Trish Bastone: Saying Yes to Flying Helicopters, Building Furniture, and Starting a Business

|| Jenny Kim

Trish is an ex-helicopter pilot, furniture designer, crypto enthusiast and a kickass entrepreneur. She is the founder of Bastone & Co, a retail boutique that provides affordable retail space for Torontonian artisans and entrepreneurs while allowing them to keep 100% of their sales. Her collective is rapidly growing – it currently consists of 40+ artisans and her second store location is opening soon.

Trish is an absolutely vibrant person with a boisterous laugh and down-to-earth personality. I was completely captivated by her life stories which are hilarious, quirky, heartfelt, and charming. If you’re unhappy with how your life has stagnated or holding yourself back from making that leap of faith, I hope that Trish’s story will motivate you to become more open-minded about daunting opportunities.

How Trish’s life changed in 2 minutes on a helicopter ride

I never planned on becoming a pilot, I actually went to arts school so it was completely outside of my trajectory. What happened was my friend’s mom was a pilot and one day, my friend showed up in his mom’s helicopter at my family farm. I was so confused, I was thinking, “woah what is happening?!” He took me for a ride and being in that helicopter for 2 minutes – I felt like I could see myself flying. I just loved it. A few months after that, I went for an introductory flight lesson just to cross it off my bucket-list. Two weeks later, I started flight school.

Trish as a helicopter pilot

Facing difficult life decisions: relationship or career?

I moved around a lot during the first 4-5 years of my career – BC, Alberta, Northern Ontario. But I had met someone a couple of days after flight school… Brad, who is still my partner today. We stayed together the entire time I was flying and chasing my dreams, and he was here in Ontario. It got to a point where I had to ask myself, “Do I want to continue pursuing this career?” or “Do I want to come home and maybe start a family one day?” I chose to get a job at home and I worked for a couple of years, until I got laid off. Finding a job in my field was difficult at that time so I started making things.

Building your own IKEA furniture… from scratch

I’ve been making furniture with my dad my whole life. The entire time that I was a pilot and I was moving from place to place, I never bought furniture. I made my own furniture from free scrap materials I found - like a dresser off the side of the road and a log or something. When I moved back home, I didn’t go to IKEA. I just went to my dad’s farm and got a couple of slabs of wood.

The moment that turned my hobby into a business was when my friend came over and he bought my coffee table right out of my living room. People kept buying my furniture out of my home and I would keep having to re-make it, so that’s when I decided to try out Etsy.

My transition from being a helicopter pilot to a furniture designer was so natural, I never officially decided that I was going to make that change.

Trish as a helicopter pilot

How the One-of-a-Kind Show and Bunz took her business to the next level

After a couple of years, I got tired of having to ship tables all over the US because it’s a pain in the ass. And I didn’t feel any connection with my work – I would spend so much time and put so much of myself into each piece, and then I would just send it off and never see it again. I also wanted to decrease my online sales so I decided to participate in the one-of-a-kind-show.

What’s the one-of-a-kind show?

It’s like a mini Etsy in real life. Over 500 Canadian artisans attend the show and sell their craft - jewellery, food, furniture, home décor, bags, etc.

I thought to myself if I can do the one-of-a-kind show, I can do a pop-up shop. It’s a really hard show because you have to prepare everything without really knowing your audience, the hours are long, and you’re talking to thousands of people every day. It’s also a very expensive show ($5,500/ 5 days) - if I didn’t double or triple that, I would have been screwed. Succeeding at the one-of-a-kind show gave me the courage to do a pop-up shop. I was looking for locations that were in a decent neighbourhood, but I couldn’t afford any of them. I made a post on Bunz (a popular Toronto trading facebook group) to find someone to split the store with, but no one wanted to do it. However, there were over 200 people who wanted a small section of a store and I thought that was an amazing idea. I ended up picking 15 people to start and we’ve now grown the collective to 45 artists.

Bastone & Co

Check out Bastone & Co located at 913 Queen St W, Toronto, ON (Photo by Jesse Milns, found on BlogTO)

Trish, you’ve made such a drastic career change, which I feel like is unimaginable for a lot of people – whether it be due to personal responsibilities, fear, etc. Did you ever have any doubts throughout this process?

I never had doubts. If I like something, I usually won’t overthink it and I’ll just jump in. I jumped into furniture making because I loved the feeling of someone bringing home one of my tables and enjoying it – I kept wanting that feeling. If you’re looking to turn your hobby into a hustle, don’t make excuses for yourself like, I’m going to start my business ONCE I finish school or get more work experience, that’s all bullshit. You just have to be creative in the sense of figuring out how to make things work for you. Take the first step, and then tweak as you go. Everything will get progressively easier. And if you fail, whatever! Failures shouldn’t be devastating and simply things to learn from.
(JK: Trish is the paragon of “rolling with the punches”. I often get paralysis by analysis so I aspire to be as easygoing as her.)

You’ve been working so hard to bring this business into fruition and bring together so many different artists and entrepreneurs. Do you ever have those moments where you’re astounded by everything you’ve done?

I haven’t had that moment yet where I’m like, “WOW look at what I did”. I’m always thinking about what I need to do next, the next step. I should probably celebrate soon… but I feel guilty if I go out or if I buy myself something new - I always think I could’ve bought something for the store instead. This business has become my baby and I’m like a guilty mother… it’s crazy.

What’s your opinion on selling on Etsy vs a brick-and-mortar shop like yours?

Etsy is becoming very saturated and it’s a changing marketplace. They now allow mass produced products, which contradicts the platform’s initial premise of enabling artisans to sell their handmade goods. Shopping locally on Etsy is also difficult because you may find that Etsy recommends handmade earrings from Michigan but not from your city. Bastone & Co gives makers the opportunity to be exposed to customers in their community and allows them to gain credibility which will help them succeed worldwide. If your community supports you, the online world will see and acknowledge that. And really, the people who are going to support you until the very end, are going to be your friends, family, your next-door neighbours, etc.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

That’s a hard question for me - based on the person I am and just the fact that I don’t say no to an opportunity, if something amazing comes up I’m going to take it. On the business side, I would like to open up 5 new locations in 5 years – expanding away from Toronto to other major cities and only bringing in makers from that city. On a personal level, I would love to build myself a tiny home and continue not having a real job. My only goal in life is to not have a real job. I’d rather work 80 hours for myself instead of 40 hours for someone else. I want to live simply, but maybe also become a crypto millionaire haha.

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