When December rolls around, the art exhibition circuit changes: markets, fairs, and flash sales open up throughout the month, giving attendees ample opportunities to purchase original artworks and artisanal crafts for themselves and their loved ones. And this is fantastic. After all, we love a good artisan fair. However, with this month’s guide, we want to keep the focus on the exhibits, on art that you can’t necessarily buy or touch, but that you can see, experience, and remember.
UNCERTAIN LANDSCAPES (NOVEMBER 3RD — JANUARY 5TH)
A good place to start this month is Montreal-based artist JG’s solo exhibition at Xpace Cultural Centre. Uncertain Landscapes delves into queerness: its appearance, fluidity, and inability to conform. JG combines imagery from drag culture and science fiction into their illustrations, demonstrating how aesthetics can empower and validate those who are perceived to be outside of the social norm.
Deanna Pizzitelli’s solo exhibition at the Stephen Bulger Gallery is a series of photographs from the artist’s travels over a period of three years. The photographs are intimate, revealing, and represent a wide emotional landscape that defines the human experience: from lust, to loss, to longing. Despite the photographs being of different people in different places, they weave a narrative of loneliness and hopefulness, of our eternal searches for meaning and connection.
Usually, our focus is on smaller, more independent galleries. The ROM gets enough publicity as it is, but special circumstances rise from time to time. And Christian Dior is definitely a special circumstance. Until March next year, some of Dior’s finest creations will be on display. The exhibition mainly features fashions from the first ten years of Dior’s house, following the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the “new look.”
MATERIAL MATTERS: INVESTIGATIONS INTO PLACE AND PLACEMENT (DECEMBER 1ST — JANUARY 27TH)
Jen Aitken and Margaret Priest are different artists: in their experiences, mediums, messages and theses. But in Georgia Scherman Projects’s joint exhibition, their combined works play off of one another in an examination of place and perspective. Priest’s drawings question and critique the physicality and ideology of modern architecture, while Aitken’s sculptures are a more abstract approach to the interaction of space and design.
SMALL SCULPTURES BY GREAT ARTISTS & ANTLER, BONE, STONE (DECEMBER 2ND — JANUARY 27TH)
Feheley’s newest exhibition is proof that great things come in small sculptures. The detail, the craftsmanship, the amount of love present in every etch and divot; this is what can be found at the two exhibitions this month. As is usual for the gallery, works by Inuit artist will feature in the shows, with Antler, Bone, Stone showing works specific to Igloolik. Little information is available on the specific artists, but Feheley Fine Arts already has a reputation for putting on wonderful exhibits — this will be no different.
Let’s say you’ve got a beauty junkie in your life.
Someone that takes at least 30 minutes to get ready, someone who plans their makeup before their outfit (or even coordinates them, which is pretty next level), someone who knows the difference in tones between red lipsticks or someone who enters Sephora and actually knows what they’re looking for.
What do you get this person for Christmas?
Firstly, don’t underestimate the power of a good snoop. See what brands they seem to like, items they go through quickly. Listen to them when they talk about makeup. Maybe there’s something they wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves, but something they’ve always wanted.
While you can always go the gift card route — tried and true, though a little uninspired — you could also dive headfirst into Christmas-shopping-mania and find the perfect gift for the beauty lover in your life.
We can help you there.
tarte Limited Edition Treasure Box
This is a wildly-well-priced gift set from a wonderful makeup brand, containing almost everything you need to do a full face of makeup except for foundation. tarte’s makeup is good, in the nature of full disclosure they are one of my favourite brands, and is entirely vegan if your beauty junkie is concerned with the ingredients of the product. This guy will keep on giving: the potential for a lot of use, over a long period of time.
Fragrance is so specific to every person that it’s hard to get it right unless you know someone really well. A good solution to that, of course, is to bombard them with so many scent options they have no choice but to find one they really like (and possibly regift the rest.) Mini perfumes are perfect to take on the go, not to mention Juliette Has a Gun have some wonderfully unique and gorgeous scents available. This is the perfect way for someone to be introduced to the brand.
So yes, scent is specific to every person, but come on, I think everyone likes Tom Ford. His makeup brand is the pinnacle of luxury. The packaging! The scent! The price tag! This is a splurge gift for sure, only for those who have made peace with a high budget, but if you know your intended gift receiver is a bit of a lush, the you know this gift will be a hit. Like, when you wear this, you smell expensive.
