Q&A with Jen + Kena

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Co-founders Jen Lee Koss, Builder of Business, and Kena Paranjape, Crafter of Brand, met serendipitously in Toronto and immediately felt a connection that would eventually bring the idea of BRIKA into fruition. Find out how their career paths led them to starting a business, how they love to spend their Saturdays, and what items they're coveting right now.

Jen and Kena

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Jen: I wanted to run Lincoln Center in New York City. I spent most of my formative years until I was 26 playing my cello as a student at the Juilliard School of Music. I spent a lot of time in and around Lincoln Center, and I aspired to run a major arts organization one day. Never say never!

Kena: I wanted to be an architect/interior designer. I used to draw out floor plans for house ideas. On a Sunday afternoon, I would shut the door for an hour and when my Mom opened it an hour later, everything would be re-arranged! I also wanted to be a writer and used to spend hours writing stories.

What were you doing before starting BRIKA?

J: I was working in the corporate world as a management consultant and private equity investor, specifically in the consumer/retail space.

K: I ran a lovely eco-friendly boutique called Pistachio here in Toronto. It’s where I first had the opportunity to work with really talented Makers and was where the initial spark for BRIKA came from!  Prior to that, I was in buying/merchandising for Indigo, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Joe Fresh.

What was the ‘Aha!’ moment that made you realize BRIKA was going to happen?

J: Meeting Kena. I am such a huge believer in serendipity. When I moved to Toronto nearly five years ago, I stumbled across her blog. I loved it so much that I knew I had to meet her. After that first coffee date, we realized we had a lot of shared interests, a desire to do something creative and entrepreneurial and very complementary skill-sets, so we started casually brainstorming ideas. My gut told me from that first meeting that it certainly was not going to be our last…

K: When I turned down an amazing-on-paper corporate job to launch BRIKA instead!

Finish the sentence...

My favorite way to spend Saturday is….

J: Cuddling with my kids in bed, going to our favorite French bakery for the world’s best rye bread, and catching up with great friends. 

K: Brunch with girlfriends, walking around exploring little shops and cafés with my sister, and making a nice dinner with my husband.

 My guilty pleasure is… 

J: Häagen Dazs coffee ice cream.

K: Cookies. Preferably chocolate chip. Or peanut butter. Or even better, both!

The three things that make me happiest in the world are… 

J: The Sunday New York Times (I am American, after all!), running down a hill after having made it all the way up, and kisses from my husband and my little ones.

K: Rainbows (I feel a special connection to the world when I see one), books and good coffee.

My go-to accessory is…

J: This tote. My husband runs an amazing charity called Right to Play (shameless plug!), and many of his programs are in Africa. When I read the story behind Petel's beautiful accessories, it really rang true to me.

K: This lightweight, embroidered statement necklace by Noshii. I will be wearing it all summer long.

The first item on my shopping list right now is…

J: This Madewell chambray shirt.

K: This dress from Anthropologie — I can't wait to stock up on summer dresses...where are you warm weather?

If I could go back in time 10 years, the advice I would give myself would be…

J: Focus. Listen to your gut. Don’t ignore what you’re passionate about. I am a huge champion of a liberal arts education, interdisciplinary thinking and doing more outside of one’s professional life to be a “complete” person. But I do think there is merit in being more centered on what keeps you truly excited and engaged.

K: Live boldly! Things might not go the way you planned, but that's what makes life an adventure. Stay open to all the possibilities.

If you haven't yet signed up for BRIKA, hop to it and discover well-crafted goods from inspiring and passionate Makers at brika.com (sample email newsletter here)

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