Interview: Erin Boniferro of Collage Collage

If you’ve been following along on this blog long enough, you know that we’ve been passionate about Erin Boniferro and her beautiful shop Collage Collage since the beginning. It was as if she had read our collective minds and made magic happen when her space opened its doors five years ago, as a creative hub for little AND big artists in the community. From art supplies, to book readings, drop-in classes and extended workshops, Collage Collage is bursting with carefully (and lovingly) curated items and activities. We are so thrilled to share with you our interview with Erin, who serves the realtalk up just how we like it: on business, the ever-present act of balance with kids and work, and her focus on community and learning through the arts…have a read and enjoy!

*all photos by the talented Lori Kiessling!
P&H: What were you doing before establishing Collage Collage?

EB: I worked as an instructor and arts programmer for amazing places like Arts Umbrella, The Vancouver Art Gallery, The CAG, & The Richmond Art Gallery after graduating from Emily Carr. I also always like to mention that I ran the arts + crafts cabin at my summer camp and I think every job since has been an attempt to recreate that time.

P&H: What was your trigger to follow this career path?

EB: Camp started something, but the creative drive has been with me forever. Small business is in my bloodlines, as is a strong commitment to families learning through the arts together. After leaving art school I searched through various jobs to find the blend of community, arts, and engagement and soon discovered it was within me to build myself.

P&H: Where do you get your inspiration from (ex. for workshops, materials, books)?
EB: 16 years of teaching art to kids has made for a sizable library that keeps building. I think picture books’ are the everymans art collection, and now that we sell books, I continue to see that to be true. Second to the books, I’m inspired by the rich community of makers around me, who I work hard to bring into the shop to engage with families as often as possible. Now I also have some crazy talented staff who bring new light and love to the space so we’re filled to the brim with inspiration lately.
P&H: What role does social media play in your business?
EB: A big one, that I was reluctant to embrace. Now that I’m finding my voice, and understanding how the system works a little more I’m getting into it. It’s a great way to engage my customers, and I’m learning about how to communicate authentically in a really strange world. I’ve always been good at sharing in real life, and now I’m learning how and what to share in that world. Folks seem to really respond to the personal storytelling most, so I’m working on that the most.

P&H: Do you involve your son in your work at all?

 

EB: He’s been coming to the shop since he was a week old. Now that he’s 2, he’s in a few classes and we do come in on our way to and from wherever we’re going. I like that he likes it here so far, and his presence has influenced my interest in babies + toddlers and goods + services for them for sure. Honestly, at this stage in the game I’m sure he just sees it as his own personal endless sticker supply + library.

P&H: How important is it that your son takes on or plays a part in the business when he’s older?

EB: It would be a delight to know that I built something that could become a legacy, but we’re too early in the game for that. My husband and I met in art school so we’re convinced that our son might rebel against us and go for something sensible like business or accounting or firefighting. Like most new moms, I’m just working this out as I go.
P&H: What has been your biggest challenge running your own business?
EB: Knowing when to put the phone down, or acknowledge that it’s best to wait for an appropriate time to answer emails and make calls. Sometimes all this crazy-of-the-moment-communication doesn’t serve us. It’s also all on me, so I rely on a carefully selected group of real + imagined gurus to bounce my ideas off of. I also find that my instincts are usually right about most things for the store. It’s easy to be swayed by trends, competition + all the feedback (good + bad) from clients, so it’s a careful, constant process of staying true to what we’re all about around here.
P&H: What is the hardest part in maintaining the work/life balance?
EB: Doing ONE THING AT A TIME. When you run the show, it’s a 24hour job. I’m working hard on letting the time away from the shop be just that, and the time in the shop being focused and authentic. My balance and your balance are going to be different all the time, so I think just finding what works for you + your business + your family and honoring that on the regular is way more important than what anyone else calls balance.
P&H: What does success look like to you? How will you know when you have achieved it?
EB: I’m proud of the space I’ve built and the people + things that bring it to life each day. I’m proud if every little art project that gets made at that table. I’m proud of my husband and I for raising a happy 2 year old, and between those things I see that there’s success around, and support for more. Way easier to type that then live it each day, but hey! I’m trying.
P&H: What advice would you have wanted to know 5 or 10 years ago?
EB:
It’s never the perfect time to do anything.
You have all the things you want to do within you.
Following your passion will lead to success.
Apply for credit cards and loans before you quit all your day jobs and start your own business.
Don’t take it personally.
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Thank you so much for sharing Erin – and stay tuned for much more exciting things-to-come with the Collage Collage! Get updates on Collage Collage’s facebook and instagram, and sign up for their newsletter here.

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