Story by Liesel Schmidt
Like the beautiful jewelry featured on her websites, Katya Ananieva has layers that are surprising, unique and unexpected. Boasting a background in government consulting, she worked on Air Force strategic planning and workforce development projects, satisfying her more creative side as a style blogger from 2009 to 2015. In 2012, she left the Air Force and bought an Old Town jewelry boutique called She’s Unique with her mother, Sabila Ananieva, bringing innovation to the company that would make it a larger presence in the style world and more accessible to buyers across the globe.
'We have a constant drive to evolve and use technology to further expand our presence in the local and e-commerce community.' - Katya
'We have a constant drive to evolve and use technology to further expand our presence in the local and e-commerce community,” says Ananieva, who also co-founded a new 14K gold jewelry company, Four Twenty Three, with her business partner, Ann Franken. “When I bought the shop in 2012, I had to start from scratch. At that time, there wasn’t a functioning point of sale (POS), inventory management or any type of tech component. We introduced the best POS system I could find that year. Since then, we have upgraded to Shopify, built a beautiful e-commerce site and added our presence on all social channels. 10 years ago, Instagram was not used the way it is today, but we were on it as a business and used it as a free marketing tool to share content, jewelry styles, ways to layer and other fun and engaging content. It was a great way to showcase the internal design progress we were making in the physical space and simultaneously connect with our audience online. I began leveraging my contacts in the fashion blogging world to connect with videographers, photographers and other style bloggers. We also began making video and photo content, creating lookbook shoots and sharing everything on social media to grow our audience. At that time, almost nobody else was doing what we were doing.”
While She’s Unique is obviously not a tech company, technology is crucial to its success, and Ananieva has parlayed her understanding of social media marketing and branding as well as her tech-savvy to make its presence even greater. “We use technology in all aspects of our business,” she explains. “Nowadays, it takes a lot of back-end work to bring shoppers into physical and e-commerce shops. What we do in the background is almost as important, if not more important, than what we do in the store. For example, we produce a high-quality email that goes out to our 6K mailing list every week. We leverage email segments to target certain fragments of our customer base like our top VIP shoppers, locals and new customers for more effective email marketing. We place a lot of emphasis on understanding the data and consumer behavior. Additionally, we constantly upgrade our e-commerce site with add-ons such as a pre-order feature and our latest online chatbot that helps answer shoppers' questions in real-time. I don’t think a lot of people online realize we’re a small shop, and [that] one of us—mostly me—is the person behind the chat answering their questions.”
With nearly 10,000 followers, Instagram has been pivotal for She’s Unique. “Most of the engagement happens on IG stories and reels,” says Ananieva. “It’s important for small businesses with e-commerce platforms to leverage social media and keep on top of the latest trends. Right now, reels and TikTok are the most engaging and it’s where we’re refocusing our energy. Video content will only continue to grow—especially with Gen Z—so we have to keep on top of the trends and produce weekly video content.”