Meet Angel Guerra: Market Collective Co-Founder
Through volunteering I got the chance to meet the founders of Market Collective, Angel Guerra and Angela Dione. I was so happy to get to know them. They were so friendly and approachable, and you can really see the passion in everything they do. I reached out to them to see if they would be interested in doing an interview, and was so happy when they said yes that I actually cried. Normally when they do interviews, it's done from a general MC voice. This time around though, we are so lucky to see a more personal side - Angel has answered these questions based on her personal experiences through being a co-founder of one of the most successful markets in Calgary. I am so honoured she did so, and I hope you will be as inspired by her story and advice as I was.
When you started MC in 2008, what were your goals and hopes for the market? How have they changed since then?
Market Collective is very similar to the beginning days, it’s just a lot larger and more polished now. Through all of the changes and growth that we have experienced over the years, we have been able to maintain our original mission statement, which is to create a space for artists, artisans and musicians, and to strengthen the creative community in Calgary.
What drove you to take the leap to start this project, and to keep going when up against obstacles like the economy or no longer being allowed to use your original space?
I often think back to the very beginnings of Market Collective to try to identify what caused me to take a leap in starting this project, and I’m often at a loss. My love for people, accessible public community space and live local music were some of my first motivators. However, somewhere within the dreams and endless conversations that Angela and I had surrounding this project, it just started. I can’t necessarily identify choosing to do it, but I must have made the choice somewhere along the line. At the time I didn’t think of it as a risk, and I didn’t see it as the beginning of something huge. I just thought of it as an idea that I couldn’t shake, so together with Angela we began planning the first event.
From the very start I was really excited about the Market Collective project, and excited about the endless places that it could take us. MC started up in 2008, and I had been planning to move to Vancouver in January 2009. Once 2009 had hit, we were a few markets in, and I decided to stay put in Calgary to see what MC might grow into.
At the time, this was a massive sacrifice for me, and so I had energy to tackle all of the obstacles that came in the way, because I didn’t want to see this sacrifice go to waste. We have had some pretty large battles in the past, such as losing our space in Kensington, but each and every challenge that we have faced has propelled us further.
Can you describe how much MC has grown since that first year?
Our first market we had a couple of musicians, 25 artists, and approximately 500 attendees. Lately we have been hosting approximately 80 artists and food vendors, a full line up of live local music, and around 8000 attendees for each MC weekend.
What have been some of your biggest successes? Biggest struggles?
I often think that one of our largest successes is the business and personal relationship that Angela and I have been able to sustain even through all of the ups and downs of Market Collective. This relationship has not come without set backs, but I am very pleased that we have been able to celebrate our similarities and tackle our differences over the past 7 years.
When you started, did you believe it would grow into what it is today? Now that we’re here, do you see it growing more?
When MC first began I can honestly say that I didn’t have many expectations. I was pretty blown away by the first event, and when we started talking about doing a second one, just 2 months later, I was nervous that it might be a disappointed. At the time the first event just felt so large and surreal, that I was always secretly a tad worried that things were going to go downhill from there. I’m not much of a pessimist, so it didn’t come from that part of me – I just think that I was still trying to comprehend how much the community had supported the first event, and was nervous that the support might fade in time.
What would be your absolute dream for MC? What would be the thing that you could accomplish and think: “this is it – we’ve done it”?
My absolute dream for MC is that it would be sustainable even when Angela and I choose to no longer be personally involved in it. We have been working for the past few months on putting together processes and systems so that it can continue on without us when that day comes. I feel that sustainability and an acute sense of organization is the best gift that we could give MC right now.
What projects for 2016 are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to everything. Honestly. I’m pretty excited.
What have been some of the biggest challenges setting this up in a city that is fairly conservative and corporate driven? What has been some of the feedback you’ve received?
When MC started up in 2008, we definitely had a series of challenges in this realm. MC was a bit of a forerunner to many different projects that have erupted in our city over the years, and it’s really nice to see the climate of Calgary changing and becoming more open and welcoming to creative endeavors.
From the very beginning, the community in Calgary has been extremely supportive of MC, but at times it seemed that on a government level this type of endeavor was not necessarily accepted or supported. We have often fallen outside of the norms of regular business licenses, permits, and coding, and so it has been interesting to try to navigate the grey space. Ultimately, through all of this, we hope to soften the city to things like MC, so that new projects that pop up in the years to come will be met with less struggle.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to start something of their own, or branch out on a path that’s a little bit different from the norm here in Calgary?
Really…Just go for it! It may succeed, it may fail, or it may do something in between those two. But you won’t regret trying. Also, be sure to ask for as much advice as you can along the way. Advice will be your best friend. Likely you don’t know as much as you think you know, as humbling as that might seem.
What inspires and motivates you to keep growing, both in the regards of MC and your personal life?
I love adventure and I love people. And I’m really happy when I can adventure with people. I think that this mantra carries me in my personal life, and also in my MC life. Even though MC is very different than scaling mountains, late night bike rides, climbing trees and meandering through nature…it is an adventure of it’s own.
How has Market Collective changed your lives? How have your lives changed how Market Collective developed?
Market Collective has changed our lives in more ways than I’m sure we can identify. Angela met her partner and the father of her baby girl at MC, we have made many amazing friendships along the way, it has become both of our full time jobs, it has taught us how to relax and enjoy the process, it has taught us that at times you have to stand up and fight for what you believe in, it has taught us determination and the importance of compromise in business partnership. Most importantly, it has taught us that we aren’t always right, and that’s probably been the most beautiful and important lesson that we could have learned along the way.