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Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs: Raphi Aronowicz and Michael Smaye

Michael + Raphi from Tonic Blooms
Michael + Raphi from Tonic Blooms

Raphi Aronowicz and Michael Smaye were high school best friends who started a floral delivery business together after both having less-than-stellar experiences sending flowers. Aronowicz and Smaye identified an opportunity to improve on the delivery aspect of the floral business, and then took the jump from full-time employment in finance and hospitality to entrepreneurship, and Tonic Blooms.

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Today, Tonic Blooms offers a focused, online-only selection of floral arrangements. Being online-only allows Tonic Blooms to minimize waste and incur minimal overhead charges, which directly translates to savings for customers — floral arrangements are less expensive when the florist doesn’t have to pay for a full-time staff and high rent.

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Describe Tonic Blooms
We offer Toronto flower delivery within two hours. Our curated, affordable selection makes sending and receiving flowers convenient and fun!

What was the inspiration for your career route?
Raphi: The flower business was never on our radar. We both had enough awful experiences sending flowers here and just thought there had to be a better way. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial drive and after sharing my experience with others, quickly realized that this could be an opportunity worth pursuing. We spent a lot of time researching the flower industry and believed that by changing the outdated business model and controlling every aspect of the delivery process, we could offer a high quality, convenient and reliable service people could depend on.

Michael: While we were testing our concept, it was still a side gig – Raphi was a portfolio manager and I was working in the hospitality industry. I was skeptical when he approached me with the idea but after doing the preliminary research, I was convinced. Shortly after we were taking orders via text and delivering bouquets by bike ourselves.

Raphi: Feedback has been amazing and we’ve now been pushed into the events space by our customers. It’s incredibly rewarding to receive a phone call from a customer asking us to be their wedding florist.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?

Raphi: Probably when we reached our first 1,000 customers.

Michael: AND our first Valentine’s Day! We completely sold out and the feedback was tremendous. It was a real validation moment.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
Raphi: 5 years – national presence; 10 years – hopefully passing on a good chunk of responsibility to the next generation so I can focus on my family; 20 years – is it cliché to say retired?

Michael: Sign me up for Raphi’s plan!

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?

Raphi: Be determined in your goals, deliberate in your actions and never stop learning your business.

Michael: Research the industry inside and out and connect with as many people as you can. You will learn so much by asking questions.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?

Raphi: Each October we offer “The Pink” bouquet, where proceeds support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. It’s an important cause for us as we are both close with people who have been affected by the disease.

Michael: We are also committed to supporting other local brands through various partnerships. We’re always thinking of ways we can give back and we have an exciting project up ahead that we’ll be able to share very soon!

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?

Raphi: Fully committing to the Tonic Blooms vision. A lot of industry people thought we were crazy and that it would never work, so I guess the biggest challenge was committing to the impossible. It was a leap of faith but we trusted ourselves, worked day and night and did everything possible to set ourselves up for success.

Michael: Running a lean business also brings challenges. There’s a very small team behind Tonic Blooms and we’re constantly figuring out how to overcome barriers by maximizing our often-limited resources. Major flower-giving holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day pose logistical challenges but we’re able to pull it all together with the right planning and hard work.

What does the word “notable” mean to you?

Raphi: Something that will change your life, not in the literal sense, but something that will change or enhance your routine to make it a bit better.

Michael: Creating an experience that people share and talk about.

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Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?

Raphi: La Banane on Ossington. Great food, fun atmosphere. Brandon Olsen really outdid himself on this one.

Michael: All the restaurants from the Chase Hospitality Group offer exceptional food and service.

What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?

Raphi: Other than Tonic Blooms, I have to admit it’s Bloomberg News. I’ve always had a passion for business and keeping up with world news. Most-played song (right now…) is Innerbloom by RÜFÜS DU SOL.

Michael: Most-visited site is Basecamp, a communication platform we use with our developers. Song du jour is ‘Please Tell Rosie’ by Alle Farben.

Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?

Raphi: Cary Tauben for sure (@carytauben). He’s a Montreal-based stylist (/legend) and I really dig his vibe.

Michael: Gary Veynerchuk (@garyvee). He’s a real rah-rah kind of guy. He’ll get you fired up every morning.

What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?

Raphi: Favourite is Spain. It has everything: food, architecture, beaches and partying – the lifestyle is also one I can get behind. Up next is United States. Specifically, Indio, California for Tonic Blooms’ annual off-site (aka Coachella).

Michael: My favourite is Israel. The people have so much passion for their country, you can really feel it. It’s quite an inspiring place to visit. Up next: We’ll be at Coachella together. Who’s in?

What gives you the greatest FOMO?

Raphi: Not being at Raptors’ playoff games.

Michael: FOMO was so 2016.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Raphi: Kraft Singles and binge-watching Border Security (don’t judge).

Michael: Sour grapefruit candy and Seinfeld. Epic combo.

What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?

Raphi: I wish I didn’t spend so much on Diet Coke. I have a severe addiction.

Michael: I wish I could attend every Giants football game!

And finally, what does success look like to you?

Raphi: Running a growing business that brings joy to the lives of others without compromising your values.

Michael: Freedom.

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