Spotlight Post: Van Harten & Tossell Flowers

Two years ago, Dayna Van Harten and Gwyneth Tossell decided to say goodbye to their day jobs and create something that would fulfill their passion for art and design. Gwyneth Tossell takes us through the story of how a love of floral design flourished into a small flower shop on Geary Avenue in Toronto.

Speciality bouquets for weddings and events

Tell us how Van Harten & Tossell was started.

Dayna and I worked together in many capacities over the years. We would always talk about our love for design; Dayna studied Fine Arts at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD).  It was something we always had in common and based on our experience together, we knew we would work well even in stressful situations.

We both had a passion for design, art, and flowers, so the next logical step was to attend flower school together. We attended the Canadian Institute of Floral Design and completed a program that ranged from the traditional basics to the construction of arrangements.  Originally we started running the business out of Dayna’s apartment, but quickly ran out of space and began looking for something that would serve as our studio.

Dayne and Gwyneth in flower crowns


Where is your shop located?

It sounds crazy, but we fell in love with the first space we looked at. Located on Geary Avenue, we were instantly drawn to its natural light and creative space.  Geary Avenue isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind when you think of flowers. This area of the city is an industrialized gray area of Toronto (literally and figuratively). Geary Avenue is sort of the unofficial midpoint of the busy downtown Toronto core and the slower-paced uptown area of the city. But in the past two years, I’ve noticed a dramatic change in the area with new bars, restaurants and small businesses beginning to pop up in the once industrial area.

Bouquets for weddings

What has been some of your greatest challenges?

As new business owners, there is a lot of learning and developing. We learned there is so much more to running our business beyond making beautiful flowers. Maintaining our website and making sure content is current is something we found challenging in the beginning.  

Another challenge is the seasonality of flowers. Someone may have a vision about what they want in an arrangement, but if it isn’t in season it creates an issue.  Learning that you have to have alternatives ready to offer customers is the key to getting past this.

A bouquet by Van Harten & Tossell Flowers


What makes your job rewarding?

Working with flowers in general brings joy.  I feel like I am creating art. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of traditional floral design by incorporating inspiration from fashion and art. Having the freedom to create floral designs that are contemporary and expressive makes my job so awesome.  In addition to that, we work in a very collaborative environment.  I love being able to work with clients and bring their vision to life. Seeing them react positively to the final product is so rewarding.

Floral arrangements by Van Harten & Tossell Flowers


What advice would you give a new small business owner?

  1. Use the people around you as a resource; keep talking to others that have been in the same boat as you.
  2. Be shameless about adhering to your vision and what you want to accomplish. Don’t ever deviate from that.
  3. Timing is important, so don’t rush the process. Embrace it and the growth will come naturally.
  4. Continue to learn – don’t spoil the joy of learning and growing as a new business.

Visit Van Harten & Tossell to see more of their unique bouquets and services.