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Meet Trailblazer Emily Karrer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Karrer.

Emily, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I tried a few different paths before finding the one that led me into starting my own clothing line business, eMpulse. I’ve worked a lot of different jobs, but didn’t feel the creative allowance that I needed to feel passionate about my career. Art was always a hobby for me throughout my life, and fashion became more and more of an interest and exciting outlet of for my art. I never considered being an artist as a possible career until I moved out to California, where I created an entirely different lifestyle for myself.

I’ve been living in Ocean Beach, San Diego for three years now. I love being part of a beach community that’s full of small businesses and creative minds. California’s culture of embracing art, dreams, and self-expression helped lead me down this new path as a clothing designer.

Fashion, as a new outlet for my art, was a total experiment, like a lot of my art. Designing clothes allowed me to connect with people through a new an exciting art form. I began to feel a sense of thrill at the thought of starting a business based on my own creative visions without any rules.

I started super small with my business and began selling my up-cycled clothing designs out of my closet, by word of mouth. Then, I brought a few pieces to sell at the Ocean Beach farmer’s market. I was taken aback by how quickly my small t-shirt collections were selling. So, I slowly began to make more and more pieces. Until I eventually had a full-on pop-up boutique with new styles, including flannels, jackets, and all kinds of tops, every week at the market. I started selling some of my artwork as well, which I still continue to produce and use as an inspiration behind a lot of my screen prints for my clothing. I found that my up-cycled techniques were not only sustainable but also helped create the “beach grunge” style that was unique to eMpulse.

My business has been a lot of trial and error, and I’ve embraced the process of developing my brand and business. I so appreciate of all the local support including the shops, Saltwater Surf and Supply, Current, Lazy Hummingbird/The Nest, and Botanica, which have been other platforms to market my designs in Ocean Beach. Currently, I sell my clothing on my website, Etsy, additional stores, pop-up events, and am still at the OB Farmer’s Market (every Wednesday from 4-8 pm in Crafter’s Alley). I plan to start expanding up the coast and online with my brand. It’s a hustle but I’ve never felt more alive in any other career path before. And I still don’t know exactly where this path will take me.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It took a bunch of different roads to lead me to the one I am riding down today. Once I found my career path, my next struggles were working to the point of making my business my full-time job, and sustainably and ethically expanding it on a larger scale.

At the start of my business, I was working five part-time jobs, including eMpulse. When I just about lost my mind, I started slowly eliminating one by one and focused more and more on where I wanted to go with my life. The more time and energy I started putting into my clothing line, the more profits I began to see.

I eventually found myself on this plateau of financial comfort, working at one other well-paying job alongside running eMpulse. My other job took up time and energy that I needed to expand my business, but I felt reliant on the comfort of consistent income. I got to a point where I had to make a decision to either take the risk of working full-time and seeing where I could go with eMpulse or stay on this plateau of comfort and keep eMpulse where it was. After thinking about what direction I wanted to go with my career in life, I took the plunge. I quit my other job and jumped into eMpulse full time, and joined the hustle game.

One of the struggles I’m currently having came up as I’ve been growing my business. I’m at a point where I plan to continue up-cycling clothes as much as possible, but also create new sustainable designs made ethically by other sewists. The harshness of the fast-fashion industry is intense and has severe impacts on our world and the people who make our clothes. I feel very passionate about producing clothing as sustainably as possible, under ethical working conditions, and it can be a struggle to find trustworthy sources. It has been a huge research process and still is, but I the more I learn, the more excited about the impact I can have with my brand.

To all the other women out there just starting your journey- embrace the hustle and follow that dream. Take a risk. Don’t settle into a comfort zone, as those walls are what can hold you back in life. Your dreams and passions come from your talents and whatever thrills your soul, so find a way to unleash your talents and see where they take you.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about eMpulse – what should we know?
I’m most proud of how unique and identifiable my brand’s style is. I am also proud of the level of sustainability of my designs, and where I am working to expand my brand to in ethical production and sustainability.

eMpulse is a unique unisex clothing brand, as it is best known for it’s “beach grunge” style, a term I came up with to describe the look of my clothing. The brand offers alternative beach wear that can also be worn on the streets.

My designs are appreciated for the up-cycling process, which uses discarded clothing to prevent excess waste. Not only is the process of up-cycling sustainable for our world, it creates the worn-in grungy (but cleaned!) look that is unique to eMpulse. The up-cycling techniques involve re-shaping/sewing, acid washing, embellishing/patchwork and screen printing, which often creates one of a kind pieces.

The screen print designs are original artwork created and printed by me, so that makes the clothes even more specifically well-known as eMpulse. It’s exciting to hear people tell me that they’ve seen my “Monster Pineapple shirt in Colorado Springs” or they’ve seen “someone dancing at the club in my Cactus Jams crop top”. Screen printing and all of the unique techniques I use to create my clothing are what make my designs uniquely “eMpulse”.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
Instagram has been my biggest marketing tool even though I’m still learning the best ways to utilize it.

My best resources have been other small business owners and artists. San Diego has so many awesome small business owners, and they have been a great resource to bounce business ideas off of.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @_empulse_
  • Facebook: @empulseline

Image Credit:

Cameron Rains, Nikki Engel, Wendy Smith, Kevin Bakke and Madeline Barr

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