The Toronto Designers Market is back this holiday season

We’re gearing up for the biggest event of the year: the Workhaus holiday party! Taking place on Thursday, December 14th, we’re proud to announce that […]

What's Happening in The Haus?

We’re gearing up for the biggest event of the year: the Workhaus holiday party! Taking place on Thursday, December 14th, we’re proud to announce that we’ll be welcoming back vendors from the Toronto Designers Market for a pop-up holiday market. 

Last week we sat down with Catherine, the “one person team” behind CC Spicy and one of many vendors at the market, to talk about her experience with the Toronto Designer’s Market and to hear her story of starting a small business in Toronto. She was also gracious enough to provide us with a full list of vendors who will be at our holiday pop-up. Check that out below!

The origin story of CC Spicy…

Catherine tells me she started CC Spicy a few years ago, well before she had a brand name or a plan to sell… Back when she was making homemade chili oil and sharing it with friends.

“It’s my family recipe,” she says. “I had been making that for years because I love cooking. I brought a homemade jar to a small gathering and people said “Oh my god, this is so good!”

The rave reviews gave her an idea. She was already running a startup, so why not try selling her homemade chili oils too? With extra time on her hands during the lockdown, Catherine took to Facebook neighbourhood groups to advertise her brand. “It just took off! I was like ‘You know what, it looks like this can be a real business!’”

She registered the business in March, started selling in different local markets, and finally launched on Amazon Canada where she earned the Amazon’s Choice badge after just a few months.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Catherine remembers struggling “like crazy” and needing help to launch in the US, a much bigger platform, with competitive / saturated product categories and complex regulations. After months of ups and downs, she finally launched on Amazon US.

The importance of brand loyalty

She says she isn’t selling crazy volume, but people who are health conscious buy her product and she’s happy with that. She proudly says that much of her success has come organically without significant promotion on her part. “My customers support me; they tell their friends about my products.” She also seems to have cornered the market on chili oils made without seed oils like vegetable or sunflower. “My customers told me they search ‘chili oil with no seed oils’ and my brand name is the first!”

It was after earning the Amazon’s Choice badge twice in the US that Catherine finally thought to herself “Oh, I guess it’s a real brand now!”

Currently selling on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, and through Shopify, Catherine says she’s taking a pause on channel expansion to see what’s going to happen next. “You have to take a step back to get ready for a better future and say ‘Ok, maybe I should just do what I’m doing now and when I’m ready I can grow.’”

Networking opportunities are everywhere

Catherine first crossed paths with the Toronto Designers Market almost two years ago by pure happenstance.

While walking around her neighborhood, she noticed something new in a store on Spadina Avenue that she habitually walked past: a pop-up market. As a fashion lover, Catherine was awestruck by the designs visible through the window and couldn’t resist checking it out. Shortly after entering and diving into conversation, a new friendship sparked with the market’s director.

“You know, me being me I just talked to people and that’s how I became friends with Karen- she’s leading Toronto Designer’s Market. I was like ‘Wow, I like what you do!’ So she told me about the concept, what they like to do, and that’s how we became friends.”

That concept– bringing together local designers, artists, and entrepreneurs to operate in carefully curated spaces where they control their pricing and presentation– is one that Catherine says she immediately loved, and it’s close to our hearts too. The Toronto Designers Market currently features over twenty different designers from across Canada, and we are proud to be hosting 12 of them at our annual Holiday Party. 

And yes, even though CC Spicy isn’t currently selling in markets or storefronts, members will have a chance to see Catherine in person on December 14th at the Workhaus Holiday Pop-Up Market, which Workhaus could not have hosted without Catherine’s help and hard work!

“I like Workhaus,” she says, reflecting on last year’s pop-up market, which she also organized. “I liked the people I talked to, the people I met. It’s all about community, so, it’s important to me.”

She’s been in contact with friends and fellow entrepreneurs at the Toronto Designers Market to assemble a diverse list of local vendors to participate in the market, exuberant over the lineup.

“I’m bringing all my friends,” she gushes. “You’ll love the list!”

We certainly do love it, and you can see it for yourself at the end of this article!

Advice for fellow entrepreneurs

Finally, when asked if she had any advice for fellow entrepreneurs, Catherine says “Just do it! Anyone who has a dream, just pursue your dream, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow and no one should have any regrets.”

Sure, it can be challenging, and it’s hard when you want to see results right away, but on this journey she’s learned that she can only control what she can– and the rest? “I’m learning to try to be patient, try to be like ‘You know what, it’s out of my control.’ But I enjoy the journey.”

The friends and connections she’s made, the opportunities created, and the amount that she has learned have all added up to make the experience itself worthwhile. 

“Sometimes it’s not about the final outcome, it’s about the journey. We can learn so much about ourselves on this journey”

There’s no doubt that Catherine’s success has everything to do with her incredible entrepreneurial drive and spirit. The same can be said for the rest of the hard-working designers, artists, and entrepreneurs at TDM. We’re beyond thrilled to be hosting them. So without further ado, we present the list to you:

Holiday Pop-Up Market Vendor List:

  1. Casa Lovina
  2. Toronto Designers Market
  3. Tone Textiles
  4. Soi BioLuxe
  5. Everly
  6. Made by Roka
  7. Venya Teas
  8. Sende
  9. Maverik
  10. ANDINA
  11. By Dikla Navon
  12. CC Spicy