Peri Bolts has a background in business operations, most notably working for Starbucks for nearly a decade. Despite her passion for operations and leadership, she was feeling unfulfilled by corporate life and “not being plugged into the community.” Ani Trejo Barrington has a master’s degree in divinity and thought the ministry would be her path forever. But after a move to Colorado Springs and the birth of her first baby, she found herself looking for another career. Ani soon launched a small vintage business and found herself offering her wares at a pop-up shop called Womxn of the Future.
In an instance of serendipity, Peri was shopping at the same market. “I was talking to these really amazing women, asking, where’s your product available seven days a week? Or where do I find you when I run out of your artisanal soap? Makers live this pop-up life that is very transient, sporadic, and really hard on them, and it’s not accessible for consumers either. It’s hard to build brand loyalty through your following when you’re hopping around or selling on Etsy or whatever.” She asked herself, how could this look different? She found a small collection of makers that said they would join her—Ani was one—and Eclectic CO was borne. “Very quickly, the store was full, and then we started a wait list. I don’t make, I don’t create, but it’s my absolute pleasure to support those that do.”
The two women formalized their partnership in early 2021, and the business has grown to include three stores, yet as Ani says, “This feels like just the beginning for us.”
Social Impact: Peri workshopped the idea through the National Institute for Social Impact, earning her certification, and Eclectic CO recently received the Institute’s Prism Award for Social Impact Startup of the Year. The stores are “a true co-op in the sense that, anytime you come in, a maker is going to be working on the floor,” says Peri. “Our makers pay a very reasonable rent—we take less than 10%—and work in the store as well, anywhere between 6 and 15 hours per month. It’s accessible for people who are stay-at-home parents or work full time.” Together, the three shops house about 110 artists. Eclectic’s vendors are about 95% women-owned businesses. “We work really hard for age and race and gender inclusivity,” she says.
“As a small business owner,” says Ani, “my favorite part is being able to connect maker to customer whether it is my product or not. For example, we have a woman who creates journals out of old books, and this morning, we had three customers in a row that were buying her books. It’s so great to be able to say, ‘This is Kendra. She’s a real human being. She has two kids, and you’re supporting her; you’re supporting her small business.’ It just feels like a different level of buy-in comes from the customer. It also helps the makers to feel like what they’re doing is worth continuing. And it keeps pouring money back into our local economy.”
Larger lessons: “We never want shopping at Eclectic CO to feel like charity or like you’re compromising on anything,” says Peri. “Anything that’s on your gift list for a loved one, chances are you can find something very comparable at Eclectic—and you’re buying it from a real person. When you shop local, about 80% of your dollar stays in the community. That, in itself, is a testament to your dollar mattering.”