Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we talk to Erika Dawson. Erika is the owner of Bon Ton Studio, a collection of thoughtfully curated designs, wovens, and cozy goods from artisans around the world.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your career.
A California native and fashion school graduate, I lived overseas in Australia for six years with my South African husband prior to opening our first brick & mortar. Whilst abroad I was introduced to a friend and together we created a women’s clothing label, ANIKA. Years later I acquired the business, rebranded as Bon Ton Studio and moved back to my hometown of Healdsburg in Northern California. My career has evolved as much as I have personally. It is fun (and sometimes comical) to think about everything I’ve done and worked on.
2. What prompted you to start Bon Ton Studio?
Bon Ton Studio was the result of hitting the reset button on ANIKA. After having a clothing label known for our simple designs for everyday basics, I was ready to make the pivot from the wardrobe to the home. The concept of Bon Ton Studio quickly evolved and we still sell ANIKA in-store.
3. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Naturally, I’m a really observant person. There is a quote by Grace Coddington in The September Issue, where she is sitting in a taxi and says: “Always keep your eyes open… keep watching, because whatever you see out the window, or wherever, can inspire you.” Simply put, there is so much that inspires me. Sometimes it’s being on a treasure hunt at my local antique store, and other times its scrolling Pinterest, makers markets, coffee table books, or traveling. There’s always something, just keep your eyes open!
4. How do you discover and choose the artisans you work with and feature?
Items curated for Bon Ton Studio come from our travels and living abroad. We’ve been fortunate enough to have met a few artisans along the way and some we were introduced to. Our relationship is more than a simple B2B transaction. We give back to each other in a way that creates a mutually beneficial connection.
5. Describe a challenge you faced in the workplace and how you overcame it.
When you are in business for yourself, it is inevitable that you will face challenges, or roadblocks I like to call them. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned not to stress over the small stuff and have become very solution-oriented. I’m good at “fixing” things and I see myself as a problem solver. Back in October, one week before we were set to open our first brick & mortar, our entire town was evacuated due to the Kincade Fire. I had to pack up my entire home and store not knowing whether or not we would have a home and business to return to. Once we were evacuated we knew there wasn’t a lot we could do except waiting. As a business owner, it’s important to have everything in order from your bookkeeping to insurance and everything in-between. During the evacuation, I found peace of mind knowing I had everything organized in case something did happen.
6. What are the marketing similarities/differences you’ve found between owning an online store and opening your brick and mortar shop (which looks incredibly cozy!)?
Our marketing efforts for our social channels have stayed fairly the same. It is easier since we can direct followers to both our brick & mortar and online store. Differences we have noticed is our customer retention, in-person, and word-of-mouth marketing. It’s had an invaluable impact on our brand and we are focusing a lot of marketing efforts in this category in 2020.
7. What do you see for Bon Ton Studio’s future? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Our first month of being open we hosted three pop-ups at the store and will continue to host smaller brands in 2020. We are flirting with the idea of taking Bon Ton Studio on the road, maybe destination pop-ups or something overseas. Watch this space!
8. Who is a Boss Lady who inspires you and why?
There are so many women I could list. I gravitate towards female-owned/led businesses that are doing something big, valuable and meaningful. Specifically, Erin Gore of Garden Society, Christy Baird of LOHO Bride and Helena Price Hambrecht of Haus.
Just for fun!
This is how I feel about Christmas music: Totally into it. We love the Elf soundtrack at our house during the holidays!
Favorite activity to do to relax: I enjoy working out, playing with my 14-month-old daughter, enjoying a home-cooked meal with my husband and of course traveling. Something you may not know about me is: I’m an “extroverted” introvert!
How I take my coffee/tea: At home, I do a stovetop percolator coffee for my husband and I. When I’m out and ordering in a coffee shop, it’s typically a latte with oat milk.
Currently binge-watching: I just finished season three of Marvelous Mrs Maisel. The costumer designer, Donna Zakowska, has done an amazing job throughout the series. I’m (obviously) a huge fan!