Grad school brought Kate Koeppel to San Francisco, a stint that she thought would end upon completing her degree. “I thought we’d leave but between the weather and long growing season, there was no reason to,” Kate told us.
It was grad school that not only brought her to the city, but fueled an idea that has now become one half of her business: Skill Exchange.
It began with her thesis project, in which she focused on social skill exchange and reevaluating hand making skills. Kate had come to realize that she was one of few in her peer group who could actively make things and complete simple tasks by hand, like hemming her own pants.
With Skill Exchange, she’s trying to offer classes that create a happy middle ground for people interested in learning something new. “There’s been a gap between people who will take a $600 mushroom foraging class and people that don’t know what foraging is,” she explained to us. A Skill Exchange class is an information-packed class but not one where you should feel intimidated. The classes can act as a springboard for participants to seek more information afterwards.
Kate’s going to be launching a new series of classes for the summer. “They’re community based, small introduction classes to traditional skills,” she told us. “They’re skills that will help you make your basic needs. Your parents may not have had these skills, but your grandparents probably did.” Classes will include things like cheese making and knife sharpening.
The classes also allow Kate and her team to support small businesses. For instance, they recently held a class with a local letterpress printer. “People may have had a vague sense about letterpress, knowing it’s that really expensive stationary,” she told us. The workshop allowed them to understand why that stationary was so expensive, and also put a new business on their radars.
She is currently splitting her time between building Skill Exchange and working as a freelance graphic designer. Even while at home, the idea behind Skill Exchange filters into her day to day life. On the day of our visit, she was going to learn to cook crawfish—intimidating looking, but unavoidable since they had arrived in her seafood CSA for that week. Always learning something new!
Kate is wearing the Colton in Sandalwood Matte
Photos by Collin Hughes