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Interview with Ashley Boey, Founder of Views


What comes to mind when you think of connecting with other people? At least before the pandemic, a lot of folks probably would think of connecting with people at a bar over food and drinks. And that's exactly where Ashley met Jesse, her partner, not only in the business that they started together but in life, when they met while traveling separately at a bar. I'm Betty, the founder of Upright and you are listening to the Upright podcast where we interview thought leaders and innovators like Ashley who are making a positive impact in health, sustainability, and inclusion. In this conversation, I talk to Ashley, the co-founder Views, which is most known for their beautiful wood balcony bar that hangs off of a standard balcony railing. Their mission is to inspire connections in real life, the way a bar did to connect her and Jesse when they first met. We talked about how she and Jesse came up with the idea, the many first steps she took to bring their vision to life, and some of the challenges she's hit along the way starting a business basically during COVID. We also talked about how sustainability played a role in the materials they used for their bars, and heard about the importance of staying na√Įve as well as some other great advice. So without further ado, here's our conversation!

 

Betty:

Hey Ashley thanks so much for joining me here today.

Ashley:

Yeah I know I'm super excited to be here thanks for having me on.

Betty:

No my pleasure, I would love if we could start with you, sharing your story, you know I'd love to hear what inspired you to create your balcony bars.

Ashley:

Yeah I mean, so our story is a combination of a few things, and so a bit of background Jesse, who is also the Co founder of Views Balcony he is also my life partner so. We actually met six years ago in Nicaragua traveling abroad, both of us were from Vancouver and yeah we met traveling and ended up having the basis of relationships at bar so you have to realize that our entire relationship was kind of around bars and the love for it. We had a really great connection and then fast forward six months, both of us moved to Toronto to pursue our careers and moved into a really small typical downtown apartment that was 600 square foot had a beautiful balcony and a beautiful view but we didn't really have a good way to outfitted that fit our personalities, the way that we wanted to host and entertain. And that was really specific to small outdoor spaces. And then, on top of that, since Jesse and I know met at a bar and had a really great connection there. We are always looking for different ways to be able to bring that same experience to our homes. It's a bit unconventional, but we think that being at a bar is one of the most intimate and most present ways and the most. Like a really good way to be present again super unconventional, but if you think about it you're sitting at a bar. You're sitting beside someone it's a really intimate conversation you're sharing great food great drinks and you're being really present and observant of everything around you. So it was kind of that combination of you know us being again in that small apartment wanting to extend our home outdoors and in a really functional and beautiful way, and then on the flip side also wanting to have that really great connection and present experience in our homes that really started to give birth to the idea of the balcony bar. 

Betty:

I love that story so much oh my gosh there's like just so much it's so meaningful and I love that you know you started your relationship at a bar and you created this opportunity for others to to create you know other really meaningful connections as well, through what you're doing so far, so good right well you know for anybody who hasn't you know isn't familiar with Views and what your balcony bars look like, can you describe them? And you know what makes them so great?

Ashley:

Yeah absolutely I mean the balcony bar is named the balcony bar, because if you want it to be really easy to envision. It's it sounds exactly you're looking at that thing almost like what it sounds like it imagine a beautiful wood bar top. That fits virtually to any shape, size railing on different balconies or outdoor spaces, so it turns your balcony or your outdoor space into a bar within within moments, where you can have your morning coffee, you can have happy hour, you can have date nights it just really provides that intimate location and atmosphere for you to connect on. Yeah it's a really straightforward product again like a beautiful wooden bar top and that ends up being the centerpiece of your adversities.

Betty:

Amazing and yeah and it sounds so straightforward but it's so innovative I don't I don't think I'd ever seen anything like it before I saw Views come out so kudos to that innovation, and so you know, on that note I'm curious, how did you end up with the name Views for the brand? I think I have a sense that you know, you were in Toronto, where I used to live as well, but yeah I love you to talk about the origin story for the name. 

Ashley:

Yeah I'm going to give a shout out to Jesse for coming up with that name I can't take credit for that, but, you know I actually I was thinking about this and I don't know the exact moment where we came up with Views, but I imagine us actually sitting at one of our nights out on a balcony bar when it was first a prototype and us just overlooking Lake Ontario and our view and I bet you that's how the name came up. And, and the other part two, is, as you know, if you live in Toronto, you are a Drake fan, whether you like it or not, he dominates a playlist wherever you go and so subliminally I think Drake definitely had some influence on our name.

Betty:

Very cool it'd be so fun, if you could do like a collaboration with him.

Ashley:

That's the goal!

Betty:

Oh yeah hashtag goals well. Okay, so you know once it came up with the the concept for it, I would love to hear more about how did you get started, like what were the first brands you took to bringing this vision to life, like how did you start creating prototypes or was that even the first step?

Ashley:

Yeah I mean there's so many first steps to starting a business, I think the first one is actually just being decisive in starting a business. Jesse I have many, many ideas. A lot of them before we never really executed on but this one, we saw potential and yeah just making that first step to actually move forward and and put your effort and gain that momentum is really the first and foremost step and then secondly is product validation. Well, one like figuring out what your product is or in our case, the balcony bar and figuring out how to produce it, so I was lucky enough, where I was working at a company that had connections to a metal manufacturer, so I was able to have conversations on how to build you know, a balcony bar or a prototype at least to start with. That helped us with creating the product, but then product validation just even understanding if people are willing to pay with their hard earned money for your product is probably the most important thing. Yeah and that involved, you know tons of surveys everyone that we knew, but a really fun story is while we were getting our first prototype we actually signed up for a market downtown in Toronto, and so that meant we were going to be talking to thousands of people about our product without even having a product and that ended up being the best market research for us like we ended up having the prototype the day before the market started. We were working till like midnight to get displays up, but then we just talked to so many people and just the fact that they were willing to put their money again and put it forward to buy a product that they've never seen or heard of really helped that product validation.

