Kristi Soomer truly embraces the idea to do more, and be more. Her plate was already full as a full-time management consultant, but she started a fashion label because she saw there was room for improvement (talk about taking it to the next level - one of her designs can be worn 8 different ways!). Her responsibly and all Canadian made label, Encircled, is challenging industry conventions, and is not only providing women with versatile, functional pieces, but also aims to educate women that you can still choose quality while being kind to our planet. Her transparency, thoughtfulness, and genuine passion to make a positive impact is why we chose Kristi as this week’s Women of Ace.
ACE: WHAT ARE YOU UP TO? ( YOUR CURRENT HUSTLE )
Kristi: I’m the founder and CEO of Encircled, a line of ethically-made women’s clothing designed to help you streamline your wardrobe, and simplify your life.
ACE: WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU? ( WHERE DID THIS PASSION COME FROM? )
Kristi: In my previous career of management consulting, I was flying to client sites weekly, so I became obsessed with figuring out how to travel as light as possible. I started realizing there wasn’t many stylish, comfortable and versatile pieces of clothing that could go from boardroom, to apres-work drinks, to commuting. So instead of continuing to search for such items, I started designing them.
I knew I wanted the business to be based on a strong ethical foundation - in my travels, I’d witnessed the environmental impact we are having on our planet, so I started using sustainable fabrics in our designs. As well, after learning more about the exploitive labour conditions in the fashion industry, I wanted to do things differently. I decided to make our clothing all locally made in Toronto.
ACE: WHAT WAS YOUR DREAM JOB GROWING UP? HOW DO YOU THINK THIS HAS INFLUENCED WHO YOU ARE TODAY?
Kristi: In high school, I worked at a fine foods store as a deli clerk/cashier. The business was not well run, and even as a 16-year old I could already see opportunities for improvement. This inspired me to go into consulting. Fashion wasn’t even on my radar! I assumed since I couldn’t sew, or draw that it wasn’t the industry for me.
ACE: IF YOU COULD DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN ONLY THREE WORDS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Kristi: Hard-working. Determined. Thoughtful.
ACE: WHO’S YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION AND WHY?
Kristi: Eileen Fisher. She has such an amazing story. Eileen founded her line in the 80’s with just $350 and little to no fashion training. Today, her ethical fashion brand is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Most importantly, she has held her brand to a high degree of ethical standards as she’s scaled her business, and she’s remained true to her values, which proves that you can use business as a force for good.
ACE: WHAT DOES THE TERM “BOSS BABE” MEAN TO YOU?
Kristi: Someone who is tuned into her purpose, and lives life on a mission.
ACE: HOW DO YOU EMPOWER OTHER WOMEN?
Kristi: I run an all-female company, so I am constantly empowering my team to do their best, and learn as they go. We also work hard at educating our customers, primarily women, about sustainability and ethics in fashion through teaching them the principles that less, can actually be more in your wardrobe.
ACE: WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED FROM ANOTHER WOMAN?
Kristi: “You can always go back,” from my good friend Deb Hudson. This advice was given to me when I was deciding whether or not I should quit my consulting job to go into Encircled full-time. It was scary and I felt afraid. Hearing that regardless of the outcome of my decision, there will always be opportunities, was reassuring to me, and was an integral piece of my decision to quit my job.
ACE: CAN YOU SHARE THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED FROM A FAILURE?
Kristi: To me, all failures are lessons. I can’t pick just one. The entrepreneurial journey is full of mistakes, which are ultimately learning opportunities. The key thing is to keep going after a misstep and learn what you could have done differently or better.
ACE: WHEN YOU ARE FEELING OVERWHELMED, WHAT DO YOU DO TO FIND PEACE?
Kristi: Taking my dog out for a walk is very cathartic, or calling a biz bestie has proved helpful.
ACE: WHAT LEGACY DO YOU HOPE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
Kristi: For helping change the fashion industry for the better.