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Made in Kansas City: Emily Reinhardt, Sierra Otto and Brooklynn Anderson

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Inspiration from Earth, Prairie and Sky

There’s something extra special about a product that’s home grown. Many restaurants tout menus featuring local ingredients, freshly prepared. Some shoppers feel a sense of duty to buy things created with a hometown flair. Our Made in KC entrepreneurs are filling that niche by crafting and creating their own products. For them, success started with a dream and the ability to see that vision to fruition.

Ceramic Artist – Emily Reinhardt
For Emily Reinhardt, who lives in the Brookside area of Kansas City, Missouri, the fantasy is to find the artful in the ordinary for her ceramic creations. Emily is the owner of The Object Enthusiast, a website featuring many decorating pieces and showcasing her amazing ability to fashion purposeful home goods from a mound of clay. “All of my pieces are in the pottery category but are functional home goods. I don’t see my work sitting on a shelf in a gallery,” she said. “I make everyday objects that are being used in the home.”

A collector of things, she’s always looking for something to bring home. This drive sparked her desire to make objects. Her vases, platters, trays, cups, ring dishes and more offer touches of glamour with the gold she features in her work. But Emily is careful to craft finished pieces that can be perfectly imperfect, organic and free form. “I run with that a lot. My works are unique because I can’t replicate the same pattern or design; allowing that imperfection is nice,” Emily shared. “I call my style earthy organic with a touch of glamour, and it’s very feminine.”

Emily’s dream job started as a blog after she graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in fine arts with an emphasis on ceramics. She had no studio and no access to a ceramics facility, but she wanted to stay active in the field. The blog was her answer. In 2010, she started selling ceramics on Etsy and then she decided to move to Omaha in 2013 to launch a ceramics studio, growing it into a full-time business.

However, her longing to return to Kansas City and the support she received here brought her back to the community in 2015. “It’s exciting to have this as a full-time job. I have so many ideas in my head that I haven’t even had time to create. That’s the motivating factor for me,” she commented. “Sure, there are lows when you don’t have everything in place, but right now in this season I have so many ideas that it keeps me thrilled and excited to be out in the studio every day.”

As advice for other promising entrepreneurs, Emily offers these thoughts. “It’s pretty easy to get bogged down and negatively compare yourself to others in the business. I’ve looked at other artists, and they’re at a point where I want to be in the future. But I’ve learned that each of us has a different path to take,” Emily noted. “My business is unique and my direction isn’t the same as someone else’s. It’s nice to have other businesses to aspire to, but I don’t compare myself in a negative way to others. I keep my eyes forward and I’m growing in my own way. There’s no book about doing it the right way because the business is so unique.”

Jewelry Craftswoman – Sierra Otto
For Sierra Otto, also of Brookside in Kansas City, Missouri, pounding the pavement brought her vision of Sierra Winter Jewelry to life. The high-quality, fine jewelry designed by Sierra is so versatile it can be worn to a kid’s soccer game and then on to a nice night out on the town.

“I knocked on doors. I emailed. I took trips and brought product with me, visiting dozens of different retailers. I attended trade shows, and then signed on to a showroom in New York,” said the wife and mother of six-month-old daughter, Opal. “I was very active in meeting people and networking. I didn’t have time to be shy. My mom said you never know if you don’t ask. So I asked. I stepped outside of what I am normally.”

Being outside her comfort zone paid off with the establishment of her company in 2016 and an extensive number of retailers carrying her work. Sierra’s pieces can be described as boho chic, with some modern flair. Her style is influenced by a Southwest look, sporting global motifs and patterns. “I was born in the Flint Hills of Kansas, and that’s a special spot for me. My family has a ranch there, and I draw inspiration from the Kansas prairie,” noted the 2010 Kansas University grad.

