How did you get that f*#king awesome job Kendall Barber?

Kendall Barber: runner, traveller, footwear innovator.
Kendall Barber: runner, traveller, footwear innovator.

If you’re a woman, you’re Canadian and you’re into shoes, chances are you’ve heard of Poppy Barley. Heck, if you’re a dude, you probably have as well.

Started by two Edmonton sisters – Justine and Kendall Barber  – Poppy Barley is a made-to-measure shoe company that’s as much a runaway mustang success story as it is a lesson in craftsmanship and socio-economics. Poppy Barley’s business model is simple: measure your customers’ feet, let them pick out the colour/style of their footwear, send the specs to Mexico and weeks later a shiny new pair of shoes or boots is ready. Though her base is Edmonton, 33-year old Kendall Barber yearns to cover as much terra firma as possible. Whether she’s running marathons, hiking through the Rocky Mountains or travelling across North America to tell Poppy Barley’s story (luxurious shoe couture + fair wages for Mexican shoemakers) Kendall is on the move.

I was lucky enough to catch Kendall right as she returned from a trip to Morocco. She’s a sweetheart, a community builder (as a Lululemon run ambassador and tireless run champion with YEG’s River City Runners) and all around role model for young entrepreneurs. Here’s Kendall’s story about her f*#king awesome job….

So how did you get that f*&king awesome job? Can you describe what your job is and what it is that you do?

I’m the co-founder of Poppy Barley, a footwear company dedicated to crafting a better fitting shoe. Believing in “Luxury for the People,” Poppy Barley values craftsmanship, thoughtful design, fair profits and human connection. In 2012, my sister (and co-founder) Justine convinced me to join her in changing the way women buy shoes. At the time, I had already left my corporate marketing job and was working alongside my husband with his optometry businesses. While I love my husband, I wanted my own thing. The vision for Poppy Barley inspired me, so I said YES to be part of the journey.

Working hard to produce great products made by artisans paid fair wages.
Working hard to produce great products made by artisans paid fair wages.

Did you have to give anything up to get here?

Social life, savings, hobbies and sleep.

Who or what has been your mentor/inspiration along the way? 

Conversations with smart people always inspire me to question my business. Always asking why is critical. Travel, reading and continuous learning push me to expand my horizons and inspiration always follows.

In three words or less, what’s the best part of your job?

Meaningful impact.

In three words or less, what’s the worst part of your job? 

Impossible to quit.

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

A teacher or a physiotherapist. Like most kids, I only saw the possibilities directly in front of me. However, from an early age I wanted to own my business of some kind. In my 20s, I was overwhelmed by the choices. In my 30s, I feel empowered by the opportunities.

What is your drink of choice?

Coffee or almond milk blended with a frozen banana and dates.

Kendall running in Morocco.
Kendall running in Morocco.

Where was the last place you travelled? 

Morocco. Travel is key to my happiness and creativity. I’m freshly dedicated to ensuring a new passport stamp every year.

What’s on your playlist right now?

Lots of podcasts: Startup, Invisibilia, Song Exploder. For music, I usually just listen to Songza.

What are your top three reads vis a vis your career (books, magazines, manuals, podcasts)?

Book: Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Any advice for someone who’s looking to lock down their f*#king awesome job? 

Take ownership of your choices. Decide what you want to do, then do it! Accept that it will be equal parts challenging and rewarding. A f*#king awesome job requires pushing boundaries. You won’t know how to do your job. Everyday you’ll show-up, make it up and ask lots of questions. It’s exhausting (and exhilarating). Be gentle with yourself as you prepare for a future of uncertainty.

What does the future behold for your f*#king awesome job?

As Poppy Barley grows we’re launching new products (footwear collections, handbags, leather goods), but what excites me the most is how a growing company creates a larger platform for our business to have meaningful impact in our communities. Technology and creativity are allowing us to re-think supply chain models, consumer relationships, product design and manufacturing. It’s the future that really jazzes me!

RIP Readymade: the raddest DIY, culture and living magazine that was.
RIP Readymade: the raddest DIY, culture and living magazine that was.

*I want to insert a HUGE caveat here. I did not come up with this column name, my favourite, now deceased magazine – Readymade – did. I hope to emulate their ethos here (the questions are from my brain with a bit of audience testing from friends/family). As an extrovert and general lover of the human race, I am inspired by people who LOVE their jobs. So I thought I would dedicate some space on the world wide web to profiling people who have f*#king awesome jobs: who they are, how they got there and what advice would they give others.*


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