At the table with Jennifer Bolaños
I was lucky enough to stumble upon Jennifer at a styling workshop a couple of weeks after I moved to Portland. Now, over a year later, I couldn't be more excited to share her story. Jennifer is the founder and curator of Vía Raiz, a shop where Mexican craftsmanship meets modern design.
Talking about Jennifer´s brand and her purpose was so reassuring for me, I must continue this project and one day I might go back to Mexico, my home country, to collect stories as passionate and compelling as hers.
You are about to get a glimpse of Jennifer´s entrepreneurial journey, what Vía Raíz means to her, why she founded it and why she works hard everyday to see her project succeed.
For a recap of our early spring photoshoot, visit our Work page.
+ Where were you born?
San Francisco, California
+ How long ago did you move to Portland?
Almost four years ago.
+ What do your parents do?
My parents are entrepreneurs at heart. My dad is a flooring contractor and my mom, although a homemaker most of her adult life, operated her own home cleaning business for several years.
+ Do you have any siblings?
I do, I have a younger sister, she’s two years younger
+ Why do you do what you do at Vía Raíz?
Via Raiz is a way to connect with my heritage, to showcase the talent in Mexico and share the love for my culture with the world. It has become my drive to create a space where people can discover the beauty, the brilliant talent and incredible craftsmanship that is coming out of Mexico.
+ How did you start your concept?
I've always had a love for Mexican craft. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the family trips to the artisan villages in my parents home state of Michoacán. These memories and my cultural upbringing are truly the roots of Vía Raíz.
Three years ago, while honeymooning in Mexico City, I was blown away by all the incredible design. I started following the design scene on social media and I was completely inspired by the wave of contemporary Mexican designers who are pushing Mexican craft to a new era.
At the beginning of 2016, after leaving my job at a creative agency, I decided to dedicate myself full-time to developing the concept behind Vía Raíz.
+ Tell us about an aha moment in your entrepreneurial journey:
My aha moment came in the very beginning of my research phase of building the concept of my brand. I came to the realization that no one in the US was truly focusing on showcasing the incredible modern craft that is being made in Mexico.
+ When did you launch your brand?
I began working on the concept in April of 2016 and had originally planned to launch in Spring of 2017. But when I was accepted to take part of the PDX Holiday Pop Up Shop program, in November last year, I jumped on that opportunity. It was a fantastic platform for me to test my concept.
+ Who is your ideal customer?
My ideal customer believes in being surrounded by pieces that truly matter to them. They appreciate beautifully crafted pieces and cherish the idea of knowing the story behind them.
+ What is your best selling product?
The MX Iconography Enamel Serving Spoons
+ What are your best sales channels?
Currently, my sales channels are e-commerce, design & craft markets, and pop-up shops. I’ve had the most success through the pop-up shops and I think it has everything to do with creating a space of exploration and being able to really connect with customers.
+ What is your favorite brand in the world?
I can honestly say that I don’t have a favorite brand but I can tell you that I am very passionate and have so much admiration for the brands that I showcase in my shop. The designers I'm collaborating with are embracing their roots and infusing their designs with centuries old traditions.
+ How do you support yourself financially?
My husband is my number one supporter - financially and emotionally. He's my CFO and my number one fan.
+ How do you financially support your brand?
The brand is completely bootstrapped through credit cards and a home line of credit.
+ How do you stay motivated to continue building your brand?
I love what I do. I love what Vía Raíz represents and stands for. I believe in the designers and have undying support for the artisans. I believe in their work and I want to play a part in getting their work out there.
I’ve seen how people connect to my shop’s pieces and I know that the connection is special. Vía Raíz brings me such a sense of pride and accomplishment.
+ What has been the best resource you’ve encountered in your journey?
The community of entrepreneurs and small business owners in Portland. I feel very fortunate to start a business here, where the community in general has been very welcoming, very open, and they’ve shared their experiences and their knowledge.
+ Where do you see Via Raiz in the future?
My biggest dream would be to have a brick and mortar shop. But more than just a shop, I envision a space that embraces exploration of Mexico’s contemporary creative culture - a space that showcases beautiful craft, serves delicious artisanally roasted Mexican coffee, and has a rich array of Mexican books and editorials.
Another dream project is to collaborate with my designers and artisans to create custom pieces for Vía Raíz.
+ What is next for Via Raíz?
I’m working on 2 big projects. A complete website makeover and planning a pop-up shop for the 2017 holiday season.
+ What would be a game-changer resource for Vía Raíz at this stage?
Having access to capital.
+ We are about to wrap up Jennifer, is there anything you’d like to share with fellow entrepreneurs and other people that might be looking into starting their own business?
As a perfectionist I wouldn't have launched this brand when I did had I not just jumped in and decided to take the risk. Definitely do your homework and research. Be honest as to how you're going to live while you try to launch your business, but at the same time know that starting a business is a risk. You won’t have all the answers and you’ll just need to go for it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don't be afraid to not be perfect. There is so much you learn along the way.