The founder of Studio321B Flooring says he never pictured himself in the rug business. Anthony Hellman has been in design for 30 years and has worked at some of the biggest companies in the industry, but three years ago he decided to go out on his own. While his claim to fame today is his one-of-a-kind rug designs (which are available at incredible prices), he’s quite humble about his background, upbringing and success. Hellman was born in Italy’s Lazio region and his parents decided to pack up and move their family to Canada when their son was five years old. “My parents came to Canada because my mother wanted to take care of her younger brother, who lived here. He was a hairstylist and my first inspiration when it comes to entrepreneurship,” he says. “I worked at his shop when I was a kid — sweeping up, cleaning, etc.
I remember how hard he worked and how much he loved his customers.” Life wasn’t easy for Hellman when he was in school. “There was bullying. I came from Italy and I dressed differently than the other kids. I was persecuted just because I didn’t wear jeans and T-shirts,” he says. After high school, Hellman started working at an established furniture and design business in Toronto. “It was an amazing opportunity and a great place to learn. I started in the warehouse and it didn’t take long before I was managing the showroom. I had carte blanch to create displays and bring in the atmosphere I wanted.”
Design is definitely the right field for Hellman — you can hear his passion in his voice. “I love art and love creating. I like living outside the box. I’m inspired by Alexander McQueen and William Morris. Anything fashion really sparks my interest, and you can see that in the rugs we create,” he says. (He also dabbles in jewellery-making and says he wants to grow Studio321b Flooring and enter the fashion world. “A lot of our rugs would look really cool on T-shirts and hats,” he says.) Hellman describes his personal style as “McQueen meets grunge” — he’s understated and never flashy, he tends to gravitate toward darker palettes and he’s a big fan of skull motifs. “You could say I’m a rebel with a cause. I stand up for the underdog.” He’s also very private and says that while he loves his clients, he does prefer to keep his personal life under wraps.
He has a deep fondness for his close circle of friends and family, which consists of his partner and three daughters. He’s spiritual and believes that whatever you give to the universe, the universe gives you back. Not surprisingly, the free spirit is also into all things nature. “I love camping, kayaking, cycling, jumping out of planes, you name it. I’m a total radical. I do love philosophy, art, antiques, design and fashion, but nature is my main thing.”
As an entrepreneur, Hellman says he knew he was onto something when he recognized that Toronto’s design industry was missing more inventive, out-of-the-ordinary pieces when it comes to rugs and flooring. He knew he had original ideas and the drive to create innovative projects. Studio321b has forced him to push himself and persevere. “The first three to five years of any business are a struggle. But it’s about pushing and pushing — that’s entrepreneurial spirit. I’m determined and I’ll continue pushing. This business doesn’t even feel like work — there’s a freedom in that. I’m doing what I love every day.”