Kendall Barber is a breath of fresh air.
We first met when I interviewed her for a profile that was published last month in Business Class–the alumni magazine for her alma mater The Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria.
The goal of this initial interview was to, of course, get a run down of what Kendall has been up to since graduating, which included the scoop on Poppy Barley––the made-to-measure footwear startup she had recently launched with her younger sister Justine Barber.
After chatting with Kendall (for double the time I had allotted for the interview), I soon realized that she is someone that is on an inspiring path. The story of how Poppy Barley came to be is quite simple. The Barber sisters had an idea, took a massive leap, and decided to walk away from their nine-to-five jobs to pursue a business that they genuinely believe in.
As someone who has always been in awe of passionate people who take chances to follow their hearts and dreams, I found myself dazzled by Kendall's cool-professionalism. On one hand she is somewhat similar to any successful business woman: she's confident and has a clear vision for her company. But, on the other hand, Kendall and Poppy Barley are anything but average. Both put a spin on traditional expectations. Kendall has made conscious decisions to be mindful of sustainable practices and nurture her growing staff and their respective communities. Poppy Barley is far from the cookie-cutter shoe-shopping experience. Buyers are able to help design footwear that is made to fit them perfectly. Not to mention, the idea of online shopping is brought to a new level with Poppy Barley's online concierge that helps reluctant shoppers with measuring and selecting appropriate features. As someone who has gone through life struggling to find shoes and boots to fit not-so-averaged-sized feet, PB is an exciting addition to the Edmonton market.
I was fortunate to catch up with Kendall days before the official launch of Poppy Barley's new flat line. Even though I could have talked up a storm (again) with her about the lovely spring/summer shoes that are available as of today, I thought it would be nice to get to know her a bit better.
Where are your favourite shopping spots?
Lately I have been shopping online more and more. I have been shopping a lot at Shopbop.com. Here in the city, I am much more of a boutique shopper. I like to go to stores in the 124th street area, Whyte Ave or downtown. I am not much of a mall person.
Where do you draw inspiration for your shoe line?
A lot of it comes from travel. Also, watching women––I find that absolutely fascinating, looking at how they carry themselves differently depending on what they are wearing.
Because we want Poppy Barley to be classic and be more on trend from a colour perspective, I find we will go back in history for design inspirations and try to look at what has remained consistent. We did that in particular with our flat line. I love the old archives of Vogue, Time magazine and art museums.
If given the chance, what would you have done differently when launching Poppy Barley?
I don't spend a lot of time looking back. Probably the one thing I would change is that in the beginning I spent a lot of time worrying. We committed so much time to worrying, rather than just doing it a see what happens.
What's your favourite meal?
Fish and salad. I could happily eat salad twice a day, everyday of the week. If I am craving something sweet, than I would probably go for cookies.
If you were stranded on an island, which three people would you bring?
My husband––Beyond being my husband he is also pretty handy.
My dog, Whip.
My friend, Fiona––She has an unparalleled sense of optimism and a great sense of humour.
Any guilty pleasures?
I am a little bit obsessed with Games of Thrones right now. I am watching the show and reading the book.
I am also obsessed with magazines. It is embarrassing the amount I subscribe to.
What is your favourite magazine?
What is the last book you read that left an impression?
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. The premise is that if you take care of the planet and take care of people, then the business will come. I thought it was very impactful because we're starting to hire people and really think about what our responsibility is back to the community. I can't stop thinking about that book to this day.
What is the last movie you watched that left an impression?
I can't even remember the last time I watched a movie. If I am, it is usually because I am tired and I fall asleep before it ends.
Do you have a favourite song, album or musician?
The album that has received the most play throughout the course of my life is Dookie by Green Day. It was my first cd; I was 12 years old when I received it. There is something about it that transports me back to a different time.
What do you like to do on your days off?
Go for a really long run. Make a big pot of coffee and read my magazines and The New York Times.
The first time we met you told me you were participating in the Boston Marathon. I was glad to hear you made it back home safe after I heard about the bombing. How are you doing?
It was obviously horrific, but I wasn't near the finish line, I was at my hotel. I watched everything unfold on the news just like everybody else did. I wasn't right in the middle of it.
My hotel was across the street from the area that they sectioned off, so we were close. What they don't show on the news is how amazing people are at coming together. A lot of people were evacuated from their hotels and had nowhere to stay. There were Boston residents all around, holding up signs listing how many people they could house. I just think there were a couple of people who did something awful, and then there were groups of other people that were doing something so amazing. I think my parents (who were in Edmonton) were more freaked out than I was, only because when I was there I saw everyone coming together and reacting so quickly. It was very impressive how fast they had that area under control.
What makes you interesting?
I don't believe in the status quo.
*answers have been edited for clarity and length.