What would you consider an empire?

If you ask Jelena Pticek, she and partner Karen Carrillo do not own an empire “in the material sense of the word.” This despite the fact that they collectively oversee multiple companies: Koocoo Carrillo, Poppyseed Creative Living, Freedom Clothing Collective and Freedom Reconstructed.

Koocoo Carrillo, run by Karen, is a clothing line featuring hand-crafted, limited-edition pieces; Poppyseed Creative Living, run by Jelena, is a “furniture ‘reinterpreting’ business,” using yard or antique sale finds; Freedom Clothing Collective, a joint project, is a co-op for local artists; and Freedom Reconstructed, also a collaborative venture, is a line of refurbished goods.

Before joining forces, both women originally worked corporate jobs. According to Karen, “it was depressing not to be able to illicit helpful change, or not having a say or, worst of all, seeing all the waste (garbage and time).”

Jelena, too, never felt at ease in the corporate world.  “I knew that the only way I would be able to correct this is if I changed something about it,“ Jelena explains.

Not surprisingly, both call their decision to quit and become entrepreneurs as the highlight of their careers. It would prove to be a great decision, both from a personal and work-related standpoint.

“We both often stop to admire the store and how far it’s come. The we-made-this bit is pretty thrilling, and everyday at least one customer tells us what a lovely store we have, and it never gets old!”

Not stopping at just running a successful independent business, Jelena and Karen are working to ensure their company is one with the proper social mores.

“We strive to be Locally and Environmentally focused,” says Jelena. “With Poppyseed Creative Living my goal was to appeal to the audience with strong environmental sense but also with the desire to surround themselves with items that are unique in their nature.”

By selling products that are refurbished or, at the very least, eco-friendly, Jelena and Karen can feel good about their company, knowing that they are making a difference. This is vital in a society that is becoming more and more eco-aware.

As Karen, the driving force behind the company’s environmental focus, explains, “Newcomers love to hear about how we are affecting change.”

This eco-friendly attitude extends across the company, from the products to the marketing. “Via marketing we often do small craft shows and we always use recycled or reused objects, either paper for printing business cards or flyers (which we keep to a minimum) or packaging, or displays, our toilet paper is even post consumer,” Karen says.

Clearly, the brains behind the Freedom Clothing Collective have created a company that will flourish in the coming seasons. Yet even as they work to save the world (and run a successful business), both women manage to balance their priorities and keep their heads on straight. The secret?

Although life will get chaotic, says Jelena, “It comes down to identifying priorities, making compromises with yourself and adjusting your own expectations.”


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