Meeting the tall, blond, beautiful Kate Freeman in person is even more mesmerizing—if you can imagine—than the gorgeous handmade creations on her exploding @encirkledjewelry Insta feed. Her company, spelled with a “k” for Kate, has skyrocketed in popularity within Fairfield County and internationally during the past year and a half and is growing exponentially. Seattle-born Freeman is a lawyer who previously worked in business litigation for firms in L.A. and Manhattan. She and her husband lived in NYC for years, and she balanced corporate life while caring for her three children until the family moved to Westport during Covid in June 2020.
“The pandemic gave me a gift of time that I never had before,” she says. Wanting to do some crafts with her kids during quarantine, she ordered a bead kit, and the rest is history. “We made a few bracelets and I posted one. After my friend bought it, my kids encouraged me to start my own little company, and it grew from there,” she says.
Once Freeman began posting daily, her enamel bracelets on stretchy string evolved to high-end necklaces with colorful semiprecious gemstones and gold accents, and now her homegrown business is a full-time gig. “I love what I do and it’s fun and unique,” she says. “We source high-quality, beautiful gemstones from around the world, string them on silk thread, knotting between each bead, and finish them off with 14K gold findings and a clasp. They can be worn plain or used to add charms of your choice.”
A lover of vintage jewelry, she often weaves pre-loved gold chains into her pieces. “We’re known primarily for our Half and Halfs—part gemstone necklaces, part chain—and for our Rainbows, a mix of gemstones in all colors.”
SPREADING THE WORD
Freeman first learned how to knot and string beads through personal trial and error and with the help of two women, Amy Lametta and Briana LaBonte, who she met at a local bead store. Months later, when she was too busy to fill custom orders herself, she hired them as part of her team. Since then, the self-proclaimed jewelry mixologist has done an impressive job maximizing use of the online world to create her brand. “I built my business entirely on Instagram after starting with twelve followers, and after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, it caught on organically,” she explains, remembering in the beginning when many of her clients were people she hadn’t met from faraway states. “After I was up and running, I also joined an online coaching group where the teacher recommended making Reels because the future is all about short-form video. An ideal reel is eight seconds or less and has a longer shelf life than posts, which is helpful when you’re trying to market and sell.” She adds that once a reel goes viral, Insta’s algorithm looks to you for other viral reels and you’re able to connect with a larger audience.
While Freeman was learning to leverage her presence online, she made one or two necklace sales per day via her Instagram stories. She recalls that her jewelry would get snapped up within minutes, if not seconds, this way. “I felt lucky that my pieces were getting purchased right away and was so grateful for this platform,” she says. Now, her website (encirkled.com) features more of a selection for those who aren’t so quick to click and also offers a cool build-your-own necklace feature. “We envisioned the website like a cookbook, where clients pick their own sizes and colors of beads as well as any pattern they like,” she explains. For those who prefer to try on and buy in person, Encirkled sells at several stockists worldwide, including Monarch Market within the Fred boutique on the Post Road.
Another tool Freeman uses to promote her neck candy is Instagram’s Livestreams. Known as Lives, they’re best described as a real-time show-and-tell, where Freeman narrates each ware, awarding the sale to the first viewer to claim it in the “comments” section. In addition to Insta sales, her hands stay busy making custom orders and stocking website inventory. She, Briana and Amy work continuously at Kate’s living room table, stringing and knotting one-of-a-kind pieces by hand, sometimes shipping out around twenty necklaces a day. They also source vintage charms, chains, rings and other items to disassemble and repurpose into new unique creations.
Recently, Encirkled had around 21,200 followers and that number was climbing steadily. “I can’t believe how my business has grown from a combination of hard work, word of mouth and short-form video,” Freeman muses, grateful for her hometown and other women entrepreneurs she’s met during her journey. “Westport and the people here have been amazing, and it’s such a tight community that I’ve made some special friends along the way,” she replies, giving a shout out to other supportive local lifestyle influencers, including Julia Dzafic of @Lemon Stripes, @jennfalik of The Ultimate Edit, @Amy_ guzzi_ of The Stylist Effect, Kathleen Ashmore of @kat_can_cook and Eva Amurri of @thehappilyeva. “I’ve been amazed and encouraged by the level of support I’ve received from other women-owned small businesses, both locally and in the jewelry community on Instagram,” she raves.
When asked what we should expect to see this season, she laughs. “We’re on a mission to bring back pearls and make them cool. Also, turquoise and candy opals—that look like kids’ candy necklaces—will be big for spring and summer.” One thing’s for sure, whether you’re a fan of her classic rainbow, the rock ‘n’ roll hue, her cashmere ombre or the camo strand, all can agree Freeman is an inspiration on how to grow a company using social media to move the needle, as well as proving we can reinvent ourselves no matter our stage in life.
As for Encirkled’s future trajectory, Freeman is taking it one day at a time. “I can’t wait to see how Encirkled grows. I plan to continue to make jewelry that encircles people with color and love for a long, long time. When you find your passion, you hold on for the insane ride.”