Hunt and Gather is a unique floral design company outfitting weddings, events and Instagram with breathtaking unstructured arrangements. At the helm is Tellie Hunt, a florist with a unique eye and steadfast entrepreneurial spirit who began tailoring her craft at the early age of 14, through working in a floral shop. Today, she is operating her business in the Bloor West Village, designing flower arrangements for international weddings and managing her popular Instagram account, shifting her focus away from retail and strictly on events.
In this installment of Founders, we sat down with Tellie to talk about growth, authenticity and entrepreneurship.
Photo credit TJ Tindale
How did you discover your talent for arranging flowers and creating unique unstructured pieces?
I began working at a flower shop at the age of 14. I always wanted to find a career that allowed me to be creative and make a living. After trying a few other outlets such as tattooing, I decided to go back to my roots. Flowers were always something that came effortlessly. My unstructured design style started before Instagram was a thing. I would take to Martha Stewart magazines, blogs and art to find inspiration. I feel as though I truly defined my style after taking a masters class in New York with Saipua and Nicolette Camille. I have since studied abroad in England with Jo Flowers and Hart Floral. You can never stop learning.
What did you do in preparation before opening Hunt & Gather? Looking back now, what steps were crucial in its success?
I focused a lot on building myself up as my own brand and as an artist. Making connections with industry professionals such as wedding planners, vendors and photographers was also a huge part in gaining success early on.
Photo credit TJ Tindale
Why did you ultimately shift your focus away from retail and strictly on weddings and events?
To be honest, retail has never been my thing. I left my previous job in January which is the worst time to start a floral business since wedding season is from May to October. I signed the lease to my store front and had to figure out a way to pay rent (which is why retail came in handy). After executing almost 80 weddings in my first season, I am no longer in need of retail. My best advice is to only do what makes you happy, and retail wasn’t doing that for me. Also, put your “all” into every aspect of your business. I found that weddings were my priority and that the store was getting neglected. Although it was just a side gig in my business, every aspect of your business represents your brand and you should either put everything you have into it, or not do it at all.
What hurtles do you face creating “flower magic” during Toronto winters? How and where do you find year-long inspiration?
Oh gosh, everything hinders being a florist in the winter. We go from getting lush buckets of local flowers delivered directly from farms to having to order off a Dutch auction and have flowers shipped from across the world. In the summer I visit my family property and cut down wild branches and vines for my arrangements. Where as in the winter, all of the foliage is coming from South America. I try to stay positive and think of it as a challenge and a way to push myself as a designer. I do love spring blooms and we are lucky to have a lot of those in the winter. To stay inspired I travel as much as humanly possible (another perk of closing retail). Recently, I drove down the coast of Spain and was inspired by the wild Genistra, Mimosa and Olive trees which would grow on the side of the highways.
Photo credit TJ Tindale
How do you define success as an entrepreneur? When did you realize you achieved your goals?
I think everyone needs to define their own version of success. My father always tells me that my business can be as big as I want it to be.
My idea of success involves:
- Having a one-on-one experience with all of my clients and being there for every aspect of their wedding.
- Hiring an amazing full-time employee who reads my mind and becomes a close friend.
- Making enough money to save a little and travel a lot.
Success can be anything you want it to be. I am constantly setting new goals for myself and my career. Someone wise once said “if you stop learning you may as well be dead.” Every goal I achieve means I need to create a new one.
What is your approach to social media? How do you keep your authenticity?
Social media, whether I like it or not, is everything to my business. It is the reason I booked as many weddings as I did in my first year, the reason I got to teach design in Mexico City and the reason I booked a wedding in New York City.
I use Planoly to carefully colour group my photos, making sure I have a variety of content that coexist beautifully beside one another. Sometimes I post photos that I know a lot of people will like and other times I post photos that will give people an idea of the brand (which I know don’t always get as much attention).
By not always seeking likes and just posting what I think looks good and feels right has given me a lot of peace. I try to keep it authentic by writing more personal things in my captions and sharing a lot in my stories. I want people to know that there is a human behind these photos. A human who has good days and bad days. I want my followers to be able to identify with me and not just see pretty flowers all of the time. Making these human connections in a world of stylized photos is very important I think.
Photo credit The Times We Have
What direction do you see Hunt & Gather going? Any big plans on the horizon?
After years of being in the business I am starting to have clients come to me, give me a budget and let me have full creative freedom with colours and design. This is something I would like to keep pushing as it truly fills my little creative heart with joy. When I started Hunt & Gather, I knew I wanted to travel and make flowers. As mentioned, this past year I traveled to New York City and Mexico City and have recently booked a wedding in France.