Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Q&A with Poppy Barley


1.       What makes your business a family business? (w/ spouse and/or children, siblings...)

We’re sisters, as well as the co-founders of Poppy Barley.

   2.      How did you come into the business? (transferred, hired by parents? Founder?)

Growing up as runners, we constantly struggled to find boots that comfortably fit our calves and wide feet. Then in 2012, I (Justine) traveled to Bali where I discovered the art of custom-made shoes. I was inspired by the concept of having shoes specifically designed for my feet. When I returned from my trip, I immediately shared this notion with my sister, Kendall. We noticed a void in the marketplace and agreed that beautiful, custom footwear should be accessible – and attainable – to anyone with access to measuring tape and the internet. We set out with a mission to create beautiful, made-to-order shoes that would fit better, feel better and live better and a few months later, Poppy Barley was born.

3.      What makes your family business experience unique? How is it different from running a "typical" small business?

4.      What makes Poppy Barley unique?

There are a few key factors that set Poppy Barley apart from other companies, including:

·        The Very First – Poppy Barley is the first fashion company in North America to offer made-to-order boots online.


·        The Transparency – Poppy Barley engages in an open, honest dialogue. We welcome questions about where our products come from, artisan wages, factory conditions, prices, etc. At Poppy Barley, we will always reveal the “why” behind our decision-making. We believe in transparent manufacturingin order to create an elevated customer experience and a better fitting shoe.


·        The Belief – Poppy Barley believes in “Luxury for the People,” valuing craftsmanship, thoughtful design, fair profits and human connection.


·        The Footwear – All Poppy Barley footwear is meticulously and ethically handcrafted with the finest materials and all-leather components sourced within a 22 mile radius of “The Shoe Capital of World,” León, Mexico.


·        The Price Point – Poppy Barley believes in justified pricing. Our footwear is offered at unheard price points in the custom goods industry. This is made possible by cutting out the middlemen in traditional retail models.


·        The Materials –At Poppy Barley we choose only the top materials and methodologies to create our shoes: Full grain leathers--from cow, calf and goat to deer and bison--sourced from a family-run tannery; padded leather insoles; meticulous craftsmanship; made-to-order processes.


·        The Fit – We share a firm belief that “one size DOESN’T fit all.” By providing an easy, multi-step measurement process, Poppy Barley shoes fit better, feel better and live better.



5.      What do you love about family business?

When your personal relationship existed long before the business relationship, you have a clear sense of who your business partner is – there’s an established sense of trust, respect and honesty that can take years for non-related business partners to establish. Most of all, you care first about the person – this value extends across the company culture and putting people before profits is deeply engrained in your actions as a company.

6.      What do you hate about family business?

You know each so well you can read each other’s expressions; it makes “hiding” your thoughts virtually impossible and doesn’t allow time to think through a scenario and re-approach with a clear head.


Sometimes work is too integrated into life. Family dinners and holidays become venues for discussing the business instead of a break from work.

7.      What's a myth about family business you'd like to debunk?

Myth: There’s lots of fighting in family businesses. We do not argue or disagree any more than other business partners. And, we have an advantage when we do disagree – we know how to fight. We’ve been disagreeing and resolving issues together for 30+ years.

8.      What three things have been key to your success?

a.      Shared vision: As co-founders, we have a shared vision for Poppy Barley and, as siblings, never doubt the other’s commitment or contribution. This is critical. It allows our disagreements/discussions to be rooted in a difference of perspective, and not something petty like who’s working harder, or worse, about entirely different end-goals for the company. Beyond an alignment of vision, we share a passion for building Poppy Barley. Our passion drives our discipline to execute our vision—to discuss, debate, argue, and move forward.


b.      Clear Division of Responsibility:We’re on the same page about vision and strategic decisions, but we each have decision-making authority and responsibility over our own areas. This is vital for getting things done.



c.      Excelling in Uncertainty Together: Entrepreneurial companies are in the business of inventing themselves. Uncertainty hits every part of your business. Constant uncertainty takes an entrepreneur to the edge. We moved a lot growing up. Every couple of years our dad was transferred for work and we’d be whisked away to a new town, new school, new environment, etc. We braved this uncertainty together. Being in an unknown situation with Justine feels completely normal; it’s something we’ve been doing our entire lives.

9.      Has being a family difference made a difference in your sales?

Yes, we believe being sisters allows us to better a team. For all the reasons above – shared vision, people before profits, great in uncertainty, ability to debate/argue – we are building a better company and sales is one measure of success.

10.   What difference has your family business made in your community?

We are active participants in our community. We guest lecture at local universities/colleges on topics of entrepreneurship, marketing, supply chain management and product development. We are active advocates in our community’s startup scene. Through our company (and personally), we make donations to charities. We mentor students and recent graduates. We truly believe our company is platform to make a difference. We make a difference everyday with every decision we make in our business.

11.    Would you advise siblings to start a business together? Why or why not?

Some siblings should start a business together; many should not. Being related does not make you well-suited to start a business. Just like any other founders, you need to explore the possibility of working together and have some serious, hard conversations.


Interestingly, in Mexico (where we make our shoes), most people work in a family business – it’s very normal. There’s a lot we can learn from them.


a.       What's a day in the life of working with your sister? (share a rough outline of your family and business daily life… Do you have meals together? How much of your actual work day is spent together?)

We spent a LOT of time together! 3-4 times a day, we meet at 6am to run together. Then by 9am, we’re back in the office together. Our desks are 5ft apart from each other. Throughout the work day, we spend approximately 25% of our time directly working together. The remainder of the day, we work with our respective teams. Outside of work we socialize together 2-3 times a week with friends and family. Plus, we travel together frequently for both work and leisure.



No comments:

Post a Comment