If you can’t decide on one lipstick to get someone, or if you go spying in their makeup collection see so many brands you don’t even understand how its possible, I will point you in the direction of the Sephora Favourites lip set. This gift set has lippies from Kat Von D, Buxom and Bite Beauty and contains both liquid lipsticks and, well… lip-sitcks. And they’re all nudes so they’re guaranteed to actually be used. Basically the perfect gift for the person you have no idea what to get for.
Okay, so we all know Rihanna is a goddess who can do no wrong, and it was a surprise to absolutely no one that there makeup collection is damn good. Even if someone already has pieces from the collection, it seems unlikely someone would say no to getting more Fenty Beauty. Nearly everything from the collection is a safe bet, but may I point you towards:
Galaxy Eyeshadow Palette
Glittery eyeshadows galore in beautiful, limited edition packaging.
“Limited edition” and “collaboration” are words that are pretty exciting and hysteria-inducing in the beauty community and MAC is on top of the game. Their collabs are always timely, well-made, and beyond tempting. They do have a few available right now, such as the Nicki Minaj and Robert Lee Morris collections, and, while both are exquisite, my personal favourite is the collection with Spanish actress Rossy de Palma partly because she’s fabulous and partly because the packaging is so luxe.
If you know your gift-intended loves some glitz and glam in their life, why not give the gift of glitter? MAC pigments are famous for their staying power and potency and these colours are perfect for the winter. Not to mention they come in a cute little disco ball clutch for even more glam.
Colorpop is a well-made, incredibly fairly-priced makeup brand, so most of their products are good for the more modest budget but will make a huge impact. The Yes Please! palette is a real show-stopper for the brand. The palette was on Nylon’s beauty hit list of 2017 and features 12 gorgeous warm-toned shades, guaranteed to look good on everyone.
At this point, it’s getting close to the wire, but I had to include one beauty advent calendar, firstly because they are just the best and secondly because they are so difficult to find in Canada that we all need to share the good ones when we are able to find them. L’Occitane’s advent calendar is pretty iconic already, at a decent price point for the amount of high-quality products you get from it. This year they’ve also put out a premium advent calendar for the big spenders, but the original is a great way to introduce someone to the brand if they’ve never tried it before.
For the skincare fanatic in your life, L’Occitane is a good way to go, and their Divine collection is a particularly well-advised gifting idea. It’s anti-aging, but you won’t necessarily offend anyone by giving it to them because the products in this line are also moisturizing, luminizing and all-around nice-skin-makers. (That being said, maybe don’t gift this to anyone who is real sensitive about aging.) The set contains an all-over cream, an eye cream, a cleaner and a face oil — a full skincare routine ready to go.
Lastly, I’ve got something pretty different from everything else we’ve talked about on here. Inspired Soap Works is a smaller Canadian company with a big impact, selling hand-made affordable skincare products. One of their last launches are a line of salves for the entire body, from head to toe. The salves are formulated without water, so despite them coming in small packages, they really will go a long way. These are the ideal ~stocking stuffers~.
This is merely fact, neither a good nor bad thing until interpreted by those in the fashion community. (Bad news to the magazine industry, good news for brands looking for free advertising.)
In a city such as this one, you’ll find folks everywhere who have their own blog. The writer of this article has one, for example.
And out of all the blogs and YouTube channels and personal branding has come an influx of deserved and undeserved book deals. This has often been the way for many a franchise: conquer one medium, find another.
In 2010, however, this was not the norm, as Natalie Joos points out in an introduction to her book, Tales of Endearment: Modern Vintage Lovers and Their Extraordinary Wardrobes. That year, Joos created her blog of the same name, a vintage-focused tour through the lives and passions of friends and strangers. The site launched in the pre-blogging-blowout years and became hugely successful. Now, seven years later, Joos has compiled stories of some of the most captivating vintage-lovers she has come across in her travels.
The book itself is beautiful, which is something I would expect from Joos based on her website design and her eye for photography alone. The photographs accompanying each story capture their subjects in their homes, outside, formally and candidly. Joos shoots areas of their home, beloved pieces from their wardrobe and other things that can be more intimate and revealing about a person than any answer they can give to a question. And many of those wardrobe pieces (I’m thinking of the completely mind-blowing closet of stylist Catherine Baba) are just to-die-for. If I’m ever feeling a bit down, looking at beautiful vintage clothes is a pretty easy way to cheer myself up. If you’re the same way, this is an ideal coffee table book to have on hand.
