By Andrew Seale

Polina Roufanova with valenki boots


If you look around, everyone is wearing black and everything is so grey, so my idea was to change that up and make it more exciting since it comes around every year anyways,” says Roufanova. “I want to inspire people to enjoy the small moments in the winter.”

The cornerstone of the brand – which retails online and at pop-up shops like Love The Design in Toronto's Summerhill neighbourhood – is a cozy valenki boot modeled after the ones Roufanova fondly remembers wearing as a child.

“I moved here at a young age. The company and boots are both very connected to my personal story,” she says.

Of course, Love Winter’s boots aren’t the same as the clunky Siberian valenkis championed by Catherine the Great in the 18th Century. Roufanova has modernized them, contrasting the grey felt with vibrant-coloured galoshes – rubberized boots that can be removed from the bottom when worn indoors.

“When you walk, it makes a Love Winter imprint in the snow,” says Roufanova. It tends to draw a smile from anyone who sees the footprints, spreading the cheer during the coldest season.

The daughter of two entrepreneurs, Roufanova initially studied commerce at Ryerson University. After graduating she did a stint at high-profile fashion house Michael Kors before travelling to Hong Kong to attend university there.

But it was after working as an event planner and marketing specialist in Montenegro, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, that Roufanova decided to create the brand.

To get Love Winter off the ground, Roufanova applied for and participated in Starter Company, a government of Ontario program run locally by Enterprise Toronto that provides mentorship and grants to young entrepreneurs.

It’s good for a startup company to receive any money – when you’re starting out there’s so many costs, the financial part is the most critical,” she says.

The young entrepreneur also received mentoring from Andrew Patricio, a serial entrepreneur and founder of BizLaunch.

“He was straight to the point and I think more mentors should be like that,” she says. “The best advice was don’t let other people waste your time because your time is all you have, especially in business. If something doesn’t work, change it and do something else. Don’t be afraid, be very conscious of how that time is used.”

It’s a mantra that has helped Roufanova catapult Love Winter into the spotlight. She’s only entering her second season and has already been featured in Flare, Canadian Living and Vogue Canada.

“We were also part of the Made in Canada Lounge by George Stroumboulopoulos last year,” she says.

Earlier this year, Roufanova was recognized in the Under 30 category at the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s 2014 Business Excellence Awards.

Love Winter is currently building out a kid’s line and plans to launch a few pop-up shops in New York.

“I’m also really trying to get into Hudson’s Bay Company – the products are very related as it’s the oldest company in Canada and the boots also have that history,” says Roufanova. “I think that would be the perfect match.”