Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Welcoming Poppy Barley - and Innovation - to Fort McMurray

Sometimes the very first time you meet someone you know there is something special about them. I felt this way when I met my friend Kendall. I was in Edmonton at the invitation of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, who had been kind enough to ask me to come spend a couple of days in Edmonton learning more about our neighbour to the south. One of the things they arranged for my stay was to spend a few hours with a successful Edmonton fashion and lifestyle blogger – and that’s how I met Kendall Barber.
Kendall writes the very popular City and Dale blog, and just as I write about Fort McMurray she writes about Edmonton, with a focus on lifestyle and fashion. She is well known in Edmonton area shops and stores, and so our little whirlwind tour was a pleasure as I got to see her interact with shop owners and employees. And Kendall is an astute businesswoman, too, so when she shared with me the intention to start a custom boot company I was intrigued on several levels, not the least being my love of shoes.

My love of shoes is not only well known but seems to precede me. I have met people I have never encountered before and had them comment on my shoe collection, and recently my love of shoes was even noted by Alberta Venture magazine. Those who have been to my home can attest to this passion, as they have seen the space I have devoted to shoes. The reality is I take a few things seriously – the Intrepid Junior Blogger, writing, my job, and shoes. So, when Kendall began to tell me about this new business venture I was delighted.
You see one of the issues with those of us who love shoes is size. This is particularly an issue if you aren’t the “average” size, having wider than “average” feet or larger than “average” calves. The last issue has been a peeve of mine for some time, as often I will fall in love with a pair of boots, try them on, and find myself unable to close the zipper over calves that, while not huge, appear to be larger than the average. And this is where Poppy Barley, the company Kendall has started with her sister, who actually conceived the idea, comes in.

Poppy Barley is an Edmonton-based startup. They took what is a very common problem and often expressed by women who cannot find boots that fit and turned it into an opportunity. Poppy Barley offers boots, and flats, made to your measurements. You can even have a hand in designing the boots yourself, picking the colour and style, and then you submit your choices with your measurements, pay a remarkably small price (I have paid far more for far less quality, and certainly not custom made, designer shoes), and wait for the boots to be shipped to you.
Poppy Barley makes it easy, too, with quick and responsive customer service, and a keen interest in seeing the customer happy. There are so many things right with this company – the concept, the leadership, the staff, the service, the product, the price, the location – that when they recently wanted to venture into designing and producing custom made boots with heels as well as flat boots I helped them by making a contribution to their Alberta BoostR crowd sourcing campaign. That contribution, one I made happily, has now translated into a pair of gorgeous leather boots that will soon be on their way to me, ones made specifically to fit me, and that I will wear proudly while telling those who admire them about my friend Kendall and her company.
I have even better news, too. When Kendall and I met I told her about Fort McMurray and the strong community here. I told her about my friends and all the shoe-loving women I know, and it appears some of what we discussed stayed with her, because Poppy Barley are coming to Fort McMurray with a pop-up store. For three days, at the Fort McMurray Tourism Fall Show and Market at MacDonald Island, this weekend (Sept 20-22) Poppy Barley will be here to measure you, show you their lines, and help you to find the boots you’ve always wanted to own but could never find. I am incredibly pleased by this, as while I won’t take credit for bringing them here I hope I was able to share with Kendall in my time with her the nature of our community, and how much we embrace innovative, brave people who take a really great idea and make it into reality. This is our chance to do just that.

Here is my prediction: Poppy Barley is going to be an enormous success, likely international. All the things that make this company right will not go unnoticed, and they will skyrocket to success because they took a common problem and developed a solution, and then had the courage to pursue it. This is our chance as individuals and a community to support a company from our neighbour to the south, and people who embody what is best about this province. This is our chance to be in on the ground floor of what I suspect will be an internationally known company. I will never be able to say I owned one of the first pairs of Jimmy Choo’s or Fluevogs, but I will be able to say I owned one of the first pairs of Poppy Barley – and I am so proud of that it is hard to describe.
If you are attending the fall trade show this weekend please drop by the Poppy Barley booth and say hello, and check them out. Show them some of that Fort McMurray love of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, and support an Alberta business that I believe will one day stretch far past our provincial borders. Tell them I sent you, if you want, or just tell them you love shoes, or tell them that you appreciate their courage – and then get measured for your new boots, because in the end for some of us, like me, it’s really all about the shoes.
My best wishes and my thanks to
Poppy Barley
for bringing their
pop-up store to Fort McMurray,
a place where we see the possibilities
and embrace them.


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