Joos writing style is that of the blogger: casual, anecdotal and familiar, like a friend recounting an encounter to you over Eggs Benedict, instead of something you’re reading from a book penned by a stranger. Part of Joos’s charm comes from her ability to take these larger-than-life characters and make them more relatable.
And these characters are strange. They are international, diverse, unrelated except for their collective love of vintage clothing. It makes me wonder how Joos finds everyone she features, and above all I commend her for featuring the style secrets of Dee Hilfiger, Maxine Ashley, and Greg Banks in the same book. Seeing their stories back-to-back is fascinating and provides endless style inspiration for whatever persona you are inhabiting in that moment.
I believe this to be one of Joos’s strongest points, and my favourite part of the book. Within its pages, she tells the stories of an incredibly varied cast of characters, each one as endlessly fascinating as the last. It’s the people who populate Tales of Endearment that make it great. While Joos’s writing and photography convey their stories in a pleasant way, something also needs to be said for finding so many different perspectives on the same topic and giving each perspective space to come across genuinely.
Reading the book has turned me into a fan of the blog, which I did not read regularly before. It’s a bit of a wonder, isn’t it, that publishers turn to books as their next conquest after finding success on the Internet. But people like books, the same way the stars of Tales of Endearment like vintage clothing. It has a weight to it, a meaning and intent that isn’t found in its faster, modern counterparts. These days, it feels like a choice.
I’m going to recommend this one to every vintage lover, fashion lover, anyone who likes a good short story, and anyone who likes meeting new and interesting people. Like me, I think you’ll find yourself endeared.
Tales of Endearment will be available in Canada starting November 21st. You can visit the blog here and follow Natalie Joos on Instagram here.
Designer, entrepreneur, mother: Natalie Dusome is a woman that wears a lot of stylish hats. Her accessories brand Poppy & Peonies was launched in 2016 and her fashionable and functional handbags have garnered her a huge following and well-deserved brand recognition since.
I had the opportunity to speak with Dusome one evening in Toronto, where she appeared in a whirlwind of warmth and positive energy. I asked her about starting a business, growing up in a small town, and why finding your old designs from school is actually a good thing.
Natasha Grodzinski: When did you first discover a passion for designing?
Natalie Dusome: Honestly, I’ve always loved fashion, since I was a little girl. I come from Penetanguishine, which is this tiny town, there’s 700 people. I was always so different than everyone else. The other kids int the town weren’t into fashion at all, and I can remember begging my mom at seriously, eight years old, to buy fashion magazines! What kid does that? It was just this fantasy world. I would open up the magazines and it would take me somewhere else. Of course, I love where I’m from and I’m so grateful for where I’m from because it has kept me very grounded and humble, and I had a great upbringing. One of my grandmothers loved to sew, the other one loved to draw and my dad is a carpenter. With all of these different influences my life, I was led to fashion design.
NG: That’s a very creative environment to grow up in, and it’s you putting your own love into it.
ND: My grandmother would always be making us clothes for our Barbies and I would sit there and cut the fabric with her. I didn’t realize at the time, you know I was four years old, what an impact that would have on me. Even my dad, he would design all of these things: furniture, kitchenware, he even made his own barbecue. He would come up with his own idea and then go into the garage and would bring it to life. I think that being in that environment groomed me for what I want to do.
NG: It’s really nice to hear about a creative home like that where you feel like you’re able to grow and express yourself.
ND: Yes! And what was really awesome is my mom works at a hospital and my father’s a carpenter so they did not know any kids who were into fashion, but they didn’t care. They said, “If this is what you want and this is your dream, we’re going to fully support you.” I find that’s rare.
NG: I know you went to Ryerson for fashion design and then went the corporate route. What was that transition like, to go from small town to big city?
ND: I took a minor in marketing when I was in school. I was always interested in the business side of fashion. I was always fascinated by it. We had students in our class who were so creative that they never wanted to make anything that someone could actually wear. I was interested in something wearable but with an edge. For me, working for companies like Abercrombie or Fossil was so cool because I was able to see, okay, this is what people actually like to wear. This is what people are buying. In fashion design, you can make such crazy, out-there designs, but at the end of the day people want simple with a twist. They want wearable or functional but with a little something different. The experience I had in that commercial world really helped me towards what I do today.
