One of our very favorite parts of having a lifestyle blog for creative professionals is getting to feature old friends and new. Nataliya Borener of Drift Home Collection is probably the most genuinely kind individual we’ve had the pleasure of knowing on Instagram. A few weeks ago, we got to meet her in person at her pop-up shop where we bought basically everything. Her amazing eye for design and love for Morocco make her new venture one worth watching. ***Note: Drift Home Collection is still accepting holiday orders – but they must be placed by Friday to ensure Christmas delivery!
I took courses at a local community college in my small hometown in Michigan, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college I decided to transfer to Michigan State University and go into Interior Design. I always loved art and creating things, helping people, and problem solving, so it seemed like the perfect fit!
So for nearly the last 10 years, I have been in the Interior Design industry, doing primarily residential interiors. I started out interning for a small firm just outside of Destin, Florida, and then worked for Seaside for 2 years doing retail, interior design, graphic design – basically anything they’d let me have my hands on! We moved to Texas in 2011, and then I worked for a design firm in San Antonio and most recently one in Austin.
Over the last several years I’ve noticed that the industry really has been lacking authentic, handmade, and one of a kind pieces. Of course there are places you can go to find this type of craftsmanship – like local shops or Etsy – but most items that ended up in clients’ homes were mass produced from large manufacturers or big box stores. It made me want to shake things up.
Since I was back in design school, I dreamed of having an interior design studio with a small retail space attached. But this shop? That was an idea that popped into my head about a year and a half ago. In February 2016, my husband Nate traveled to southern Spain for work for a couple months. One day, practically on a whim, I booked a ticket to go see him. I mean, when else would there be a hotel room waiting for me in Europe with an ocean view? I spent almost 2 weeks in Spain & a weekend in Morocco and was blown away by all of the amazing architecture, culture, and handmade items. I wanted to bring back EVERYTHING.
Once I was back in Texas, I couldn’t shake the feeling. I dreamed of having a little shop where I brought back one-of-a-kind items from my travels. I went through the process that a lot of us do – we talk ourselves out of our dreams. I told myself I was being silly and crazy. But literally the thought of it would keep me awake at night. What if I could really travel the world, find cool things, bring them back, and use some of the money to help people in that country??
Fast forward to May 2017: I bought a ticket to Marrakech and 3 weeks later I was buying way too many rugs.
I currently work from home. I house all the rugs here in stacks in my office. It definitely has its share of ups and downs. Pros: working in your PJs while jamming out to 90’s rap. Cons: not enough storage space and feeling isolated. It works for now, but ideally I’d love to have a brick-and-mortar in the future.
Seeing orders roll in has been so mind blowing. I just launched a little over 2 months ago and the fact that people have actually love the things in my shop has really given me that validation – like this wasn’t just some crazy dream but a legit business.
It’s been awesome how people have been reaching out to me to collaborate, support me, or just give me an internet high five. I’m not gonna lie, Becki Owens followed me on Instagram recently and I just about died. She’s been such an inspiration for me for so many years, so that was pretty cool.
I guess I don’t really have an actual mentor… but during my long commute at my previous job, I used to listen to podcasts all the time. They were very influential to me and gave me so much insight. I took that knowledge a step further and did a lot of research on online shops, specifically in home décor and vintage rugs. I wanted to prove to myself (and well, my husband too!) that taking a chunk of our life savings and putting it into this was going to be profitable.
I knew I wanted to take a leap of faith and start a business, but for a long time I was waiting. Waiting for the right time, scared it would fail. Probably the single best piece of advice I can give: just go for it. You’re never going to be fully ready, so why not just begin? Life is too short to sit back and wait for the right moments to happen. Taking action will always result in more success. If you fail, that’s okay! Pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and try again.
Why, thank you. Coming from you, this as a huge compliment! I really take a lot of time planning and curating what I want to put out into the world. I’m very intentional about what I post and I believe consistency is key. For Instagram, I use a feed planning app called Planoly to strategically plan out photos about 2-3 weeks out. They may change a little, but it’s great to have that structure in place. I never have to ask myself “What should I post today?” because I have a game plan. I really can’t stress enough the importance of using quality photos to strengthen your brand and put your best foot forward.
