We're excited to introduce you to Leah and Kelsey, the owners behind Kootz Collective (based in Alberta), a casual apparel and accessories shop, strongly influenced by their Kootenay roots and outdoor life in Canada. We hope you enjoy getting to know them and their business a little more. Here we go - Behind The Biz with Kootz Collective!
What does the perfect morning look like to you?
- Local coffee in a vintage mug on the deck of our family's log cabin overlooking Kootenay Lake in a cozy Kootz Collective sweater and just the sound of the waves and the birds.
What's your favourite thing about owning a small business?
- Community and learning. We've collaborated with so many great small brands. It's super fun and always great to share ideas and real-life struggles with people that have mutual experiences and goals. This community has opened up opportunities for other fun projects as well as allowed us to start developing workshops based on our skill sets that we want to share with others. We are also big supporters of female-owned businesses and are so excited to see so many emerging. We learn something new every day and we're so much better for it - in business and in life.
What 3 words best describe your business?
- Outdoorsy, Comfortable, Nostalgic.
What's your proudest moment in your business so far?
- The day we launched our online store after letting this brand stew for years behind the scenes was one of our proudest moments. Going live and seeing people's positive reactions was pretty epic for us. We built the main portion of the brand and our initial apparel collection while we were both on maternity leave. We had no funds saved up and a reduced work income. We knew we had the design and marketing savvy to at least make a go of it so we dove in! Is YOLO still a thing?!
When people shop from you, how does that impact you and your family?
- It's true what they say about buying small. There's always someone on the other side doing a happy dance - that's us! We love seeing what people buy, reading comments and re-sharing photos on Instagram. It has impacted us by truly keeping us going through difficult times. We've had personal tragedy and a brand infringement in our short time running the business and the support from friends, family and strangers has allowed us to keep pushing. We are proud of what our brand represents. We want to set an example for our kids - we sure aren't perfect, but we're hard working women who can run a business and be Mama's at the same time.
What's one thing people might not know about you?
- We had some REALLY interesting jobs growing up in the Kootenays: Soap Maker, tour guides at a Glass House made of embalming fluid bottles, and Beer Expert/Sasquatch Analyst at the Columbia Brewery, to name a few.
What would you sing at Karaoke night?
- The Guess Who's greatest hits record (The Best of the Guess Who). We grew up listening and loving classic rock and we still do today. The Guess Who were a favourite in our house, especially over the summer, and you can't beat good old Canadian classic rock! The bad news is we both have terrible singing voices, so we'd most likely be dragged off stage.
What's your favourite family tradition?
- We have so many great ones with our parents and are starting to create some fun new ones now that we have families of our own. Our summer tradition is gin Caesars, a roaring campfire, and redneck golf at Kootenay Lake. For Christmas, we celebrate our Italian heritage with seafood and pasta on Christmas Eve. We often make our pasta from scratch.
If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
- We have a lot of travel plans between the two of us! A mutual destination we can both agree on, that we haven't been to yet, is Spain. As art school alumni, it would be an amazing place to soak up some art and culture and we would be keen to experience the architecture of one of our faves, Antoni Gaudí. Amazing beaches and good food & wine are also at the top of the list for this country.
What did you do before you started your business?
- We are both graphic designers. We have agency experience and still work in marketing jobs for larger corporations. Our brand was essentially born as an outlet for additional creative work that was more personal to us and had a connection to our hometown roots.