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: 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…
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.
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.