The Lives of Small Biz Entrepreneurs: How Korey Friesen’s Fashion Career Led to K*STAR, a Mobile Boutique

Korey Friesen is putting fashion in motion. With eighteen years in the industry, she is founder of K*STAR, a mobile fashion boutique that travels around Toronto. (It’s also an online shop!)

So how exactly does it work? This insanely awesome upcycled truck is packed full of indie fashions, handmade accessory collections, and previously owned designer womenswear. Not only does K*STAR feature ethically produced clothing (for those who want to know where their threads are coming from), but it also acts as a platform to showcase independent women designers and artists.

You can book the K*STAR truck for your own private events, festival, markets and parties–but not if we book it first!

We caught up with Korey this week.

SDTC: Describe who you are and your biz.

KF: I’m Korey, the owner of K*STAR. It’s in an upcycled Fedex Truck, and online. I bring independent, handmade, and reworked clothing and accessory collections to markets and festivals across Toronto.

When did you decide you wanted to work independently?

I have always wanted to work independently. Ever since I was a little girl growing up in small-town Manitoba, I found anything I was allowed to take from the house and would sell My Little Ponies and Barbies out on the street corner in our neighbourhood. When I graduated high school, I was scouted to become a model across Europe and Asia; I learned to how to work independently within the fashion industry.

Where did you work previously or now?

Toward the end of my international modelling career, I did a bachelor’s degree at McGill in Montreal. The financial crisis happened and many of my modelling clients went bankrupt or stopped shooting. I barely was able to afford my last year of university. I scraped by selling out of my closet. It was fashion I collected from my modelling days in Europe. Really sick stuff. That was the beginning of K*STAR!

When I moved to Toronto, I got more serious in the fashion industry. I worked at a high-end designer consignment shop to learn how to sell on the floor and to style and dress women. I wanted to be in the action and understand the heart of the economy that the fashion industry relies upon–the magic that happens in the dressing room when fashion comes to real life.

Was it or is it a full-time or part-time job?

I worked full time retail on Queen West until eventually I got a part-time job that gave my schedule freedom but with more responsibility. My day job is managing a French boutique on Ossington called Annie Aime. I’ve learned how to start and operate a business. I do buying trips to New York and Paris. The art and craft of buying and merchandising.

While working full-time, did you have a side hustle?

I was always hustling on the side, for modelling or working on K*STAR. I continued K*STAR as a passion project on the side–collecting designer dresses I found thrifting in NYC and throwing private shopping parties at home with my friends. During both my work and play hours, I live for fashion.

I knew that if I wanted to make it on my own, I needed to branch out beyond just getting a website. But I couldn’t afford a typical retail brick and mortar. I was inspired by the fashion truck trend that started in California. I started researching delivery trucks. Then one day I saw the exact truck from my imagination in an ad. And it was in my budget. So I went and bought the truck. My passion project turned into a side hustle.

What was or will be the tipping point for you to turn your side hustle into a full-time reality? 

At the start, it was all about getting my truck working! No joke. In the beginning, my truck caused so much anxiety. It kept dying on me. So many mechanics. The emissions test failed and the shop took my engine apart and showed me all the pieces messed up from a leaking antifreeze tube. They told me it would cost $4,000-5,000 to fix and put the engine back together. So I had to get another mechanic to tow it to another shop across town. He fixed it up for less than half the other guy’s quote. Yay, a working truck! But then I had to figure out what exactly I was going to sell other than pre-owned designer dresses. 

Leslieville Flea was a real tipping point in finding the direction of my fashion truck business. It’s the perfect setting for a marketplace. The beautiful estate and wonderful people visiting from the neighbourhood. I do a lot of other events, but that one was key. Every year, I made changes accordingly, like adding accessories and handmade linen collections. I’ve been evolving and growing ever since. Now I’m in my third year with my truck, and it is booked almost every weekend at different events throughout the summer. I am so happy, grateful and proud.

The Leslieville Flea is a curated flea market in Toronto’s east end. This popular market attracts entrepreneurs who are making their dream job a reality. Whether it’s a side hustle or a full-time gig, the Leslieville Flea applauds the courage of the small biz entrepreneur! The next Leslieville Fleas are Saturday, July 21 at the Distillery District and Sunday, August 12 at Ashbridge Estate. For all the details, go here.

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