a year later, expanded into our own wood shop and boutique. We’ve been open for about four years, but we all have our niche. Michelle does the marketing and social media; Melissa does the graphic design, and I am the one who cuts the designs.
If you do not take the chance, you’re always going to wonder why you didn’t take it.
What’s the inspiration behind Grainwell?
I grew up with my dad, who never wanted to pay anyone else to do the woodwork. My dad has the expertise and the eye to do it himself. So I think having that “maker” attitude definitely helps. My mom always tells me that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. My dad and mom both have entrepreneurial attitudes, so that certainly has been a big factor. Also, it’s been helpful to remind ourselves that if we fail, then it’s no big deal, we can always try something else. My parents have always been inspiring me.
What kinds of projects do you take on?
We take in all sorts of orders. We sell to 150 boutiques across the country. We take in corporate orders for big installations. We have a big sign inside of Hotel Covington that says “United States.” We did a bird sign in Braxton in the bathroom hallway. So, we do anything from crazy installations to exterior signs. We did a few over in Main Strauss. We also do wall signage. We do wholesale and sell to boutiques, and we have a store down the street where we directly sell to the customers. Local people can also order online at Grainwell market and pick up their orders in store.
Is everything laser cut? Do you do anything by hand?
Everything is laser cut, but when it comes out, it comes with a burn on it, so we have to sit and hand sand everything. That’s where the hand work comes in. So we kinda clean the burn off, and the loose particles in the wood shine through and it becomes extra soft.
What sets you apart in terms of the brand?
The dogs [laughs]… I’m just kidding! I would say I always think our customer service is on point. My sister always tries so hard to please the customers. We had three or four installs the week before my wedding, but I was like, “Well, this is how it is. We gotta get ’em done!” It was a little stressful, but we did it… We had to do it.”
What’s kept you going and what advice would you like to give to young women who want to be entrepreneurs?
Do it; go for it. You’re young; you have nothing to lose. You’re not going to fail. If you do not take the chance, you’re always going to wonder why you didn’t take it. My family and friends tell us that what we’re doing is awesome. It’s definitely hard, but I’d much rather take this than sit behind a desk and wonder what would have been. Stay strong and don’t take “no” for an answer. If you want something, go get it.
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