The Lives of Small Biz Entrepreneurs: How Katya Garipova Followed Her Dreams of Being an Artist and Launched Creative Outlet KatushKatush

One of our favourite curated markets, The Leslieville Flea, returns on April 28 at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery. We can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday in Toronto than to shop and peruse goods and wares brought to you by local artisans and collectors. 

Toronto-based artist and designer Katya Garipova is one of this edition’s featured vendors. Her company, KatushKatush, specializes in a wide variety of offerings, including fine art, greeting cards, illustrations, mugs and stickers.

We caught up with Katya this week.

SDTC: Can you briefly describe your company and what you make/curate?

KG: KatushKatush is my collection of fine art and illustration products. I make primarily original art and prints, as well as smaller items, like greeting cards, postcards, mugs, magnets and coasters. My latest illustrative series, Millenimals, features endearing animal characters that are inspired by my childhood love of Russian fairytale storybooks, as well as modern Canadian millennial food rituals, and day-to-day observations. 

When and why did you decide you wanted to work independently or begin a new venture?

KatushKatush was created as a creative outlet. When I was a young child in Russia, the only thing I ever wanted to do was draw. I was spending all of my free time creating characters with elaborate dresses, illustrating humorous situations and making things just because it felt good. I was also an animal lover from a young age.

As I grew older, other things started to take priority. I moved to the UK and within several years, I stopped drawing completely, partly due to thoughts of self-doubt and a growing focus on picking a legitimate and sustainable career path. Since then, I moved to Toronto, Canada, where I started to work as a graphic designer and art director in a fast-paced and demanding industry that started to occupy all of the time I had. I started to realize that I was not taking care of myself. In order to do that, I needed to bring back the feelings of joy I had as a child. I eventually bought paints and started painting animal characters for my friends and family.

During this time, I visited many fleas and markets in Toronto, such as The Leslieville Flea, and was always so inspired by independent makers doing their thing and growing what they love every day of their lives. I wanted to grow something of my own. I was so inspired to set up my own little table. I made myself a quick logo, scanned my existing works, and applied to a Christmas show way in advance. They accepted me, which truly put fire under my ass to get everything organized for real!

Where do you work now? Is it a full-time or part-time job?

I work full-time at an advertising agency in the heart of Toronto. I also do freelance design and art direction on the side in the colder months. KatushKatush dominates most of my spring and summer weekends and evenings!

What was or will be the tipping point for you to turn your side hustle into a full-time reality?

I think the more time you invest into something, the faster it will grow. When I focus on growing my reach and making connections, more things happen. When I check out for a while, or life takes over, things slow down. People forget you exist. It’s a constant battle to stay relevant and memorable, while also trying to juggle so many life things. I put this on myself, though. My dream would be to have a large home painting studio where I can paint every day and continue to make people smile. 

Like many artists in Toronto, I didn’t come from money, so our dreams will be built over time, with much hard work and grit. But they will be built. Every little action at a time. I do this for simple things, one of which is that I love seeing people identifying with my art—seeing themselves or their loved ones in it. What I thought only I would find cute or funny, others feel that too, and it’s such a fulfilling thing.

Where can people find you?

You can find me making a mess on Instagram @katushkatushdesigns and is where you can view some of the things I will have available at Leslieville Flea on April 28!

The Leslieville Flea is a curated flea market in Toronto’s east end. This popular market attracts entrepreneurs who are making their dream job a reality. Whether it’s a side hustle or a full-time gig, the Leslieville Flea applauds the courage of the small biz entrepreneur! The next Leslieville Flea takes place April 28 at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery. For all the details, go here.

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