NG: It seems like a perfect marriage of interests to start your own business: the creative side with the marketing side.
ND: Yes, because our bags are trendy and affordable but they also have the functionality. That’s something different we have for the product.
NG:I actually wanted to ask about this: as a businesswoman and a mom, I imagine function came into your brain when you were conceptualizing the brand.
ND: That’s really where it came from. Before, I was living in New York and it was always fashion first for me. I was a huge fashionista. I would run around New York in heels until I had blisters!
NG: I know about that!
ND: And you do it. You’re like, “I don’t care, this is fashion and I look good.” When you become a mom, it’s like, oh God, I can’t be running around with heels and this baby. You need to still find ways to express yourself and your fashion, but do it in a wearable way that has functionality for your new life. That’s really where it came from; I became a monad realized my old style wasn’t working with this new part in my life. Looking around I realized a lot of people were just like me and needed the same things.
NG: It’s akin to how I was a little happy when sneakers became cool again. I’m gonna save my arches.
ND: Yes, exactly! And the thing is when you’re out of school and getting into your career it’s the most important thing. But you realize there are ways to look good and still have function and comfort.
NG: When you did decide to start your own brand, was the accessories the first place you went to? Or did you play around with other ideas?
ND: I’ve always done handbag design. It’s a bit funny, I created this line of handbags when I was 16 years old. I approached a local boutique to carry my bags and they must have felt sorry for me because they did carry them. They were these wire, beaded bags and I look back and just howl because they were so funny. When I did my collection at Ryerson, it was very denim, wearable, which got me my job at Abercrombie but I also designed these handbags, which were pretty nice considering I was young and in school. I’ve just always been passionate about handbags and accessories.
NG: Do you ever pull out one of those ones from school?
ND: Oh my god, I howl! You know how mom’s always store your stuff from school? My mum said to me, “Nat, I need to clean out some of this stuff, please help me.” And we were rolling on the floor laughing about the stuff I had made at Ryerson. My dad was always so supportive and I had these metal plates he engraved ‘Dusome,’ my last name on so I could make little labels. We had this little press so I could make the labels. It was so funny.
NG: I used to write creatively a lot in high school and some I read back, I think, ehhhhhhh.
ND: Exactly, but it’s cool to see how far I’ve come. I found some old handbag sketches from school and think, wow. It’s the progression.
NG: When you made that decision, was it terrifying?
ND: It was terrifying. At the time I had been working for Aldo for five years. I was their head designer. I was travelling to London, Paris, China, Italy, it was a dream. From the time I was little girl, I would see these editors, designers and socialites, these high-powered women and I would dream about being one of them. I worked so hard and became one of those designers at a reputable, amazing company. Not only did I reach my dream, but I loved my boss and the work I did. So, to leave my dream job to start my own company scared the shit out of me. It really did. But I knew in the long run, for the sake of my family and for me always wanting to start my own company, it was now or never.
NG: You have always wanted to start your own business then?
ND: Yes, and it’s funny, back home a lot of us are parents now so we had this high school party where we got sitters and acted like we were in high school. I found my old yearbook picture and it asked, what are you goals and whatnot. Under “What’s your goal?” it read, “To build a million-dollar global brand.” And that was in Grade 9. Laughs. But I did it!I mean, we’re not quite at that level but we’re well on our way.
NG: The brand really is blowing up right now.
ND: It’s been amazing. We’ve had so much support. It’s unbelievable. The influencers, the press and everything we’ve had has been unreal.
NG: When you see one of your bags in the street…
ND: I love it. People must think I’m nuts because I’m staring at them. Even in our town, a small community, everyone is so supportive. I’ll be having a crummy day, I’ll go to the grocery store and see five women wearing my bag and I think, how can I have a bad day?
NG: That must feel so good.
ND: It’s really cool. Not all of the customers who buy bags will recognize me, of course, so once someone was in front of me in the coffee line and I said, “Oh, I really love your bag.” She said, “It’s Poppy and Peonies, it’s a local brand,” and I don’t want to embarrass them so I play it off. Sometimes I say it and sometimes I don’t.
