November 2013 marked five years for Kreatelier on Hope Street and six years since incorporation. Kreatelier is more than a storefront, owned and operated by two amazing creatively savvy business women (and moms)–who live what they love–making beautiful items for the home, supporting other artists that make things by hand, teaching a new generation DIY skills, while inspiring us all to make our world a little more beautiful by the environmental choices we make to the way we style our home (no matter how small or big our budget). I first met Line and Pernilla in the early Kidoinfo days while taking business classes at The Center for Women and Enterprise. From the beginning, they have been inspiring business mentors and supporters of my own creative entrepreneurial endeavors.
To celebrate, join Line and Pernilla at Kreatelier on Hope Street this coming Thursday, December 19 from 6 to 9pm. They’ll offer appetizers, sparkling wine and 20% off on all retail items!
With gratitude for this 5-year milestone, Kreatelier owners Line Deams & Pernilla Frazier share this interview.
There is a great deal written about how to be an entrepreneur, what has been most critical to making it as a small business?
Line & Pernilla: Working hard, being surrounded by positive and inspiring people, having a great business partner, having fun, and not always take things too seriously.
What has happened that you never would have anticipated?
L&P: How hard you have to work to make it work; that our initial ideas for fabric organizers could play out into an entire line and a business; and that an entrepreneurial dream could really come true. (We once worked in the fields of nursing and law and we have each raised two children during this start-up!)
At some point along the way you decided to focus only on fabric items and services. Could you talk about this?
L&P: When we started we carried items (mosaic, ceramics, etc.) from all sorts of local artists that we loved. We were had a wide range of vendors constantly approaching us. Yet we came to realize that we did not want to be a general gift store. In fact we relate much more to form and function than the notion of gifts. This led us to carry only fabric-related products, provide home decor services and offer sewing workshops. Fabric got us into this business and now that we have specialized around it, the entire concept of Kreatelier is much better understood. By being ‘all things fabric’ we feel that we stand out. [Our tagline is: Fabric creations for life and home].
Q: Etsy recently updated its seller policies about the use of outside manufacturing. How did you scale up your production and what are your thoughts about the notion of an item being “handmade”?
L&P: From the beginning we realized that there was no way that we could design and create products while also taking care of sales and running the business. So we found a wonderful sewing company in Massachusetts and have now worked with them for 6 years. We still believe we can call our product line ‘handmade’ since we design each item and this company’s thirty staff hand sew the products in our local region. We visit our production partner regularly and know the head seamstress personally. This close communication and our respect for how they conduct their business is essential. Maintaining control over quality is key to delegating and growth.
What is your approach to setting up your store? What have you come to understand about what and why people buy?
L&P: We like a clean and organized look in our store and the products we sell. We move items around regularly and always have a sale corner. Our store has ample space so customers feel comfortable and can move around even with strollers. Items that stand out are also important–Customers who browse don’t always spend a lot of time. We also learn from customers–People consistently ask for smaller, less expensive items. Therefore we have expanded these types of products over the years [think: headbands, dishtowels, etc.]. With an increasing number of customers being very conscious about how they spend their money our focus on unique, practical, useful and environmentally friendly products is well received.
Does any of this carry over into your home decor services?
L&P: Absolutely. We firmly believe less is more and are not of the mindset that an entire house or room makeover is always necessary. Adding new fabric accents (i.e., window treatment, reupholstering or pillows) is a powerful, efficient way to change the entire energy and look of a space. Life can be very overwhelming. So we make sure our design approach and the Kreatelier store are simple and uplifting.
As you have grown so has The Hope Street Retail Community. What has it meant to be a part of this?
L&P: We feel tremendously connected to our neighborhood and merchants. We think Hope Street has more staying power (and less business churn) because of its authentic neighborhood fabric. Being nestled in a residential enclave means that we see the same local people walking by day after day, saying “hi”, and supporting us. The stores also have the benefit of being in the midst of organizations such as Festival Ballet, The Library and anchors such as Seven Stars and the summertime Hope Street Farmers Market. In this way Hope Street is both a neighborhood and a destination.
When it comes to our merchant mix we are also uniquely fortunate. There is an unwritten agreement to not step on each other’s toes and to give back and help the street’s greater good. Just this year we are stepping into the role of leading the Hope Street Merchant Association. We look forward to furthering the huge momentum spurred by Asher Schofield’s fabulous work [owner of Frog & Toad and the outgoing Hope Street Merchant Association president].
Your business is a partnership that grew out of a friendship. How has this bond
evolved as your business has grown?
L&P: We always have had a “stress less” partnership. We are good friends who have a way of understanding and respecting each other. Plus the way our business tasks are divided has flowed very naturally. Line is more communications, ordering, the online store and general business. Pernilla is dedicated mostly to the custom interior work. We each have our strengths and never wonder who works more. Even though we focus on different parts of the business we know that we need each other to create success. The most important thing is that we laugh a lot, especially when we are overwhelmed with work. We began this business because we enjoyed hanging out with coffee and pouring over design magazines. Thankfully we still feel that pull and are certainly having fun.
You got into this because of an interest in fabric and sewing–What have you come
to understand about fabric, design and being a “maker” of things?
L&P: We both love the beauty of fabric and colors. Fabric allows us to change and improve rooms and houses, even lift everyday life a bit. In a way we are makers of things and also the makers of change…We like to say to customers, “Make your home your own.” Fabric plays a huge role in making a home cozy and making a personal statement.
These past few years we are putting more thought into the making of the Kreatelier concept. We are thinking about all of the different angles where our approach to color, everyday inspiration, and beautiful functionality can have an impact.
Your brand, its name and look is very distinctive. How did you land on the colors of red and lime green? What type of style and personality are you interested in projecting?
L&P: We began in an old Mill Building studio and needed to brighten up the space and at the same time create the brand. We both love bright colors and came up with the red and lime green combination. Our first step was to paint our furniture in those colors and immediately we knew it had something. These colors are happy, bold, modern, non-traditional and bright. We like the contrast.
This feeling of contrast has gone on to influence lots of what we do. We have no fear of mixing colors and patterns and make this a hallmark of our products and interior design. Perhaps ‘no fear’ is a good note to wrap up these five-year thoughts. Our future goals include expanding online, expanding our retail space, possibly opening a second store and getting our products carried by like-minded retailers in different regions. We’ll need a good five, ten or twenty years more to figure all this out.