When Kat Llyod and Hayley Blatte Anton lost their jobs before the pandemic began, they saw a community of small artists and businesses begin to fade as the city seemed to go silent. Their response was to start a small ad shop called KB Agency, headquartered on Cypress Avenue.
They previously hosted a podcast called Beat Face Radio, which featured a number of drag personalities. Doing this surrounded them with a network of local performers, so it was no surprise that a mutual friend named Cassi Lopez, who runs a piercing shop in Brooklyn called So Gold Studios asked them to take on a branding project. Now they say the studio is “Googled a lot”.
“Cassi is the one who said you should start a business and we were like, yeah, we should,” Llyod says. Anton also once co-owned a feminist sex shop and bookstore in Bushwick called the Troll Hole.
“We started in Bushwick because that was where we both lived at the time. We are a confined start-up, so everything was remote – we still work that way,” she says. “Just a few local girls.” Anton has since moved to Los Angeles, she notes, but Lloyd remains “in the neighborhood.”
Like any startup, there have been trials and tribulations. Anton has a background in fine art and the tech industry and Llyod had a background in journalism – she had covered a local drag contest here in 2017. Running an advertising store, they had to do everything from marketing to web design through e-commerce to the management of social media itself.
“Hayley worked in business technology analytics and I was in operations and middle management for a popular barber brand,” Llyod says. She says it gave them “a skill set that’s made for about 20 different jobs.”
“We worked in a lot of different areas because that’s the nature of our age group,” Llyod says.
Their biggest struggle, however, was figuring out how to share their time.
“Our people found us, and we found them. Our difficulty was figuring out who we didn’t want to work with,” Llyod said, noting that “we didn’t want to work with people who weren’t aligned.”
The ones they picked up include Mom Bibingka, a drag queen performer and maker of bibingka – a type of sticky Filipino rice cake – who also resides in Bushwick; a performance artist who goes by the name Penny Arcade; and Ja’Toria Harper, a chef who works at a hotel on Roosevelt Island. They call Harper “the shining star of the shop right now.”
Harper, for example, won a free consultation from Llyod in a raffle they held at a benefit for food workers, but instead of asking them to do things for her career, she asked them to create a campaign to commute his uncle’s prison sentence. To help him, they created a website for him called Setjefffree.org. According to the site, Jeffery Milo-Burkees was convicted in 1987 of killing an inmate while in prison for another crime, although another inmate later confessed to committing the murder. He has been in jail ever since.
“She asked if we could create assets or a campaign for her to help her get her uncle’s sentence commuted by the governor. So we created a site, platform and general awareness for her and ended up putting her on the First degree podcast, which was major,” Lloyd said.
“They’ve done a really good job putting it together on this podcast,” says Anton. Harper calls working with the agency “a fever dream.”
Ambition is a driving force in their new store, even though Llyod says “we hate capitalist society” and “we kind of overturn it”.
“Let us be the bad guys who stigmatize you,” she adds.
Top image courtesy of KB agency.
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