Katelyn Hannan is your not so typical art student. When she’s not in class or working retail, she’s running from pop-up to pop-up, dropping off product at local boutiques, and working on new designs for her small brand: 99 Angels.
The New York City inspired artwear brand features a collection of colorful t-shirts, hoodies, pillows and more, each an abstract homage to Katelyn’s 90s childhood. Her iconography is playful, yet simple, ranging from vibrant mushrooms to city skylines. She creates each design on her iPad, taking full advantage of digital design opportunities - a choice she’s had to fight hard to defend while attending art school in the city.
“Teachers were often mean and would tell me I had no technique,” Katelyn explained of her traditional art school’s disinterest in up and coming art forms that didn’t pertain to canvases or paint. While she was open to criticism, Katelyn found the feedback confusing — as her online sales led her to believe otherwise.
Thanks to Instagram and Tik Tok, Katelyn has been able to direct people to her online store, where all of her designs are available and made to order. This flexibility has allowed 99 Angels to grow slowly, only investing in orders that have already been purchased, as opposed to bulking up on inventory from the get go.
While shopping at 99 Angels, customers are able to search for their favorite graphic designs and have them made on pretty much anything they can think of: clothing, iPhone cases, notebooks, totes, and so on. This model is not only fun for the customer and financially responsible for Katelyn, it’s good for the planet. Made to order products reduce waste, have a better likelihood of withstanding the tests of time in your closet or home, and are often more unique than their mass-produced competitors.
“I love being creative and coming up with new ideas,” Katelyn said of her not so long attention span. While many designers are often forced to focus on a few designs at a time, needing the resources to produce, market and sell each one before moving to the next, the made to order model has allowed Katelyn the freedom to constantly create whenever inspiration strikes — an opportunity she doesn’t take for granted.
Once she finalizes a design, Katelyn creates a few sample pieces for photoshoots, store drop-ins and local pop-ups throughout the city. As she continues to navigate the ever-changing landscape of social media algorithms, Katelyn has found that selling in real time to customers beyond a screen has been pivotal for her brand. From establishing relationships with brick and mortar retail partners, to investing time and energy into consistent pop-ups, 99 Angels has surpassed your average side hustle, and transformed into a full fledged small business.