Also, If you are a small business, don’t be afraid to use your own voice. Be yourself. Take the time to connect with people and get to know your audience. Invest in them and they’ll invest in you.
When it comes to my shop, I think there are 2 things that set me apart. The first I would say is my dedication to giving back. And secondly, telling the story behind each piece. I don’t just list the size and color and call it a day… I tell people WHY it is different or stood out to me. Since all of the items are all handmade and very unique, I feel like the world needs to know where they came from, how they are made, and what makes them each so special.
As I traveled through Morocco, I observed some of the most hard-working people I’ve ever encountered. They bring their all at everything they do, and on top of all that, they are some of the nicest, most accommodating people too. On this last trip, I made friends with some of the locals. We talked for hours about life and it was a really humbling experience.
When you’re over there you feel like you are back in another time. Things are much simpler than in the US, and poverty is very evident. I just wanted to be able to give back. They are working so hard, for not much money, and bring so much art and joy into the world. I figured, if I am making a profit off these arts, I have to give back to these people.
I decided to take it on myself to keep startup costs low. I have some graphic design experience and a little web design knowledge too, so I was able to pull it off. Let me just say: building the shop website was not an easy task. It took me a solid 2 months. Google became my best friend. Luckily, I have a website designer friend who helped me with some code stuff I couldn’t figure out. I think if you’re just starting out and have previous knowledge, sure go for it. But if you really want to take your brand and business to the next level, hiring it out is essential.
Looking back, I would have tried to streamline certain tasks and put systems into place sooner. For instance, when rugs started arriving to my front door, I had no process of how I would take pictures, identify them, put them into my inventory, or package them up to ship. I’m starting to get the whole thing down now, but it would have been so helpful to have it developed at the very beginning. There’s a lot of moving parts to an online shop that I didn’t anticipate.
Social media, especially Instagram, has been crucial to Drift Home Collection on so many levels. It has been the tool to get my products and mission out to the world. I’ve connected with so many makers, designers, and other creatives. I’ve even met people in my own small town and new neighbors who I didn’t know before because of my social media presence. It’s crazy!
Fornow, I’m riding solo. Because of my design background, I’m used to wearing many hats and juggling a wide range of tasks at once, so I’m getting by. My husband has been the biggest help as he does so much behind the scenes. We often joke around that he’s the real rug slinger around here, loading up my car with rugs for photoshoots and running packages up to FedEx. As the business grows, it will make sense for me to delegate some tasks out, like updating my website with product or doing the weekly newsletter.
I’d love to say that I have this amazing routine, but I really don’t. Every day is a little different, and for now that seems to be just fine. I wake up and take some quiet time to myself each morning before beginning work. I try to drink a full glass of water right after I get out of bed. For me, defining 2-3 priorities for the day has helped me stay on task. I think about what I want the day to look like before ever checking email.
It can be tough to find that balance, especially when your home and office are in the same place. To some degree they need to co-exist. But for me, I don’t check email in the evenings and I never bring my computer in the bedroom at night. Oh and no phones at meal times is a rule we have always had!
Favorite item in your shop: Wow. This is hard…. I would have to say Gemstone is my favorite rug. It’s one of those pieces I knew I had to have the second I saw it.
Pet peeve: Passive aggressiveness
Next on your travel bucket list: New Zealand!
I now have numerous pieces from the Drift Home Collection including the Pom Pom Blanket, Cactus Silk Pillow and the Straw Market Tote. They are truly statement pieces in our new home and they bring me so much joy knowing exactly where they came from. I can’t wait to add a rug to my collection. REMEMBER: you must order by Friday in time for Christmas delivery!
The Identité Collective is a full service creative studio for interior designers and boutique lifestyle brands. Offering beautiful branding, web design and social media content creation, we help creative professionals elevate their digital presence to become industry experts. Want to work together? Shoot us an inquiry here.