NG:It’s that validation for all the hard work.
ND: It’s so rewarding, especially at places you don’t expect it. I’ll be at Pearson or in other cities and I’ll see it. It’s so nice to make a product that people like and excites them.
NG:For any other young designers thinking about starting their brand, do you have any advice for them?
ND: I think loving what you do and being passionate are the most important things. Sometimes things get so tough that you want to give up and the passion is all that keeps you going. If you don’t have that, it would be easy to let something go. It takes determination, perseverance and a positive attitude to get you through those difficult times. You need to love it so much that you would do it for free, you would stay up until four a.m. doing it, you would do it on vacation. Trust me, there are days where it gets so tough. If you really love it, you’ll succeed at it.
Interview has been condensed for print.
You can visit the Poppy & Peonies website here and follow their Instagram here.
We live in an age where so much of our money goes to online businesses. The web can be the best place to get all sorts of times delivered to you: food, alcohol, clothing and even flowers.
Michael Smaye and Raphi Aronowicz are the folks behind Tonic Blooms, an online-based company that has changed the flower-delivery game. From their respective backgrounds in business and hospitality, these two friends created a local company that promises on-demand service in downtown Toronto and same-day in the GTA.
But they’re hardly what I would expect when I picture florists. I suppose I don’t know what I would expect, but it honestly wasn’t two young, friendly guys who look like they could be business yuppies on King Street just as easily as they discussed the finer points of bouquets with me on a rainy afternoon.
That’s the beauty of their company: something great and unexpected. I had never previously considered how difficult it could be to send flowers, but Michael and Raphi made me consider the entire thing.
And, if anyone ever wants to send me flowers in the future, they’ve made it quite a bit easier. (Hint. Hint.)
Natasha Grodzinski: So how did you two meet?
Raphi Aronowicz: We actually met in high school.We became friends in high school and remained friends until now, throughout the first few years of this business. That’s gotta be around 10, 12, 13 years? 13 years.
NG: And when did you start the business?
RA: We conceptualized the business the idea towards the end of 2014. But our first order actually came two years ago.
NG: Had you both always wanted to pursue careers in business or entrepreneurship?
RA: I’ve definitely always been entrepreneurial. When I was a little kid, I was in trouble for selling creepy crawlers in the playground. You know, the stuff you put in the oven to make little bugs. So I was always very business oriented and was passionate about finance, if that’s something you can be passionate about. My career was in finance for the better part of 10 years before I got into this business, the difference being I wasn’t my own boss, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. My background is in business, so flowers are never something I thought I would venture towards, but an opportunity feel into our laps so we kinda went with it.
Michael Smaye: It’s funny you say that about the creepy crawlers. An old buddy and I, we were selling lollipops. We’d buy them at a local convenience store and then sell them for three times the amount in the hallway. We never got in trouble, but we made enough money to buy Grand Theft Auto for Playstation and then we stopped. Well, until this business came and Raphi approached me with this idea and we’ve been running it ever since.
NG: What was that opportunity that came about for you two to get into the flower business?
RA: It wasn’t so much an opportunity fell into my lap that we identified an opportunity. So, there was one time, I think it was Valentine’s Day. I was trying to send Corrie [Pollock, who is also behind much of Tonic Blooms’ marketing] flowers to her work, and it was one of those typical, delivered by 5pm type of thing. I wanted it to be a surprise and 5 pm rolled along and I didn’t want to call Corrie to ask, “Hey, did you get the flowers?” She left work before they got there.
Corrie Pollock: It was a Friday.
RA: It was also a Friday. In my mind, the flowers never came. They may have come later but they were un-trackable.
CP: They came on the Monday!
RA: Okay so they came on the Monday. Laughs. I call customer service, I’m on hold for three hours, because it was Valentine’s Day it was super busy. [Tonic Blooms] really just came out of how this flower delivery business should be pretty straightforward as it’s a pretty personal gesture. The experience that I had was basically terrible and I started looking around to see if there was anything better that I had missed. Turns out there wasn’t, at least not in Toronto. Flower delivery started with the beginnings of the Internet where it’s an order aggregator system. You go on one of these websites and they provide the designs, you pick the design and they send it to a local flower shop which may or may not be able to design those flowers because the two businesses don’t really talk to each other.
