by Stef Tschida
As a little girl, you couldn’t keep Emily Kisa away from the bead store near her house. One way or another, she’d find her way there every day, plunging her hands deep into the bins and letting the little plastic and glass beads sift through her fingers. She’d bring home her latest finds and waste no time turning them into necklaces and bracelets—little works of art that she’d proudly wear for all to see.
Decades later, Emily once again found herself drawn to something delicate and beautiful. Only this time it was halfway around the world. As she studied abroad in Turkey, she was deeply moved by the country’s rich history and culture—the arts and crafts, the fashions, the food. In particular, she was struck by the intricate crocheted trim that local village women in Istanbul sewed onto the border of their headscarves. Emily took that inspiration and combined it with her love for jewelry, designing a line of crocheted necklaces.
But her one-of-a-kind creations weren’t the only thing Emily gained from her time studying abroad. She also met the love of her life, Caglar. When her six months of studies in the country were over, she came back to the U.S. for a short time and then returned to Turkey to get married. It was then that Emily and Caglar began dreaming and planning to bring her Turkish-inspired jewelry line to life. Both entrepreneurial by nature, they began identifying sources for materials and building relationships with vendors.
The pair eventually made their way back to Emily’s home state of Minnesota and started selling her jewelry. As her designs gained popularity, Emily envisioned something bigger. She wanted to inspire women to never stop exploring, to find their own path, and to trust their wanderlust. She began curating a collection of beautiful products influenced by her own travels. Next came a storefront—KISA Boutique—with her expanded offerings. Five years later the boutique is thriving in downtown Minneapolis.
Emily works directly with Turkish fashion houses to bring distinctive products to the Twin Cities market. In addition to crocheted jewelry, KISA sells European-inspired clothing, Turkish towels, and tailored clothing in bold styles—always thoughtfully selected with the fashion-forward women who work in the buildings surrounding her store in mind. Emily has found one of the things she loves most about being a shop owner is connecting with her customers and seeing how wearing something unique and flattering gives the women a boost in confidence.
While the path to building a successful business hasn’t been without its challenges, Emily wouldn’t trade it for anything. She is grateful for the opportunity to share her love of the Turkish culture with women in Minnesota. And she has big dreams for KISA. She and Caglar continue to expand the business by partnering with more artists to source unique Turkish products. Over the years, Emily has spent the majority of her time working on growing the business, so perhaps the most exciting idea for her is getting back to her roots and designing and creating more products herself.
To learn more about Emily’s business, visit KISAOfficial.com.
Photo: Kimberlee Karr for My Founder Story
About the author: Stef Tschida is a former corporate communicator and lifelong storyteller. Stef’s WHY became clear when she worked at her daily campus newspaper. She realized she didn’t want to ask tough questions as a reporter—she wanted to help organizations answer those tough questions. She’s been doing that work ever since.