Startup name: Brika
Co-founders: Kena Paranjape, crafter of brand; Jen Koss, builder of business
Offices: BRIKA, 500 Sherbourne St, Ste 2109, Toronto, Ontario
Funding: $500,000 secured out of $1 million
Touted as a way of giving shoppers “the thrill of the find” on its e-commerce website, Brika was the brainchild of co-founders Kena Paranjape and Jen Koss.
The two women met at a Toronto coffeeshop about five years ago, realizing they were of a similar age and mindset when it came to entrepreneurship. They finally decided to combine their skill sets and launch Brika with the intention of connecting shoppers to the people who make clothing, jewellery, stationery and home decor products.
Koss took the stage at Demo Day to explain how the Brika model works.
“This is a cheeseboard,” she said, motioning to a picture of a large wooden board on the projector screen behind her. “So what? But what if I told you it was made with reclaimed wood by Matt in Michigan, who was inspired by watching his father start his own woodworking business?”
Koss went on to say that most discerning shoppers don’t want to just buy things – they want to know their pieces are unique, high quality and come with a story.
Brika aims to build a deeper personal connection between online shoppers and people like Matt from Michigan. The handicrafts market is worth about $30 billion, Koss said, but only four per cent of that revenue is from online shopping.
The most famous example of online shopping and handicrafts would be Etsy Inc., but Brika tries to stand out from other e-commerce sites by curating the items it sells through its site and being choosier about what it offers its customers.
“We meet with makers , we interview them and tell their stories … and our data determines the best sellers,” she says.
Brika itself holds no inventory, but it makes money through the curation process and through building a community of makers and shoppers.
As 45 per cent of its site traffic is through mobile devices, it has also recently released a mobile app that allows users to look at real-life inspirations and match it to items available for sale on the site. Brika also just entered partnerships with famous names in fashion like Lauren Bush and Donna Karan, as well as inking deals with J. Crew’s brand, Madewell, and the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Brika is currently seeking $1 million in funding, having secured about $500,000 so far.