The business model was a really old one that wasn’t working. The difference with Tonic Blooms is it’s rejigging the whole business model. We’ve internalized everything and that allows us to control the quality. This whole thing is driven by a disappointment in the quality of the flowers, quality of the experience and quality of the platform. We took it upon ourselves to do better.
MS: And provide a face to sending flowers. If you email us, you get a quick response. If you call us, someone has answer for you.
RA: It’s an accountability thing. If you’re dealing with a tri-party system where you have the delivery company, the flower shop and the person who takes the orders, who is accountable for the experience? Everyone is pointing fingers at the other person. We take accountability for everything. There are some very personal or serious events where people send flowers. We feel like it’s a big responsibility.
NG: In the last few years there have been a few businesses started like yours that are run completely online and cut out the middle man. Was this always the structure you wanted to use?
RA: There are a few reasons why our business model works. It definitely lowers costs. That’s a huge part of our customer service, to make it more affordable. After that, the biggest risk to a flower business is waste. A flower shop on the street relies on walk-in traffic so they need to keep their fridges stocked with all sorts of different flowers. There’s a lot of spoilage. We really limit the selection and have focused designs that appeal to three or four different aesthetics. That way we can better manage our inventory. Our waste is pretty close to zero. We do a good job with our data to predict and buy the appropriate flowers for our bouquets. We don’t have to pay rent for a street-level location. It’s a much better cost structure.
NG: The stock you have online is beautiful but obviously more limited than what a large show would have.
MS: We found that if you’re going through one of those other websites, they’re really all the same. It turns into a daunting task. How do you choose? By limiting the selection, people are actually able to make choices easily, as opposed to bouncing off the site completely and getting flustered. The designs are very thoughtful. We’ll have something that’s monochromatic, something a little classier. There’s also our wild farm style bouquet. There’s a lot of choice but it’s very curated.
RA: What we find with our business in general is; you’re not buying flowers for your apartment. It’s a gesture sending it to someone else. As long as they flowers look nice and are fresh, people typically can find something that suits the recipient. Rarely do customers say, “I can’t find the bouquet I want.” Sometimes we get, “Can you make it bigger?”
NG: How exactly do you go about putting together a bouquet? For myself and the other folks who know nothing about flowers.
MS: First, flowers are very seasonal. We just went through our tulip season. Around the calendar year, we’ll revolve our curated selection based on what’s available. We’ll pick a focal flower and build around it, always keeping in mind we have different colour or style options. That’s pretty much how we do it.
RA: There’s a framework we follow. We typically have an all-white bouquet, so we’ll have different white flowers. We pick a colour scheme and follow that or pick a flower and focus around that. We have a peony bouquet coming out. When it’s a very striking flower like a peony or a dahlia, we use that as the inspiration to develop a bouquet around it. Otherwise it’s a colour, season or style.
NG: The on-demand service you guys offer — was that really difficult to set up or easy?
RA: I don’t think anything we do is easy. It requires a lot of planning and thought. Our curated selection does give us the ability to do this. There’s some difficulties, but Toronto is a great market because it’s pretty dense downtown. If you don’t live downtown, you may work downtown. A lot of the stuff we do is delivery to offices. The two-hour on demand is one of the biggest things that sets us apart. Most people can figure out a two-hour window within a day, where they can say, okay, I know this person will be at work from 2 to 4 p.m. You don’t have to call them and say, “Hey, stick around of a while, someone’s coming by.” It’s really about the overall experience, from placing the order, to the hand-written cards, to this denim wrap which no one else does and getting it on time.
Beyond the flowers, we definitely like to support other local businesses. We do collaborations which Chocolates by Brandon Olsen. Together, we designed a chocolate bar for Valentine’s Day last year. We’ve worked with Squish Candy of Montreal and Beekeepers Naturals, which is a company our friend started of honey-based products. We’re young entrepreneurs trying to support other young entrepreneurs whenever we get the chance. It’s also very important for us to buy local blooms whenever we can. The wild farm bouquet is one hundred per-cent ontario blooms all the time.
CP: To go back to the local brand partnerships, with other florists the up-sells you see are the cheesy teddy bears. Flowers are sent as gifts, and these things make sense to send together, but we are a more modern flower company and we wanted to modernize those up-sells.