“I work in sterling silver, gold vermeil, which is 14-karat gold on top of sterling silver, and 14-karat gold. I use pure, quality metals that won’t irritate the skin.” Sierra makes many of the pieces in Brookside, but much of it is fashioned in Los Angeles and New York. Some of the fine jewelry is crafted in India and a few pieces are produced in Thailand. Three-quarters of her line is made in the United States.

Empowered by a bachelor of fine arts degree with an emphasis in metalsmithing and jewelry design, Sierra spent five years as a designer at the Lenexa, Kansas-based Silpada jewelry company. But Sierra wanted something more–owning her own jewelry business. Her plan of starting a family with her husband, Jeff, was the basis of that dream. “I kept thinking about what my life would be like in five years. I wanted to be my own boss with flexibility, and I wanted to start my company before we had children. I wanted to go off and do my own thing. I spent a lot of time researching and planning. Then I dived in head first at 100 miles per hour,” she commented. “I found out I was pregnant the week before I launched the company. Last year was a really busy year for us.”

Sierra set some lofty goals for her company, and she achieved those marks. “Kansas City really embraces my jewelry,” she remarked. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m a big goal setter, and I reached every goal I had set for myself last year.”

What’s ahead for this Kansas City entrepreneur? In five years, she envisions being a nationally recognized jewelry line and brand. She intends to keep her base in Kansas City but grow a team that she will train to produce more of her collection in the U.S. Sierra is proud of her success and she offers advice that focuses on moving out of your comfort zone. “You’ll never know if you don’t ask,” she advised. “Open your own doors. Put yourself out there because no one else will do it for you.”

Olathe Songstress – Brooklynn Anderson
Many teenage girls might be dreaming of being surprised with a new car or special piece of jewelry for their Sweet Sixteen birthday. But in Brooklynn Anderson’s case, her ultimate birthday present featured a great start on her professional singing career.

“I started my professional career when I turned 16,” recalled the now 18-year-old from Olathe, Kansas. “It was then that I met my producer, Anthony Saunders, through a family friend. Together we talked about my breaking into the business and how to make it happen. Anthony was excited to work with me, and it gave me confidence. He got me lined up with voice and performance lessons. He had recording equipment and led me through the process.”

In June, Brooklynn released her first single that she co-wrote with Saunders titled “Get It Back.” She describes it as pop, but a tune that people of all ages, from little girls to older fans, could enjoy. “I want to be proud of my work, and I want my family to be proud of it too. I want to stay true to myself and my music,” Brooklyn stated. “I won’t change myself to make it in music.”

“Get it Back” is available on all of the major music streaming sites. In fact, she’s getting radio play in the major market of Chicago. “I have three other songs waiting to be released,” she shared. “I’ve received interest from California and New York, and I’m looking forward to getting my career in music solidified.”

The Olathe North graduate has deep roots in the KC metro. Her mother, Jodi, is functioning as her “momager.” The rest of her family, including a brother who’s ten and sister who’s seven, along with her dad, Jermaine, offer great support. In fact, they’ll cheer her on as she competes in the KC Superstar show set for later this month.

As for the future, this songstress will continue to focus on her vocal lessons and recording songs. She offers that the music business is a tough field to break into. But she’s confident that she has the foundation to make it; she especially holds a deep faith in her ability to make things happen. “People should follow their dreams, and it’s really true for me. It’s okay to do that regardless of what people say because nobody knows you better than you,” Brooklynn shared. “Do something that you love and have fun with it. I’d rather be happy doing something I love than going to work everyday doing something that makes me miserable.” She also adds that the backing of her parents is a key factor in her success. “I’d encourage all parents to support their child’s dreams,” she said. “If I didn’t have my family’s support, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Whether you’re a budding entertainer who’s committed to making her own kind of music, a potter who finds the ordinary extraordinary, or a jeweler who sees the glitter in going above and beyond, the KC metro offers incredible opportunities for those who dream big. It’s the place where homegrown visions can become reality, reaching far beyond your own backyard. ■