Creative, inspirational and a home décor vixen are just a few ways you could describe Danni Simmen, owner and creative director of Pepper B. Design. We had the chance to chat with Danni and ask her a few questions about her brand and also receive some advice for those looking to both launch their own business and a career in the world of design.
SNTF: To get things started, can you first tell us how you broke into the home décor business?
DS: I studied textile design in university at OCAD U in Toronto, and Winchester School of Art in England. And then worked in the home decor design industry for about five years before taking the leap to start out on my own.
SNTF: What was it that sparked your interest in the field?
DS: When I was growing up I would constantly rearrange and redesign my bedroom, and luckily for me, my parents were very supportive of all my creative interests, even when that meant endless trips to home depot for another can of paint or supplies for a DIY project. It wasn’t until my first year of university that I realized how much I loved working with textiles. I was enrolled in the drawing and painting program at OCAD and started to feel a need to create art that was also practical and useful for everyday life, so I switched into the Material Art and Design program and loved it.
SNTF: You’re the founder of Pepper B., an incredible home décor brand with a focus on patterns and products designed in Canada. When did you first get the idea to start your own business?
DS: I had always imagined starting my own business, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be. So years later when I was designing home products for other brands, part of my job included styling product and setting up company e-commerce sites. I thought I should really do this for myself with my own designs, and the idea grew from there.
SNTF: Would you say that it’s your passion for home décor that has grown Pepper B. to the brand that it is today?
DS: It’s a passion for home decor, but also for patterns! I love the impact patterns have in a space and how they provide a perfect finishing touch.
SNTF: And we have to ask, what’s the story behind your brand’s name!
DS: It’s a play on naming different colourways of a pattern, for example, a red version could be “Pepper A”, and a purple version of the same design could be “Pepper C”.
SNTF: What would you say are some of the benefits and challenges of running your own business?
DS: I love creating my own schedule and having the freedom to work when I’m feeling most productive. I’m not a morning person, and I get the most done in the afternoon and evening. On the flip side, it can be challenging working primarily on my own and not having another person to bounce ideas around with and share the workload.
SNTF: Have you had any mentors to help you navigate along the way?
DS: I haven’t had one person in particular, but I have had a lot of support from family and friends. Their encouragement and support have been amazing.
SNTF: Since launching Pepper B. in 2015, has there been any major obstacles you’ve experienced along the way or mistakes made? If so, how did you overcome them and move forward?
DS: I’m lucky not to have experienced any major obstacles, but there have certainly been many bumps along the way! I’m a nonconfrontational person so when issues arise, it is tempting for me to just move on and not to address it. I’m learning I need to stand my ground and make sure my voice is heard even if it makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. Recently when I placed an order for new fabric, my printer used the wrong colour for one of the designs and when I pointed this out to they did not want to take responsibility for the mistake. In the end, they did reprint the entire yardage but it took a lot of pushing, and persistence on my part.
SNTF: What’s a typical day like for you?
DS: I like to start the day with a big cup of coffee, listen to a podcast, and take my dog for a walk. The rest of my morning is generally dedicated to emails and any design work or website updates, and in the afternoon I pack and ship orders, or visit my seamstress to pick up items to ship the next day. Sometimes I’ll also be photographing products or styled shots for social media or visiting with potential stockists. It’s always changing but it certainly keeps it interesting.
SNTF: Where would you say you find your day-to-day inspiration? Do you have any tricks for when you hit a creative slump?
DS: What works best for me is taking a break and giving my brain a new focus for a while so I can come back refreshed. If I’m feeling motivated I’ll go for a quick run, but sometimes taking a walk and picking up a coffee can do the trick.
SNTF: For those interested in starting their own company, what’s one piece of advice they need to hear?
DS: Don’t wait, just do it! You will never feel 100% prepared. But you WILL learn as you go, and you won’t regret putting your dreams into action.
SNTF: Do you have any tips for tips for maintaining a work/life balance while growing your business?
DS: It’s tempting to keep working away until a long to-do list is tackled, but I’ve learned that if I schedule personal time in advance, I’m more likely to take a breather and get away from my desk.
SNTF: And finally, what would you say gets you excited each morning? What is next for both you and Pepper B.?
DS: I love connecting with customers, and meeting new people who are doing great things in the creative industry. Next up we’re planning on adding some new product categories to our collection, and we’ll also be at the One of a Kind Show at the end of November at Exhibition Place in Toronto. Come say hi!
To follow along with Dani’s entrepreneurial and creative journey make sure to give her a follow on Instagram.
All images provided by Ruby Social Co.
By Ainsley Smith, Toronto, @ainsleysmithy
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