Betty:

Very cool I imagine it must have been you know super nerve wracking to to go out in front of so many people, for the first time with you know your first prototype but that's awesome to hear it, how how much value you bought out of those conversations. And so I had so much success now in building this company, but I'm sure there's also a lot of challenges I'm curious you know what was the biggest challenge that you along your journey so far.

Ashley:

Yeah I think a lot of companies are feeling it right now. Supply chain is an absolute mess we. At the beginning, we were producing and manufacturing our bars locally, so in Toronto in Canada, but it was really hard for us to find consistent supplier for our wood. Labor is really expensive, as well as the quality is wasn't where we wanted it to be within Canada, so we ended up outsourcing to Vietnam, I would say about two years ago, and that was right before the whole supply chain prices hit. It's been it's been hard we've seen prices skyrocket for our shipping containers, you know, cutting into our margins we've seen an experienced. Massive shipping delays that were unprecedented in times before we had moved to Vietnam, for supply, and I would say that yeah that definitely has been the biggest challenge, but I think as a business that started, you know almost. In conjunction with co bed we're hoping, you know we've been through some really tough times and weathering it out and staying strong and figuring out, you know how to adapt to these different challenges that hopefully this is just you know prove that in the future, we were ready for for anything that comes our way. 

Betty:

Now absolutely I mean the fact that you were able to launch this during like the most probably the most challenging time to start filling up physical goods business. I think it's just like testament to how much fruit, you can grow once you know things get easier restrictions lifted and people can actually meet meet in person again more or come.

Ashley:

Yes, no absolutely.

Betty:

Yeah. Okay, and you know I did a tiny bit of research and found out how they were you know better for the environment that alternative woods and what protectors, but yeah we'd love to hear you talk a bit about know how you choose to use these materials and some of their benefits.

Ashley:

Yeah I mean occasion wasn't easy choice for us, we had a few qualifiers. For our word one obviously it had to be beautiful we're selling a piece of furniture that you're going to be looking at every day and having people over. So occasion as a really beautiful grain and color naturally to to the sustainable part occasion, one of the fastest growing with species in the world it's very abundant. So naturally it is a renewable resource which we loved and then two or three story durability again we're outdoor furniture company acacia is naturally weather resistant, as well as super durable so those three qualifiers you know fed to our decision and acacia. And then the oil, so you mentioned Rubio Monaco yeah it's it's the brand that we use and they use state of the art. Technology they call it molecular bonding technology which is fancy terms for it's more durable and higher quality and it's all based on natural ingredients to as well, so it's it's super safe to use as well as to proceed for the environment.

Betty:

Amazing that's so good to hear that you know you're you're able to create this product that is doing good for the world, I think, in and helping foster connection and also doing in a way that that's really sustainable for the environment, too. So I'm sure you're saying you know, moving on what what's your vision for us like what's what's next for the brand. 

Ashley:

Yeah we want to be the number one outdoor furniture and accessories company. In the world that would be our long term vision, I think. We want urban dwellers when they're thinking about upgrading their outdoor space or when they're thinking about outdoor furniture to think of us and come to us as the one stop shop. And then short term we've got a really exciting product launch this year it's super simple but we're looking we're currently prototyping weather protecting things, so I would outdoor furniture obviously there's different seasons involved and during the winter season it's always great to have that extra protection. Through this medium and so we're right now getting the samples in and testing it and, hopefully, launching it.

Betty:

Within the next few months, very exciting, I mean yeah I'm working from home right now and what you just described around that whether production is so important, I like looking at my patio we've got this patio furniture that this looks like so faded and just sitting there Yun jie right, we definitely I will be a customer of those those bags for sure. Okay well you know I again I think it's so impressive to see how far you've come now, with the brand and, just like the range of products offers it's everything from the original bar the balcony bars patio stool so apparently you've got these protective bags and you've all seen a really long way and I'd love to hear what's the best piece of advice that you've received as a founder that you know you would give to other founders who earlier on in their journeys.

Ashley:

Yeah this is, this is a hard question actually it sounds easy but there's so many pieces of advice that I think have been really integral and US growing, I think. One is just you know stay na√Įve as much as you know you don't know and you're constantly learning and things are constantly changing so just be ready to again stay na√Įve and be willing to to learn everything that you as much as you can and¬†I think financially I've heard this a lot of times but yeah it makes sure that you have enough funding and enough capital to carry your growth in your brand and your business.¬†You might be making good margins, but you might not necessarily have the right amount of cash to¬†fund that inventory or or fun that grows so just make sure you're planning ahead because it takes a long time to you know apply and get financing and then three emotionally, I think, as an entrepreneur¬†there's a lot of roller coaster rides as you are well aware of some days you're on top of the world and some days you're you know wondering what the heck you're doing.¬†So emotionally, I will how I tried to prepare myself is you know through meditation I know it's kind of fluffy, but it really helps you know through those different States of emotion to to kind of have a stable objective view and approach to to days.

Betty:

So so helpful no I really appreciate you sharing that I think that was such a nice note to end on. Okay well you know, last question, then, for our readers or listeners, who are interested we're going to go find us to learn more about your rent and products.

Ashley:

Yeah we made it really easy check us out on Instagram at us balcony bar and then on our website ww.us balcony bar.com super easy come check us out we'd love to have you guys on our journey.

Betty:

Amazing well I'm super looking forward to following along on your journey and all the success that's to come thanks so much for being here.

Ashley:

Thanks for having me.

 

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Please also check out this episode's feature, Views!