Before becoming a designer, Toronto-based Handan Tepe worked in advertising as a conceptual artist and artistic director for campaigns, photo and video shoots. Amidst all the day-to-day craziness however, she still found time to create from her home studio. After moving to Ontario and finding a job at a stationery store, Handan noticed a gap in the local brands they were offering. From that, Hello from Toronto was born! The designs showcase iconic images and elements of the city, and it’s in admiration of Handan’s local community spirit that we welcome her to the Paper Hearts Pen Pal family.
Did you ever think you’d be an entrepreneur?
Yes, actually. Hello from Toronto is the fourth brand I’ve founded. Before that, I had one with embroidered fashion and home décor products, another brand for tourists visiting Istanbul, and the third a letterpress studio creating all kinds of paper goods. I’ve also tried selling vintage items that I collected from various stores.
How did you get started with your business?
When I first moved to Toronto, I had to study and work at the same time and I was so lucky to find a part-time job at The Paper Place. While working at the store, I realized how much people like local items and how few options there were. As a designer and illustrator, I thought I could try with a couple of cards and see how it goes. I started with eight cards and four were sold out in a week! So, I designed more and more and ended up having my cards in more local stores and online with a collection of more than twenty cards.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started your business and what would you tell a creative person that’s looking to start in their own?
That the journey will take some time and that is totally ok. Spend some time searching, observing, following your favourite artists and then create your own unique collection. Not just a couple of things, a full collection. It’s the only way to see if it’s working or not.
What is your first memory of getting mail?
I used to have a letter friend from the Netherlands; I remember how exciting it was to even see the stamp of the letter.
What is your favourite time of year and why?
Summer is my favourite holiday. I grew up in a country where the sea is around 30 degrees and you can spend all day chasing the sea creatures. 😊