Entrepreneur student wraps business around helping needy

Grand Canyon University junior Kate Hames displays clothing from her business, Anomaly Co., during a recent IDEA Club Marketplace.

Photos by Ralph Freso

Kate Hames watched her father operate a successful dry cleaning business in Columbus, Ohio, that catered to high-end clothing. She also recognized the premium prices customers paid to ensure their attire remained pristine.

She vowed she would keep her prices affordable if she ever ventured into the clothing business.

She put that declaration to the test once she switched majors at Grand Canyon University and started her own clothing line, Anomaly Co., inspired by Matthew 5:14-16 ("You are the light of the world"). The clothing line is designed to push inspiration over profit.

That includes choosing secondhand garments as the base for her clothing with price in mind while donating around 15% of her profits to charity.

Hames’ sweaters were a big hit at the first IDEA Club Marketplace in October, and she reluctantly followed a request from her more experienced club leaders, such as president Connor Vicary, to raise prices.

“I’ve been in the garment world my whole life, basically, but I’ve always gotten complaints about prices, so I try to avoid that conflict,” Hames said.

“Because I knew my target market, and I fulfilled their wants and needs and created a new category for myself, which is handmade garments with secondhand material that is very illustrated and unique ... people saw the value in my items. Therefore, I could justify charging more, so then I can stay in business.”

Kate Hames discusses her business model during an IDEA Club meeting in October.

Robert Vera, founding director of GCU’s Canyon Ventures, lent pricing advice to IDEA Club leaders, which they passed on to Hames.

“And while she didn’t sell out everything, she sold most of it,” Vera said.

Still, Hames wants her products to be affordable for college students. So she tries to find a happy medium of helping an array of people in need while operating a profitable business.

That idea started when she shopped for a dresser for her apartment during Move-In at the University. An employee at the store told her that proceeds from the sales of merchandise went toward helping those in foster care prevention and reunification.

Kate Hames, whose father operated a dry cleaning business, now operates her own clothing line of handmade garments using secondhand material. What is important to her, she said, is maintaining integrity in her business.

Hames also wants to earmark some of her profits toward ministry, charity or a cause, such as preventing human trafficking, when she sells merchandise in Columbus.

She wants to distinguish her business as not just another Christian clothing band.

“I think knowing you have value that people will buy into that, and providing as much value as you can, will allow you to price what you’re worth,” Hames said before sorting a few sweatshirts on a rack at the November marketplace.

Materials are particularly important to Hames, who does not want her business to be so thrifty that it exploits workers. And she prefers 100% cotton because it is more environmentally friendly, based on her experiences in the dry cleaning business.

Hames learned to sew from her grandmother when she was 8 years old and was grateful after her father bought another dry cleaning business last summer with an alterations room in the back.

"That was my office," Hames said with a smile. "There were some sewing machines in there, and I played around on YouTube with the skills I needed."

One of junior Kate Hames' sweatshirts from her Anomaly Co. collection gains the attention of a student during a recent IDEA Marketplace event.

Hames, who said she's against "fast fashion," buys 90% of her clothes second hand and selected Los Angeles Apparel as her base garment because of its commitment to cotton and the environment and its fair wages to employees.

Perhaps the biggest measuring stick of her business success will be her website (anomalyco.shop) and her efforts to push her audience beyond GCU. She happily reported her hoodie collection was sold out within days.

The business venture might seem like a daunting task, but Hames is all-in, changing her major from Christian ministry to applied entrepreneurship and committing herself to combining those two aspects of her life. Maintaining integrity, she said, and embracing CCOB's tenet of conscious capitalism is a priority for her.

“The Lord put it on my heart to do this,” she said.

GCU News Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be contacted at [email protected]

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