Similar to other lifestyle brands, here at J.Forks Designs we are continually looking for new ways to market our company, and one of the trendiest ways to do so is via "influencer marketing" and/or "brand ambassadorship." The concept is not necessarily new. For years, brands have utilized recognizable people to help convey their message. Until social media, only celebrities and public figures had the platforms to reach large quantities of people. Now that social media is woven into the fabric of our society, non-celebrities are able to make a similar impact on an intimate level. Thus "influencer marketing" on a micro scale was born, and companies ranging from boutiques up to Amazon utilize this marketing strategy. Curious to learn more about the people behind the clever Instagram handles and flashy photos? Well, we decided to create a blog series titled, “Influencer Spotlight," to shine a light on their lives.
For our second "Influencer Spotlight," we turn our attention to @KatieLynn whos Instagram feed is stacked full of hats, dripping in turquoise, and layered in fringe. Without question, this gal loves western fashion. Katie promotes brands such as J.Forks Designs, American Hat Company, Jason Becker Custom Leather, Fenoglio Boot Co., Wild Horse Watchin Bands, American Feathers, Diamonds by Dakota, and more through her social media accounts. Ironically, Katie does not classify herself as an influencer as she does not actively pursue brand ambassadorship as a career. Instead, Katie is the Public Relations Director at American Hat Company and a freelance writer for Cowgirl Magazine.
Assuming that the conversation would revolve around turquoise and fringe, our expectations were quickly changed when she divulged that her immediate goals included padding her savings account, paying off her car, buying a house, and starting a Roth IRA. As a very ambitious 24-year-old, Katie holds two dream jobs, is a member of Junior League of Fort Worth, and within the past few years graduated with honors as Cum Laude from Tarleton State University. According to Katie, this was all made possible because of her involvement with The National FFA Organization.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the FFA (which stands for Future Farmers of America,) according to their website, “FFA is an intracurricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership." The is an organization that equips members for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. Unlike extracurricular activities such as sports, to participate in the FFA a student must be enrolled in an elective agriculture class for school credit. In addition to the classes, the students will represent their school in competitive events. Since agriculture classes are not a requirement to graduate high school, a student must first express interest in agriculture to get involved. That is where Katie's story begins, as agriculture is in her DNA.
Katie's grandparents, father, mother, and stepfather all had their hands in the industry. Though that was the industry they chose, her parents were incredibly supportive of her own hopes and dreams.
She recalls them saying, “We do not care what you do, but you better find something, and you better work at it! Because you are not going to NOT have a work ethic”.
Nevertheless, Katie was destined to fall in love with agriculture. She spent her childhood showing animals and rodeoing. So when it came time to join the FFA, she went all in.
As an incoming high school freshman who wanted to join the FFA, Katie was required to take Introduction to Ag 101. Here she was introduced to her ag teachers, Bart Stover, and Brent Lankford. Similar to a seasoned football coach, good ag teachers find students' strengths and encourage them to compete in the appropriate FFA competitions. For Katie, that meant speaking competitions known as the Career Development Events (CDE) and Leadership Development Events (LDE).
According to the FFA, “These competitive events develop individual responsibility, foster teamwork and promote communication while recognizing the value of ethical competition and individual achievement.” These events would range from reciting the FFA Creed in front of a panel of judges to writing and delivering a speech within thirty minutes on current agriculture-related topics.
"My teacher always told me, 'Katie Lynn, you get up there and you better sound like a preacher on Sunday Morning preaching to a congregation when you say [the creed].” Katie took that advice, did her best preacher imitation, and qualified for state.
Throughout her high school experience, Katie was always taking the maximum number of ag classes a student was allowed each semester (for Ponder High School, that number is three.) The courses range from Food Science to Equine Science, Welding and Metal Fabrication to Etiquette and everything in between. "We learned... I mean full on debutant etiquette from Mr. Lankford."
Throughout a student's high school career, their teachers challenge and help their students grow. "It is a very close-knit relationship! They get involved with your family; they get involved with you on a personal level and make sure to do everything they can to help you succeed." Katie continues, "There was a young man that I graduated with that would not have graduated high school if it was not for Mr. Lankford. Mr. Lankford would sit with him, help him do his pre-calc homework and make sure he understood it. Then, whenever this young man had quizzes, Mr. Lankford would require that he would bring his quizzes back to him and go over them. Now that man has a college degree. It is a very close relationship that ag teachers have with their students."
For Katie, her ag teachers helped hone her speech giving abilities, taught her how to act professionally in various situations, and ultimately challenged her. "I went to Tarleton and graduated debt free because of the FFA, and I attribute that 100% to Mr. Lankford."
Due to her work in the FFA, she graduated high school with enough credits to be considered a sophomore in college. Katie spent her first few years at a junior college and later transferred to Tarleton State University, where she completed her degree in Agriculture Sales & Services with a concentration in Communication and Minor in Business. While in school, she worked for Saddle Rags-The Western Store and interned for Equibrand. After college, Katie started writing for Cowgirl Magazine and worked for NRS (National Ropers Supply) which ultimately lead her to a position at American Hat Co.
As successful as Katie has been in her very young career, she knows that none of it would be possible without guidance from some significant peers. These peers include former writing professors Dan Malone and Catherine Jones-Malone, former boss Jason Brooks and the entire team at NRS, as well as Keith Mundee and Stan Redding from American Hat Co. In addition to many many more. However, she will always be grateful for the FFA which helped set her up for success by teaching her the tools to navigate opportunities and take chances.
Q&A between Courtney Cobb (writer) and Katie Lynn
What is the first thing you notice about a person?
Katie: Probably, if we are talking personality wise, I usually pick up on, I do not even know the word to describe it! I love people that are just humble. I hate meeting people and thinking, “Okay, well this person is just way too much about themselves. I love people that are just down to earth, humble and friendly, and you can just tell that they are all-around a good person. Since because I love that so much about a person that is what I just instantly pick up on. I just hate meeting someone and I am just instantly like, “Okay, I am already done listening, you are just kind of turning me off.”
Where do you go when you eat out?
Katie: I love a good steak.
Courtney: Says the Texan
Katie: If it is not medium rare, then it is wrong.
What is on your bucket list?
Katie: Oh gosh! I want to travel, like everywhere. I want to go to Brazil, Switzerland, Australia! I just want to travel! I want to see the world.
What is your go-to accessory?
Katie: I never leave the house without my eyelashes. Like ever.
Do you have a fashion life-hack?
Katie: Nobody knows how many days you have gone without washing your hair if you wear a hat. Whenever we go on the road or whatever, I always just curl my hair the night before the first day of the event and then I am on the road for work, so I am basically in a hat every day. So, as long as my curls look fine, I might touch them up a bit, but no one can see my roots, so I just take a bath and I am good to go, and I do not have to touch my hair!
What has been the best concert that you have ever attended?
Katie: There was a Cody Johnson concert in Stephenville right before I moved. One of my friends, Joey, is actually the bass player for Cody Johnson, so me and my friend Kylie got backstage passes and we got to stand in the wings at Lone Star arena. So it was really cool to be up on stage and watching Cojo from the side, and getting to look out and seeing the rest of Stephenville filling up the arena.
Now that was actually probably tied with George Strait’s last concert at Cowboy’s Stadium
Do you drink coffee or tea?
Dr. Pepper! Diehard!
What is your favorite meal of the day?
Probably dinner because I get to have a steak.