Occupation: Founder, Toronto Flower Market
Hometown: Pickering, Ont.
Natasa Kajganic is in perpetual motion. The 29-year-old entrepreneur left her full-time job in advertising last year and launched the Toronto Flower Market on trendy Queen Street West. Her life now is even faster paced (but way more fun) than the hectic world she left. She wakes up, downs a mug of coffee with heaps of sugar for breakfast, then rushes to meet clients and designers, all while checking her five email accounts from her phone.
The flower market was a huge hit last year, drawing more than 4,000 visitors. Her inspiration for the venture came two years ago when she was in London, England, and visited the famous Columbia Road Flower Market. “You walk down this narrow road, and lining both sides are rows and rows of the most amazing flowers. There was nothing like that here.”
Natasa was also drawn to the sustainability of it: the notion that buying local could apply to more than just food. “It’s the farm-to-table concept, but with tulips and succulents,” she says. “The usual complaint about flowers is that they don’t last long and they’re expensive — and the market solves both of those things, as it cuts out the middleman.”
The decision to abandon a steady job wasn’t easy. “Quitting was scary,” Natasa says. “I tried to alleviate my fears by making sure I was always doing stuff instead of thinking about it. To cover my monthly expenses, I cut out restaurant dinners, new clothes and other indulgences. It was okay because I was building the life I wanted.”
After she’d researched the flower industry in Ontario, scouted locations and lined up a designer to tackle the website, Natasa finally told her parents. “They had a lot of questions, but then they asked how they could help. They’re at every market — my dad carries purchases to people’s cars, my mom brings dessert for the vendors.”
Natasa and her three brothers grew up in a tight-knit home in suburban Pickering, Ont. “We were very close, but also competitive. We did lots of boy things, very little doll playing,” she says.
A sporty type in high school, Natasa gradually became more interested in esthetics than athletics, paying attention to fashion, art and eventually floral arrangements.
Her live-in boyfriend, Joshua, a senior strategic planner in advertising and a drummer on the side, is as serious about the world of design as she is. He gave her the twisty Frank Gehry–designed ring that is a permanent fixture on her right hand. They’ve talked about having children and eventually buying a farm together (with jam space for him and high-speed Wi-Fi for her). “The market is the biggest commitment we’ve made. We joked to our lawyer that it’s probably more serious than marriage.”
For the moment, Natasa is content to remain wedded to her job. Ironically, she’s a novice gardener. Her knowledge is limited to what kind of pots work best for succulents (terracotta), when to remove dead leaves (always) and how to keep an air plant alive (don’t worry about it). Fortunately, the century-old home she rents in Toronto’s slowly gentrifying Parkdale neighbourhood has a small backyard in which to experiment. One day, she’d love a vegetable patch, but there are a few other tenants who may make that tricky. “We have a fence that runs right along everyone’s backyards, and we’ve nicknamed it the Trans-Canada Highway because the raccoons are always shuttling back and forth.”
There’s still a lot Natasa has to do to build the flower market into a long-standing tradition in Toronto, her ultimate goal. Although she doesn’t yet know where she’ll end up, or how many years the market will thrive, her future looks bright and beautiful.
Natasa’s telling details
My proudest moment was… May 9, 2013, when trucks filled with flowers lined the street, ready to set up for Toronto’s first flower market.
I define downtime as… listening to records or going for a long walk or bike ride.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about… how many hours I still have left to sleep before I need to get up.
My favourite moment of the day is… in the afternoon when the kitchen is flooded with sunlight. It’s magic.
The biggest mistake I ever made was… over-plucking my eyebrows in high school.
I wish I had more time for… photography. I love taking photos and going into the darkroom.
My favourite quote is… “Everything you can imagine is real” (Pablo Picasso).
I wish I were better at… cooking without following a recipe.
My perfect day would be… unplanned. Driving for however long to get someplace, with random stops.
I’m currently reading… Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.
Five things Natasa can’t live without
Baby oil: “A beauty tip passed down from my mom, it’s the only product I use. My skin reacts to everything else.”
Rag & Bone jeans: “They are pretty much my uniform. I have yet to find a pair of jeans that are as comfortable and flattering.”
Muji 0.38 pen: “I like the way it makes my writing look.”
Givenchy Illicit Raspberry lipstick: “I don’t wear much makeup, but bold lipstick makes me feel pulled together.”
L’ouvrier’s flourless chocolate cake: “It’s my favourite local restaurant. I think I account for eating 50 percent of the slices they’ve served.”