I don’t know about you, but I always cheer when I see a burgeoning small business succeeding. Entrepreneurialism takes guts, so when someone has the courage to step out off that cliff and free fall into their future, I am always cheering them on as they find their wings. That’s why it’s been such a joy to follow along with the journey that Arren Williams and his husband David Pimentel have taken with the creation of Casa Cubista. Arren was gracious enough to do an interview with me about the process, and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with you today.
What led to the decision for you and your husband David to take a sabbatical?
David is a teacher and has the incredible opportunity to take a sabbatical every 5 years. Last time he travelled the world, and I met up with him whenever I could, but really missed not taking the plunge with him. So when then this latest sabbatical rolled around we decided it was time for a big change for both of us!
How did you land on Olhão, Portugal as your destination of choice?
We were looking for an experience that was a different to our ‘regular’ one in Toronto as possible, and Olhão is definitely it. The town is a working fishing port on the south coast of Portugal – a part of the country called the Algarve – which has the benefit of incredible beaches, great weather, good wine and of course the freshest fish you’ve ever eaten. We both have ties to Portugal – David’s background is Portuguese, his family is from the Azores, while I’ve been travelling here since I was a kid, and have two aunts who live in the Algarve pretty much full-time.
Did you plan to start a new business before you arrived, or did it just happen upon you?
We had the spark of an idea, but then it just happened naturally. The longer we were here the more we discovered all of these beautiful handcrafted things and decided we wanted to share them with friends around the world. I joke that our business plan is to work with nice people, and that we definitely do!
Describe the process of curating and creating your product line.
Gosh, lots of research, travelling around the countryside meeting with craftspeople and seeing if and how we can work with them. Our collection is a combination of traditional crafts presented in a contemporary way, and pieces we design and collaborate on with craftspeople. It’s a labour of love because everything takes time. Whether we make one or one hundred, our tiles take a month to make, and are made in the same way that they were back in the 165th and 17th century. It really is #slowdesign.
What common qualities connect all of the products you offer?
Simple, honest materials presented with a modern point of view. Our colour palette is kept purposefully pared back, mixing natural materials like cork or terracotta with white, grey and black.
What advice would you have for someone thinking about taking the plunge on their own travel and/or entrepreneurial adventure?
Planning and patience are key and, if you’re considering something overseas, don’t come in with an ‘I need it yesterday’ attitude. Take your time and get used to the rhythm of the place, and set your expectations accordingly. Oh, and just do it! Head off overseas, do something crazy. Life is just too short!
Will you ever come back to Canada or is Portugal now home?
We come home a few times a year, and yes, Canada is still home! We’ve been living in Portugal over a year now, so let’s just say we’re playing it day by day.
The WONDERFUL news is that Arren and David are actually coming back to Toronto this week to formally launch their beautiful line of modern Portuguese homewares into the Canadian market with a pop-up shop at Saudade. Here are the details:
Casa Cubista Pop-up Shop
Wednesday, October 19th
1191 Dundas St W
Saudade is on Dundas just west of Ossington, easily accessible by subway for those of you who live in the city. I truly hope to see many of your lovely faces there on Wednesday evening!
Thank you, Arren, for sharing your adventure with us, and especially for sharing the brilliance of your business plan to “work with nice people.” It’s really what counts, isn’t it? Wishing you and David massive success and happiness, on whatever continent you happen to find yourselves.