Based in beautiful Vernon, BC, Summit Tiny Homes was founded by husband and wife duo Oliver Stankiewicz and Cera Bollo. The pair dreamed of escaping the rat race and devoting more time to their passions in life. Along the way, they happened to create one of British Columbia’s more unique small businesses.
We caught up with Cera to learn more.
How did Summit Tiny Homes start?
So, my husband Oliver and I got married, bought a big house in town and were living life the way you’re supposed to. Pretty quickly, we found we had to take on extra long hours at work to pay for the house and the upkeep on it. We were working so much that we weren’t seeing each other or spending time together. It wasn’t worth it and we needed to change. We decided to downsize, simplify our lives and get back to what we enjoy doing, which was being outdoorsy, rock climbing, biking and other hobbies we had lost touch with.
This led to us getting interested in the whole tiny house movement. Unfortunately, there were no builders in our area who could assist. Luckily, my husband has years of building experience and I’ve got knowledge of interior design and decorating so we decided to give it a go ourselves. We built our first tiny home, which was 24 feet long – so not that big. It ended up becoming our Heritage model, which you can see for yourself on our website.
We moved in, rented out our house in town and our quality of life just instantly improved. With the smaller house there’s less cost, less upkeep, and every weekend we are able to go and have our adventures. Fast forward four years and we are living in our tiny house, and our business has seen so much growth and support which is amazing. It’s been a period of learning for us, as there isn’t really anyone in the industry we could talk to, and there’s no book about how to start a tiny home business but we are loving every minute of it.
Where does the inspiration come from for the tiny home design?
It’s definitely hard work! If you look at some of the other tiny home builders out there, they just offer these off the shelf models and make minor adjustments. Most of their homes are the same design. For us, we quickly realized there was a part of this market that wasn’t being served, and that was people looking for completely custom homes. Our inspiration comes from working collaboratively with the client to custom design a tiny home that’s perfect for them.
When people are going smaller in their living space, they’re making completely unique decisions on what they are willing to sacrifice and what they absolutely must keep. People want different things in different places and that’s why we wanted to offer a customization option where they have input from start to finish – a fully custom tiny home. I think it’s been one of the main reasons for our huge growth.
Every build we do is completely different to the last. It’s hard work because it means we have to start fresh with every project, come up with a new floor plan customized to the client, brief our crew about what is involved in the design etc. For us, it’s worth it because we’ve found that every client who comes to us has a completely different style. As a designer that is so exciting because it’s a new challenge every time – it never gets boring. Every tiny home we build has its own character, vibe and style. What makes our business special is every home we make is unique in its own way.
How does the process work for creating a tiny home?
It starts with us meeting for a consultation. The client visits our shop, we can show them around and show them the different models we currently have at different stages of the build process. You get to meet the team, sit down with them and discuss your individual needs. With the tiny home thing, we find people have so many general questions that we’re happy to answer, questions like ‘where can we park the tiny home?’ ‘what are the cost ranges?’ and even ‘what kind of cable hookups can we have?’ etc etc.
Then, if they feel like they’re ready to take the next step, we go over whether they’d prefer a custom build or one of the models we have available already, and we present an estimate. If they’re happy with that, we book them into a build schedule with a deposit and start the process of creating and planning their home. We order their trailer and once that’s done we can start building on it.
What builds have you completed you were especially proud of?
That’s a really tough one to answer! I find that I love certain aspects of every custom build that I would take from each to crate a dream home for myself. Style-wise, I’m drawn towards the more rustic homes we do, with touches of stained wood, richer colours and a bit more character. If you go back to the beginning, our whole business is based around being outdoors and in nature, so those builds are our favourite because they’re that little bit more earthy in their style.
Where do your clients take the tiny homes after they buy them?
We have seen a couple of different ways our clients tend to use their homes. Everyone would love a place on the lake, right? Unfortunately, most people can’t afford it. A lot of our clients take their tiny homes to RV parks on lakes where they can enjoy all the waterfront amenities without having to incur the costs. We see a lot of clients buying or renting spaces within RV parks. All of our builds are certified as RV’s so it’s a completely legal way to park them and use them.
I also see a lot of our clients getting creative and taking them to out of the way kind of places. We’ve also seen some people use them as an Air BnB in their backyard, or as a guesthouse for family and friends who are visiting.
Why is it so important to support small business?
I think people tend to forget how much small businesses are a part of their community and help out in so many different ways. They are the ones sponsoring the local sporting events, supporting the school band, or helping provide activities for kids. With COVID-19 and the difficulties these businesses are facing, now is the time for all of us to step up and give back to these businesses and support them in their time of need. Otherwise, there might come a time when they aren’t there anymore.
Final question: What is your favourite place in BC?
It’s got to be Tofino. It’s the place I find that I’m most relaxed when I visit. It’s my husband and mine’s goal to one day have our own little tiny home there.
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We respectfully acknowledge our place of work is within the ancestral, traditional and unceded territories of the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaʔɬ/sel̓ílwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and that we serve the Peoples of the many Nations throughout British Columbia.