Toronto’s Danni Simmen is the mastermind behind Pepper B., a local brand that creates, produces and sells Canadian-made home goodies and designs. She’s a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) in Toronto and Winchester School of Art in Winchester, England. As the Founder of Pepper B;, Danni is a one-woman team. She’s the designer, photographer, sales gal and customer service rep for Pepper B., which opened its doors in 2015, along with the leader for any other roles that may arise in a day.
With an extensive background in decor and a passion for patterns, Danni designs all products in her downtown Toronto studio, through partnerships with local artisans and small businesses.
We connected with Danni to learn what got her to where she is today and what’s next for Pepper B. Read our full interview below:
- What was your favourite experience during your studies?
Both were amazing schools, and had totally different approaches to the design process, which really helped me develop an understanding of how to best bring out my own creativity and what works best for me. My time spent in England was a huge highlight – it was an amazing experience and provided endless inspiration that I took back home and applied to my thesis in my final year. I worked my butt off and was awarded the OCAD Medal for my year in Material Art and Design.
- Were you always into textiles, design and home decor? Where do you think this passion stemmed from?
My mom always gave us complete creative freedom to decorate our bedrooms when I was growing up, and I used to regularly re-arrange and change out pieces in my room, or come up with a new colour scheme and repaint. But I didn’t really realize how much I connected with interiors and textiles until I was in first year university for painting and drawing and I found myself wanting to make art that was also useful and practical in everyday life. So I switched my program to Material Art and Design, and absolutely loved it.
- Before you launched Pepper B., you designed for the home decor industry. How long did you work in the home decor industry? What made you want to switch to pursue your own brand and business, Pepper B.?
For about five years after I graduated, I worked at couple of different companies that designed home products for large retailers, and also at an art studio that created custom interior spaces. All were a great learning experience, and really taught me about working with manufacturers and the entire production process. After a while I found myself longing to design items that had more of a story and products where I could interact more deeply with every part of the creation process.
- What was the most difficult part of taking the risk and investing in Pepper B.?
I think the scariest part is putting a lot of time and money into your own designs, and not being able to know 100 per cent how people will feel or react to them. I just had to hope I’d hit the right note.
- What is the biggest myth about entering the world of entrepreneurship? How did you conquer this myth, head-on, when you entered said world?
I’d say the biggest myth is that it’s possible to be totally prepared and that everything has to be 100 per cent perfect before you put it out into the world. There will be so much that you learn along the way and that’s part of the fun. You can always improve yourself and your work. I took a few entrepreneurship and business classes before I started, but I found I learn the best by doing. And when I have no idea how to tackle an obstacle, I’ll either research it and try it out, or hire someone to help me.
- You design and produce Pepper B. products from your Toronto studio. Where do you get the inspiration to create these pieces?
From all over, but especially from architecture and other artistic disciplines. If you look around in everyday life, pattern is everywhere, from sidewalk tiles to ripples in water. I like to keep my eyes open to pick up on repetitions when I’m out and about.
- Understanding so many of the media we consume is online now-a-days, do you ever gravitate towards print magazines or publication about home decor and design? If yes, which ones do you tend to purchase?
Absolutely! I’m all about making mood boards to spark inspiration or hone in on an idea, and printing out images from the internet will never beat the glossy pages of a magazine. I love Domino Magazine, Elle Decor, and Style at Home.
- If you experience a creative dry-spell, where do you go to get refreshed and to refocus?
Ideally I would take a trip somewhere with beautiful architecture and fabulous markets, but taking a walk or or a run, or visiting a new restaurant or neighbourhood in Toronto can really do the trick!
- What is your favourite piece right now in the Pepper B. collection? Why?
The Misfit pillow in Azure – I love the mix of geometric shapes and the pops of colour. It’s the centrepiece in my master bedroom right now :).
- You also work with local artisans and small business to create and sell products. What benefits are there to collaborating on material and business development?
The care that goes into creating every piece. Every piece is created by hand in small batches so that we can really give a lot of care and attention to quality. It’s also really inspiring and engaging, and I love that my small business plays a part in supporting other small and local businesses.
- How would you describe the design and decor market in Toronto?
I think we’re all paying a lot more attention to interior design and the positive effect that a beautifully designed space can have on our well-being. I also find that Torontonians are really starting to celebrate their own city and talent and are trying to shop local.
- In addition to curating such beautiful pieces, like pillows, fabric and accessories, you also curate some really amazing Instagram content. What type of Instagram strategy do you find brings the most success to your brand?
Generally, naturally styled interior shots do the best because they help people visualize how to use the pillow or fabrics in their own home. Overall, I try to keep to a consistent colour palette and story through a mix of close ups and room shots, and a few studio/process shots to tell a full story and keep it interesting.
- What social media do’s and don’t’s would you recommend another business and brand owner?
Don’t post an image if you’re not 100 per cent sure it fits with your brand, and do keep a consistent voice across your social media and branding.
=Danni Simmen, Owner of Pepper B.
- Since you started this Pepper B. journey, who has been your biggest support?
My husband has been an amazing cheerleader and has helped me keep pushing forward when I’m feeling frustrated or uninspired. My family and friends have also been amazing helping me with photoshoots or tradeshows and markets.
- What do you think the future of Pepper B. will entail?
I’d love to expand our product line to include many more pattern filled products. Wallpaper, stationary, even ceramics and small furniture pieces. Stay tuned!
Readers, you should also stay tuned to see Danni and Pepper B. at the One of a Kind Show happening at the end of November in Toronto at Exhibition Place.
For more about Pepper B. and their collection, visit www.pepperbdesign.com. For secret sales and new product updates, sign up for their newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/boU-0j. Follow the brand on Facebook and Instagram for home decor inspiration and styling tips!
Thank you to Danni for answering our questions and for Ruby Social Co. for your support and story tips!