Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

What: Brave Collective, a boutique

Pictured: Jennifer ­Riker, co-owner

Employees: 25

Location: 133 SW Century Drive, Suite 100, Bend

Jennifer Riker opened her Bend boutique, Brave Collective, in 2015, more than a decade after a friend planted the idea in her mind.

She made the suggestion to her husband, business consultant Jay Riker, as they were both looking for a new venture. “He said, ‘If we found the right location’” she said. “I said, ‘It has to be more than about clothes.’”

Riker secured a lease on SW Century Drive and found enough success that she opened two more stores in the Portland area 18 months later.

Riker talked with The Bulletin about running a brick-and-mortar retail business. Her responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: Have you always had an interest in fashion?

A: I’m a tomboy at heart. It’s kind of ironic that I’m in this industry. I love clothes, but being 6 feet (tall), it’s been … a challenge to shop. So it’s not always been the most enjoyable experience for me because it really feels like a job.

I hire people who are just really good at knowing fashion, and not just knowing fashion, but knowing how to help dress other people. And understanding the needs of different body shapes.

Q: What was it about SW Century Drive that seemed promising?

A: I knew that I wanted to do something different than (downtown and the Old Mill District). Literally the first day I went out, I drove this street. And (the owner of) Side Effect (board shop) … was literally putting his sign out that he was subletting. I said, ‘Let me talk to you about it.’ It all happened so quickly and so perfectly.

Q: What is your mission?

A: Make sure every person that walks through the door feels great that they’re there. Have an experience that it’s made their day better to come here.

We get a lot of people who walk through the door that need support. There is a truth to retail therapy. I didn’t recognize it so much until I owned these stores.

Q: Why expand in Portland?

A: It was always part of the model when Jay and I thought about having this. We wanted to test it here and then expand. We knew if we went to Portland, we’d want to have a minimum of two.

If we’re going to make the effort and logistics of managing remotely … if we could find the locations, the desirable locations, it would just make sense to have two. For example, we can share employees. I can have a larger pool of staff.

Q: What are your goals for the business?

A: Building the brand. And developing product, utilizing women entrepreneurs. We’ve been focused on women entrepreneurs for a lot of our accessories and our jewelry and our gifts. That’s always been part of our business plan.

I have a designer on staff from the Fashion Institute — she’s a graduate of FIT. So we started a clothing line called House of Inari two years ago. I think we’re now going to be getting into accessories and jewelry.

The next phase is to create a stronger online (presence) so we can distribute women entrepreneurs’ products.

Q: How did you start your annual fundraising party, Project Brave Heart?

A: The first one, we were open four months maybe. My kids were in grade school at the time. I had known this woman. She’d been battling colon cancer for eight years. It was right before Christmas.

People have all this energy. They want to do something. They don’t really know what. It gives them an opportunity to come together, to show their support. Now it’s become a tradition for us.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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