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Homespun greeting card business offers local twist

A family run, homespun greeting card/invitation business in La Jolla which started off as a home office two years ago has morphed into a nationwide distributor and will soon be retailing on-line.

“We’ve gone, in two years, from having one retailer to over 400 all over the country and 50 representatives,” said Jennifer Loyd, who co-owns and operates KT Originals at 7924 Ivanhoe Ave., Suites 10-12, along with her sister and mother, Kristin and Pat Taddey.

The KT in KT Original, Kristin first got the idea for creating a homemade greeting card company while she was a full-time dental hygienist. Family friends commissioned her to create wedding save-the-dates, baby announcements and party invitations. Realizing it was her talent and passion in life, Kristin then teamed with sister Jennifer and KT Original was born.

Team Taddey also includes friends Jenny Laraiza, Desiree Higgins and Tamara Mecklenborg, all La Jolla High grads.

Births, birthdays, greetings and Christmas cards, thus far, have been the staple of KT Originals. But the company is spreading its wings, updating its Web site to do online retailing, which it will launch soon. Kristin Taddey also plans on doing a complementary line of custom-made picture frames.

There are a number of reasons why KT Original cards are, well, original.

“The cards are dimensional, they’re not flat,” pointed out Pat Taddey, fingering a greeting card with a pinwheel on it sporting a rhinestone in the center. “They just have an embellishment on it.”

“Most of our cards are handmade, have a finished item on them,” said Jennifer Loyd. “Our niche initially was always to hand-touch everything.”

Loyd added the company’s personal touch also justifies a higher price point than the industry standard of $5 to $6 for greeting cards and invitations, which cost $20 per box.

“We really started out with a concept of a present wrapped in an envelope,” said Kristin Taddey. “We wanted to do something where you wouldn’t actually just toss the card and throw it away, but create something you would want as a keepsake.”

Jori Jackman, owner of Seaside Papery in Coronado, one of the many outlets that carries greeting cards by KT Original in San Diego County, is sold on the company’s stylings. “The designs and the colors they use just really pop and stand out against a lot of other cards,” Jackman said. “They are perfect for my store, which sells them like crazy to locals and tourists. They always come out with new designs, always updating the line, which is a bonus.”

The Taddeys also have a feel for what San Diegans want. “Their stuff really is oriented for California,” Jackman said. “It just really says what we’re about up and down the coast.”

Marie Kirishian, a principal of Network, a manufacturer’s representative for a sales group with a showroom in Los Angeles, markets greeting cards produced by companies including KT Original, to department and clothing stores, bookstores and stationery shops. She has been working with the La Jolla boutique for over a year, and is pleased by the company’s performance. “They’re doing really well,” Kirishian said. “They’re just a really nice bunch of girls and are very motivated to do something different in the gifts and paper industry.”

Kirishian is especially impressed by the company’s graphics and the little embellishments they use, which are a hallmark of their product. “I like the accents that go into their work,” she said, “the feathers and jewels and rhinestones and glitter they use: it makes it more attractive.”

KT Original is also pioneering new and creative ways to accommodate working mothers. The boutique is as much nursery as wholesale retailer, allowing mothers to work alongside their children. “When I started the company, I wanted to have a profession where you could bring children so you don’t have to leave them with a nanny all day if you did want to work,” said Jennifer Loyd, a mother with an infant. “This is such a female-driven business, and women typically our age are going to be having babies. We wanted them to be able to take them to work and offer them flexibility with doctor’s appointments and activities and events. After women give birth, we wanted to welcome them back and say, ‘Let’s make it work.’ ”

One thing Kristin Taddey likes about the greeting card/invitation business is its spontaneity. “Very exciting things often happen here,” she said. “One day we got a call from Warner Brothers and they wanted to use one of our cards in the background scene of a movie. Or, we just got a big order from a chain store, which is always exciting.”

But greeting cards is a competitive industry, and those in it have to always press to be fresh and remain relevant. Said Pat Taddey: “We’re just a little fish in the pond, but we’re really trying to make a statement. I think we’re moving in that direction, really thinking kind of outside the box, which you have to do in order to keep your head above water.”

For more information about KT Original call (858) 454-3163 or visit www.ktoriginal.com.