We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Gunner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve always wanted to work for myself and to have my own business, so sub consciously the thought was probably always there, but when I started TOMME it was just as a hobby and something that gave me a creative outlet outside of my 9-5. I never thought that it would ever actually become what it has or that I would be running my own brand.
Initially I just began developing the products, I knew I potentially had something interesting but it took years to refine the product into something premium and to develop the tools and processes to where they are today. It’s always been about product first, which took time to make right.
I have a background in marketing and understand the power of visual output, so even while TOMME was just a hobby I wanted to always insure that what I was putting out was as inspiring as possible, I was working with influencers or stylists and taking opportunities when they presented themselves (like collabs or Complexcon) so I was probably acting like a business / brand even though in my head I still hadn’t taken it to that next step.
The brand itself is honestly something that evolved naturally. As the product started to take off, I realised that it was turning into something and developing at a rapid rate, which is when I needed to start to look at this as more than just a hobby. It was evolving into a business and I had to make a decision on whether to pursue this and leave my job or take a step back and let it run its course (there wasn’t enough hours in the day for both).
But sometimes situations present themselves and it’s now or never, you have to have faith in your abilities and what you do.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think the foundation of my career has set me up in terms of my work ethic and the determination I have for my business. For example, I always wanted to work in music and its where I started my career. But to get into the industry I worked 6 months for free, whilst studying at University. I secured a position after the work experience and stayed within that company for 6 years working my way up. It was not easy, but worth it. I hustled to support myself during that 6 months and got my reward at the end.
My roles were always centred around mixing marketing with commercial projects and developing technology within the industry. We needed to be creative to stay ahead of our competitors, ensuring the artist had the best campaigns while also being commercially viable. There was always a drive to be market leading, which has stuck with me through to today.
With each role I’ve taken in my career it has been to add something to my skillset, which has helped shape all the expertise I draw on every day while running TOMME.
I’ve worked in media, social media, talent, the music industry and advertising. I think it’s difficult to have a both creative and commercial mindset, but this is something that has been an undercurrent throughout my career and is definitely something that I try to bring to my brand now.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Eat / Hang / Drink Line hotel rooftop pool / bar. Botanica restaurant and market in Silver lake. Uncle Paulies deli, Grand Centrla Market in downtown LA.
Death & Co bar.
I like to hit Runyon canyon for a hike / walks, there are lots of trails so you can avoid people.
When I can I always try take in a basketball game – Lakers of course 😉
I always hit Melrose and La Brea for some shopping.
Beach day, we take a little trip out of the city to Thousand Steps in Laguna and get Wahoos tacos.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are a few people that have helped in various ways along the way, but I want to specifically mention two… A big supporter is my husband. He has been there supporting me every day, from helping with packing orders, design, emotional breakdowns and the highest highs. It’s great to have a partner that supports you and is the foundation to allow you to try and live your dreams (cheesy as that is).
Another big part of the TOMME story is our first collaboration partner, Image Gang. Isabelle who owns the brand really helped kickstart the brand as we collaborated through social media, which gave us that initial boost as she/they were a much bigger brand. This then lead us to collaborating on a product that we took to Complexcon. That was a big thing for both of us, it was her first time taking her brand there and we took the collab product also. She didn’t have to do that, but it all aligned, and I am eternally grateful for her support.
Martina Martin Madein Eden