04.26.13 Career & Finances

Following Your Dreams: The Story of the Women Behind Brika

Following Your Dreams: The Story of the Women Behind Brika

BY Rebecca Fernandez

The women of Brika are equally as amazing as the site itself, and that’s not something to be taken lightly. Brika, an artisan-focused site that is a bit like Etsy, if Etsy were beautiful and curated beyond your wildest dreams, is a new venture from Kena Paranjape and Jen Lee Koss. The site is absolutely gorgeous, and the items that have been selected are equally as fabulous. I love that they introduce you to the artist behind the products; it makes the whole experience seem very personal and interactive- like an amazing craft fair that you can attend in your pajamas.

A little backstory on the founders of Brika:

After earning her MBA from the University of Toronto in her native Canada, co-founder and Crafter of Brand Kena Paranjape found herself planning the merchandising and marketing strategies for Old Navy, Banana Republic, Joe Fresh Style, and an eco-lifestyle concept store based in Toronto. In her spare time, she started a blog, to provide an outlet for her creative energy and to reignite her childhood passion for writing.

Co-founder and Builder of Business Jen Lee Koss is a Juilliard-trained cellist and graduate of Harvard University, Oxford University, and Harvard Business School. Upon moving to Toronto, she began reading Kena’s blog and set out to meet her. Kena’s patient, methodical approach balanced Jen’s fearlessness and infectious enthusiasm, and Jen’s years spent working in management, consulting, investment banking, and private equity in the retail sector complemented Kena’s merchandising, marketing, and branding experience.

What’s the story behind Brika?
BRIKA come from the spanish word Fabrica, which means factory in spanish. The name is ironic because none of the products we feature are generic or mass made. Kena’s mother, who is a linguist, helped us think of the name while tending to her garden!

We felt very strongly from the beginning that in order to properly feature and showcase talented makers and their collections, we needed to create an experience online that replicated the feeling of walking into a beautifully curated and merchandised store. We worked very closely with our branding partner, Tether, to build a brand and site that was as engaging and inspiring as the makers we work with.

What made you decide to take the leap and start something so innovative?
Meeting each other was definitely the catalyst for launching BRIKA. Our first meeting was a “blind date” at a coffee shop – not only did we feel like we could have been friends in a past life, we were also amazed at how different but complementary our skill sets and experiences were. We both felt intuitively that we would make great business partners. We started meeting once a week for breakfast before our day jobs to start brainstorming ideas. BRIKA was truly born out of our shared passion for creativity and entrepreneurship and our desire to create A Well-Crafted Life.

Where do you draw inspiration?
We are inspired everyday by the creative and talented makers we partner with. We are also inspired by out favorite blogs, meeting other creative people, visiting new cities and exploring the neighborhoods in our own city.

What were your fears with starting your own business? How did you overcome them?
Fear is an inherent part of entrepreneurship and you never really overcome it! But in a way, fear becomes your friend, because it keeps you pushing your business forward. If you are starting a business and you are not afraid, you are most likely in trouble!

What are your long-term goals with Brika?
There are so many things we want to do with BRIKA. Some of the most exciting things we are working on involve an awesome gifting program (sign up to learn more here), partnerships with some of our favorite brands, and doing what we do best- featuring more amazingly talented Makers of beautiful things.

What advice would you have for other women who are thinking about starting their own business?
Starting BRIKA has been the most rewarding and most challenging thing we’ve ever done. Our advice would be to follow your passion and start taking small steps toward your dream.

Check out Brika and find the perfect gift for a friend, family member (hello, Mother’s Day!) or better yet- yourself. You definitely deserve it.

I created a site called The Women Take Over, where we celebrate all things feminism and feature inspirational women (and men!) who are making a difference in our fight for equality. I once lost a spelling bee on the word “civilian” and have never misspelled it since. You can follow me on Twitter @ParksFernandez, Instagram and Tumblr if you'd like- no pressure.

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