A DIFFERENT CLOTH: Pernilla Frazier, left, and Line Daems, co-owners of Kreatelier, started the fabric-goods and retail business after a successful collaboration working on events at the French-American School of Rhode Island in Providence.
The unique line of fabric items created by Kreatelier’s owners and a complementary selection of ready-made goods have been carefully chosen to express the company’s vision of “fabric creations for life and home.”
One product that helped launch the company’s own line is a fabric car seat organizer, making life more peaceful when a large part of it includes driving with children.
Pencils, pens, knitting needles and manicure items are among the small things that may end up being better, and more artfully, kept in a Kreatelier fabric organizer, another original product that set the 6-year-old company in motion.
Life may include some time in the yoga studio, so there’s a 100 percent cotton, washable shoulder bag, with a choice of leaf designs, for carrying a yoga mat.
Kreatelier – a word derived from “creative” and “atelier” or artist’s studio – is a company that blossomed from the friendship of Line Daems, who is from Belgium and was an intensive-care nurse, and Pernilla Frazier, who is from Sweden and previously worked as a lawyer. Daems and Frazier began as parent volunteers collaborating on events at the French-American School of Rhode Island in Providence.
“We would both be on the decorating team for events at the school, so we went out to buy fabrics together and we made things,” said Daems. “Pernilla was making curtains for herself and her friends and we are both interested in fabrics and home interior design.”
The collaboration led to a business inspiration for a niche market. “We thought we could offer simple fabric products made out of contemporary European fabrics,” said Daems. “We started with the idea to create organizers – little pouches that roll up – to carry pencils and knitting needles and expanded to car seat organizers. We made them for people and they went quickly, so we came up with a line of products and sold them at craft shows in the beginning.”
That start in 2006 confirmed that their marketing intuition was spot-on. The increasing demand led them to confront a major gap in their original thinking – neither one had small-business experience.
“We realized we had something great and could create something bigger, but we needed help,” said Daems.
That led them to the Center for Women & Enterprise.
They took a four-month class at CW&E, during which time they wrote a business plan, met with experts in various areas of business, worked with an attorney and rented studio space in a mille building in Pawtucket.
The plan to grow the business accelerated unexpectedly.
“We found our dream retail space on Hope Street a year earlier than we planned it,” said Daems. “With help from the Center for Women & Enterprise, we got a small-business loan. That allowed us to rent the store, renovate and buy inventory.”
Six years into the business, they now have a line of five originally designed items manufactured at Classic Apparel Designs in Everett, Mass.
Their home-decorating business offers fabrics, measures windows for curtains and Roman shades, has them sewn by two Providence contractors, and Frazier does the home installation.
The fabric left from the home-decorating projects is used for sewing classes for children and adults.
“They pick out a project like a pillow for a sewing class,” said Daems. “If we have a group of 11-year-old girls, maybe for a birthday party, they make a little zippered pouch. They always go home with something.”
The secret of Kreatelier’s success has been friendship that developed into a complementary business partnership – and fun.
“I have to say, it was not simple. We’ve worked really hard,” said Daems.
The first phase, as is often the case, was particularly hard.
“We had to cover the store every day, as well as everything else for the business, and we still had small children to take care of,” said Daems.
The market niche is still strong.
“I think we have a certain look that’s both traditional and contemporary, so we have a very mixed customer base,” said Daems.
They’ve made one change in policy that kept that base broadening.
“We don’t charge a design fee for going to have a look at a home and discuss possible options,” said Daems. “I think that gives us a chance to work with a customer base that may not normally work with a home interior designer who might charge high design fees.”
Success during the five years on Hope Street naturally leads to thoughts of expansion.
“We would love to open another store,” said Daems. “That’s not going to be very soon, but we always keep on dreaming.” •
OWNERS: Line Daems and Pernilla Frazier
TYPE OF BUSINESS: Fabric creations, includes retail shop, custom home decorating and sewing classes