RA: We’re definitely selective. People come knocking on our door all the time to say, “Hey can you include this stuff, can you promote this?”
We also try to support charities where we can. We do a pink bouquet where we donate proceeds to breast cancer research. We collaborated with a young, very cool girl called Leeloodles. She’s a nine-year old illustrator. She’s got a bit of fame for doodling the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays logos onto t-shirts. We currently have this really cool collaboration where she designed a bouquet and she also drew it on a tote which we provide with that bouquet. Proceeds from that are going to a charity of her choice called Nova’s Ark.
From the delivery business, we’ve got into the events business, in quite a big way. The customers, through their positive experiences, have asked, “Hey, can you do the centrepieces for this bridal shower,” or, “Will you do my wedding?” Corrie’s background is in PR, so we’re very close with a lot of PR firms and do corporate events as well. We find that customers find our approach pretty refreshing. We’re like the new kids on the block so we’re not stuck in our ways.
CP: The events side has become as big if not bigger than the on-demand delivery.
MS: It’s definitely all stemmed from on-demand delivery.
NG: Because the best way to promote is by word of mouth, right?
RA: We don’t do any traditional advertising. We do Instagram ads around peak seasons. It’s really been a word-of-mouth growth story.
MS: Technology can be a little struggle sometimes so our website was delayed. So I came to Raphi and said, let’s start this website that literally has my phone number and a three-step instruction on who to order one of these three bouquets. He thought it was insane but I convinced him to do it.
RA: We had no way to accept money! You couldn’t pay on the website.
MS: To only way to take money was an e-transfer or if I went to go pick up the cash from the sender and then delivered the flowers. The next question was, how is anyone going to hear about this website?
We offered a handful of coffee shops in the city free flowers on a weekly basis, in exchange with putting our card in front of the flowers, and people could take one and get a discount. And on May 28th two years ago, somebody texted. The word was “flowers” and somebody texted flowers. I had a minor panic attack because I had no idea what to do.I was sweating profusely. Laughs. We went through the transaction and it was smooth, and they asked, “How do I pay you?” I went, “Oh shit, okay can you send an Interac transfer?” The payment was accepted, the bouquet was made and dropped off and it was a success.
CP: You biked it over yourself.
MS: I did! I was biking the deliveries over myself. I was running around town delivering the bouquets to the coffee shops and making sure they were all spruced up. That kickstarted our business.
RA: Before our friends really knew what we were up to, I’d get messages saying, “I’ve seen Mike on a bike dodging through traffic with flowers strapped to his back. What’s going on here?”
CP: We’ve graduated from that.
RA: Humble beginnings.
NG: You must have an interesting perspective on some more personal moments.
CP: People often think our biggest customer is guys forgetting anniversaries or birthdays. A lot of our customers are girls sending flowers to their girlfriends congratulating them when they’re getting a new job, going away, getting engaged or getting married.
RA: We definitely have some interesting insights into why people send them.It’s typically not a romantic thing. The reasons for sending flowers, if you make it convenient enough for someone, are endless. We say no reason is the best reason to make someone’s day.
CP: I would like to think more people are seeing flowers now because of us.
RA: One of our friends told us, “Yeah, you guys have made it cool to send flowers.” Sending flowers is something I would have never done before, but with the right branding and right experience, you can say anything with blooms.
NG: You would never know now that you two started with backgrounds outside of the floristry.
RA: We literally knew nothing! We had no experience in the flower business. We learned everything on the go by doing research and talking to people all across the industry from the growers, to the wholesalers, to importers, to designers.
MS: We even had one wholesaler tell us we were nuts and this would never work.
NG: Did you two ever have a moment like that, where you think, what are we doing?
MS: Everyday. Laughs. I think in starting any business, and you can read what other entrepreneurs have say, it’s a roller coaster. Somedays I just want to go home and lay my head on the pillow. It’s like, what am I doing? When you look at the big picture and take a step back, you look at these people around us like Corrie and Raphi and all the nice messages we get of how easy it is and thank you for being around and thank you for starting the business, it makes it all worth it.
RA: For other people starting a business, they’re always looking for this big idea no one’s thought of. And with us, this is not a new business, this is a business that could definitely use some help. There’s no reason why it needs to work the way it does. I think we figured out a way to solve a problem.
MS: That doesn’t mean it’s easy to start a business.