Co-founders and sisters Kendall Barber and Justine Barber have opened the doors for so many women in Edmonton. They co-founded Poppy Barley; made to measure boots. For years women everywhere have struggled to find that perfect fit. That one pair of boots that isn’t too loose around the ankle or too tight around the toes, these ladies have created a revolution for Edmonton women who can finally stop looking! Three easy steps till they arrive at your door.
Taken directly from the website: Poppy Barley you can see how you can own a pair for yourself!
Step One: Select and personalize your favorite style by choosing your leather, hardware, and sole type.
Step Two: Measure yourself in 5 minutes.
Step Three: Your boots will be handcrafted for you and delivered to your doorstep
Justine, who had the original idea when on a trip to Southeast Asia, couldn’t seem to find the size she was looking for in a riding boot. The store owner quickly dispelled any negative thoughts going through her mind and offered to measure and make the boots to fit HER! She graciously accepted and 4 weeks later, BAM! Custom, made to measure boots! From that spawned Poppy Barley. Justine is head of product development and operations while Kendall handles the marketing and focuses on the customer experience with Poppy Barley.
In my candid interview with them, they opened up to how they came about this new venture!
SC: So a year ago did you ever think you would be in the bespoke boot making industry?
JB: Definitely not. It was really something I never considered except when I was 10, I wanted to be a fashion designer. So it does feel like it’s come full circle. I never thought about footwear in particular. It was a very sudden decision that I wanted to start my own business, and then the first idea I had, was going into the made to measure footwear business. It does align well with the fact that I love design, I love boots and I love flats, and for both of us it combines the creative side of the business but also the business strategy side. This type of business really suits our skills sets and interests.
SC: As sisters, how it is working together?
KB: I don’t think either one of us could imagine not doing this together. There’s a level of trust and out value system is already there. We have such different ways of approaching things but the same background, which I think it allows us to have really good conversations. We definitely disagree at times and think differently, but we’ve been communicating with each other our whole lives. So when we’re in disagreement we know how to communicate around that. With the long hours that go into this business it’s really wonderful to be able to do with a sibling.
JB: I think with Kendall, being a sibling, the most important think you want in a co-founder is someone who is equally committed and is an equal contributor to the team. Most arguments that fall around start-ups fall under those lines. For us, we’ve never questioned that and that gives us a really solid foundation.
SC: Justine, this was your concept in the beginning from your trip to Bali, are the boots you found there similar to the boots you’re designing now?
JB: No, the Bali boot was one of those classic riding boots with different colour tops, and we do have a riding boot now with different details. It wasn’t so much the design it was the idea that they were made to measure, you pick your leathers and get to select your style.
SC: Kendall, what drew you personally to joining your sister and switching workforces?
KB: First and foremost was the concept, I loved the idea. At first I had some hesitance working with my sister, then once I wrapped my mind around that I realized I love to build things. I love to start things and it was an amazing concept with the best possible business partner. Making this decision, I did have to leave or abandon other projects I was working on so it was something that required a lot of thought but to me it was one of those “once in a life time” opportunities – it was the right idea and the right time. I thought “you know what, if we do this and it doesn’t work out in a year, there’s no way you’d regret this type of experience.”
SC: What influence has Startup Edmonton had on Poppy Barley?
JB: I think the biggest thing is that they made us a lot more sophisticated that we otherwise would have been. We were entering a whole new world, where you’re learning the difference between a start up and small business and how to scale. Even around financing with angel investors, series A venture capitals, and analyzing the business from the perspective of looking at your customer acquisition costs and lifetime value of a customer. That side is really beneficial to have the mentorship of Startup Edmonton.
KB: I think it’s a lot about the culture too, so we work in space full of people who are visionaries, and are imagining great products and ways they can change and challenge conventions. I find that really inspiring to be in that type of environment, our mentors are in that space. That idea around “What’s your really big vision?”…there’s support for that vision instead of bringing you down. That energy provides encouragement.
SC: I love the name Poppy Barley, I thought it was interesting to read that on your website, but how did you come up with that name?
JB: We actually started with a different name, we came up with Astrid. We started with the visual identity of that and then started looking at if we could trade mark it internationally and even incorporate eventually. But we found there were too many similar names out there. So it was frustrating at the time, so we came back to look at the name, and started to look at the history of shoe-making. We found an interesting piece of information about barleycorn and poppy seeds being units to measurement. We had a list of words and started playing with them and went down to two different choices. Then Kendall sent out a survey to some friends and Poppy Barley was the winner!
SC: Where do you see the future of Poppy Barley?
JB: We’ve done a lot of forecasting in the 2-3 year window.
KB: We definitely want to continue to add to our products. We love the idea of made to measure and slow fashion and the quality that comes with creating beautiful goods that you want to keep in your wardrobe. Already for the spring we are going to be looking at flats, so made to measure shoes that take into consideration things foot width, foot length, if you have high arches, flat feet. Not so much if you struggle to find a footwear that fits, but there’s a far superior fit with something that’s custom. Taking that idea of made to measure, always being core at what we do, and then layering onto that really custom design. We want to get to that point where you can choose your leather colours, choose your heel high and your heel style and toe shape. So not only are you measuring yourself and they are being built but also you’re also actively designing the boot or footwear in general. Beyond that we have talking about many different product extensions that we think might make sense. It will always have this feeling that it’s made by you and design by you. We will be launching some styles that are more fashion forward – but really the idea is to invest in pieces that part of your everyday wardrobe.
SC: This is a big accomplishment for Edmonton, how has the Edmonton market received this concept?
JB: I think Edmonton has been really supportive!
KB: The start up community and media have taken an active part in telling our story. As well as the people, people talking about it on Facebook or Twitter. I don’t think you could get a better fan base. They are so enthusiastic and it’s that idea that the entire city is cheering us on!
JB: I think Edmonton wants to have new, creative businesses. And I feel like that too, when a new office tower goes up, or a new condo building goes up, or a beautiful new public place, I’m excited for the ways that it’s helping transform Edmonton. I think we get that same amount of enthusiasm from other people.
KB: We can’t wait to expand, we were so excited when we got to hire. To build a team, there’s not many places to take that skill in Edmonton. It’s exciting and I think you’re starting to see more of that.
Stay tuned for the launch of made to measure FLATS! Coming May 2013!
You can reach Poppy Barley by phone at 1-866-626-2220 or connect with them at www.poppybarley.com
You can learn more about the Startup Edmonton Experience by connecting with them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Startup Edmonton is a campus, co-workspace and accelerator that kick starts and activates local startups. Our role in the local startup ecosystem lies at the earliest stages, as ideas evolve into action, where startups form and gain initial traction. Our vision is to make Edmonton a hotbed for creativity and entrepreneurship. Our mission is to create collisions between developers, designers, creators, makers and entrepreneurs to activate a new generation of startups.”