A side hustle that captures the Kootenay spirit
These sisters from Trail, B.C., decided to give back to their community through their Kootenay-inspired clothing company
Kelsey Gosse and Leah Pavlick are sisters on a mission to make an impact. Originally from Trail, B.C., they moved to Alberta only to discover a longing for their hometown and the Kootenay vibe in general. This motivated them to start a Kootenay-inspired apparel company, Kootz Collective. Their goal was to support people and businesses in the region and to show pride in being born and raised there.
Kootz Collective clothing is mostly unisex, and everything is made with ethically sourced, soft, high-quality materials. Gosse and Pavlick use their graphic design skills to create Kootenay-relevant phrases and images, and the screen-printing is done in B.C. They carry hoodies, t-shirts and hats in child and adult sizes, as well as other items such as stickers and towels. You can find all the merchandise online, and a portion of every purchase made at KootzCollective.com will go to the Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society.
Gosse and Pavlick also host business and creativity workshops, bolstering small business owners with the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Both are working moms and felt it was important to be strong advocates and role models for other female entrepreneurs.
With their brand gaining popularity, the sisters have been involved in various Kootenay-based charities and causes, consistently giving back wherever possible.
We wanted to know more, and they were kind enough to share a bit of their world with us.
How are things going for Kootz Collective right now?
This is our fifth year in business, which feels like a big milestone after the craziness of 2020. We are always keeping busy. The pandemic hasn’t slowed us down, but just forced us to pivot and be extra flexible where necessary.
With the cancellation of markets and other in-person events, we have filled that gap with more involved collaborations and giveaways. We hosted a Kootenay Women in Business contest in 2020 and teamed up with other businesses for one of our biggest giveaways ever.
(The winner of the draw received a shout-out on social media, a lengthy blog feature and an entire outfit of their choosing from Kootz Collective.)
This year, we will still be limiting markets and workshops so have alternative initiatives in store, including another big giveaway, a VIP backcountry experience and work with an additional non-profit.
Kelsey Gosse is proud to honour her community with Kootz Collective creations. - Photo courtesy Natalie Pinchak Photography
What are some of the advantages and challenges of running a business alongside your sibling?
This venture has been a highly positive and powerful partnership. Though our career paths are similar, we have distinct skills that we each excel at to create a balanced workload and the ability to tackle a variety of tasks in our business without having to outsource.
We certainly don’t agree on everything, but we’ve gotten good at respectfully debating ideas and having a sense of humour about things. Our end goal is always the same: the success of our business and sustaining creativity, originality and fun in our designs and within our social media community. One bonus of being sisters is we are often on the same wavelength without even knowing it. We’ve had instances of texting one another the exact same random ideas within seconds of each other!
Leah Pavlick enjoys bringing her creative spark to other Kootenay entrepreneurs. - Photo courtesy Natalie Pinchak Photography
Which of your designs or other creations are you currently most proud of?
We are both graphic designers and creative people so there’s never a shortage of ideas. We have a few apparel designs that are typography-based that we are especially fond of and that customers love. Our typographical approach is unique in the market, and our East West Kootenay and Kootenay Babe designs are consistently popular looks.
What are your plans for the future?
2020 was a tumultuous year, and we have yet to put on the brakes and assess what things will look like in a year or two from now. We know that we will continue to create comfortable outdoor and Kootenay-inspired apparel and support other small businesses. We both have full-time careers, so we have always managed Kootz Collective on our terms to maintain some balance. Some seasons we launch fewer designs than others and pull back on other requests and additional projects when needed. Saying “no” has become an important skill. This allows us to stay flexible and limit the stress of owning a business, working full time and raising families. Quality over quantity is our mantra.
What aspect of your business are you most excited about?
We try to give back when we can and support many small businesses through collaborations, features, sharing content, giveaways and charity. Every year we can do just a little bit more. One of our newer initiatives is teaming up with Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society (FOLKSS) in 2020. A portion of all our online sales will go towards the conservation of Kootenay Lake. We grew up on the lake so playing a small part in supporting a valuable ecosystem for generations to come is important to us.
The excitement of seeing people wearing Kootz Collective never gets old. We are proud to have sold our goods in every province and territory in Canada, except Quebec. The purpose of our business was to represent pride in where we were born and raised, and it’s really rewarding to see Kootenay people across the country embracing the brand and showing off their roots. A couple of years ago we had a friend message us to let us know that their shirt was spotted by another Kootenay person while traveling in Thailand! There’s a certain laid-back attitude and approach to lifestyle that we feel is unique to the Kootenays that becomes ingrained in you no matter where you end up.