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The Conversation

Berg & Betts Watches Use Upcycled Poppy Barley Leathers

Emily and Jessie of Berg & Betts have teamed up with us for our first accessories collaboration for the Christmas 2014 season! Their handmade watches will help you keep track of how fashionably late you are to the next party. The best part: Berg & Betts is upcycling leather from Poppy Barley’s earliest boot samples. The premium leather will be as comfortable to wear on your wrist as it is on your feet.

Poppy Barley Collaboration - Poppy Barley x Berg & Betts Watches

So let’s summarize all of these wonderful things: stylish watches, ethically made by hand in Edmonton, Alberta, upcycling Poppy Barley boot samples. Perfect.

Get to know the brains and beauty behind our first accessories collaboration below.

Poppy Barley Collaboration - Poppy Barley x Berg & Betts Watches

How did you come up with the name Berg & Betts?

Emily (E): The name Berg and Betts is actually both of our maiden names. My maiden name is Betts and Jessie’s maiden name is Stjerneberg (so many consonants, I know!). Once we shortened it down to “Berg,” the name was a no brainer.

How did you two meet, and what made you decide to be business partners?

Jessie (J): Mutual friends introduced us about four years ago after both of us had recently re-located to Edmonton for our husbands’ careers. Since we were both new to the city, we could really relate to each other and we’ve been great friends ever since.

We didn’t seek each other out as business partners, rather it happened organically. I have a hands-on creative side and Emily has a fantastic eye for fashion and both qualities have proved themselves essential parts of Berg & Betts.

What are your backgrounds?

J: My educational background is in Nutrition, but I’ve been creating my whole life. I was only in grade one when my mom taught me how to use her sewing machine and I would make purses out of any scrap material I could get my hands on. As long as I can remember I’ve made jewellery, sewed clothing and have generally had a DIY attitude. Making things with my hands has always made me feel the most like myself.

E: Fashion has always been my way to creatively express myself. I grew up in Connecticut, only thirty minutes from New York City, and my time spent there definitely fostered my love and passion for fashion. I have my M.A. in Childhood Special Education and absolutely love teaching, but Berg and Betts allows me to tap into my creative side.

Tell us about the beginnings of Berg & Betts.

J: It actually all started back in 2012 when we decided to hand-make a gift for our mutual friend’s birthday. I had never made a watch before but I had lots of scrap leather that was perfect for watch straps. One night we adventurously sat down with hammers, pliers, rivets, watch faces, leather–and wine–and after a whole lot of determination we had made three watches! Other than being totally proud of ourselves, we thought nothing of it until the watches attracted interest every time we wore them. It wasn’t until Emily sold her watch off her wrist to a girl at the gym that we knew we had to pursue the watches further.

Poppy Barley x Berg & Betts Upcycled Watches

Giving new life to otherwise leftover leather is a great idea. How did you get started using designer leather?

J: Watches require such a small amount of leather and something didn’t seem right about cutting up large hides of fine leather into tiny strips. Initially, we were scavengers at a local leather shop because after their leather sewing classes the students had scraps left over that they’d sell to us by weight.

From there, we considered the unique designers we have right here in Edmonton and we reached out to ask if they would give their scraps to be re-invented into custom watches. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we receive materials from Poppy Barley and local handbag designers.

We have found that after designers spend so much time sourcing their gorgeous leather from all over the world, they don’t want to see it end up in a landfill! It’s so satisfying for us to know that we’re helping other companies reduce their waste.

What do Berg & Betts customers love about your watches?

J and E: We appeal to women of all ages and personal styles. By offering products that range from designer accessories to timeless pieces, our customers love that they can find pieces that suit their style. The common thread, however, is that we consistently hear from our customers that they appreciate how our products incorporate materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Our favourite part about designing and selling the watches is that people use them to help define their personal style–we’re often caught off-guard and pleasantly surprised by their choices.

Poppy Barley x Berg & Betts Upcycled Leather Watches

How do you balance being a mom and owning your own business?

J: I think I’m still trying to find that balance. My biggest challenge seems to be time management and being ok with the fact that I don’t have large uninterrupted chunks of time anymore. In fact, right now I’m trying to be in “work mode” as my one-year-old yells and hits my dog with a whisk (my poor dog!). Life is chaotic, but I’m learning how to be productive whenever I can find little pockets of time. It sounds simple, but prioritizing my major responsibilities has helped a lot, because it reminds me that my son comes first.  If I have work to do and he brings me a book, I stop what I’m doing in that moment and read to him.

What advice would you give to other moms who want to start their own business (or already have one)?

J: There is no time like the present to start doing what you love. I think for anyone venturing into their own business, there are moments of self-doubt. Always have confidence in yourself, your ideas, and your capabilities. You will surprise yourself.

E: My advice to other mothers would be to keep doing what you’re doing as long as it’s enjoyable. Being a mom is hard, owning your own business and making it a success can be challenging, but if it’s what you love and have always wanted to do keep trying. Hard work and dedication always pay off.

Caroline Gault

Director of Content & Community, Poppy Barley
Caroline handles social media, online content, and media relations at Poppy Barley. She's also a freelance lifestyle writer, editor, and a die-hard Instagram fan.