Throughout my years of blogging and working as a marketing professional, the most asked question has been “how did you get your start in marketing?”
I always follow up with “Do you want the short version or the long version?” The short version is always “I never stopped working” which leads to more questions and since you all know me well, you know that I don’t know how to tell a short story. So, here’s the long version.
It all started in 1987 when I was born to Nancy & Albert Salloum. Just kidding, that’s a bit too far… fast forward! In 1992, I used to sell my McDonalds Happy Meal toys to the other kids on the block. I knew there was a market for it. Not all parents would allow their kids the opportunity to eat McDonalds therefore not getting the toys. If they wanted mine, they were $1 a pop. I tasted money (literally). This is when it all began…
The year was 2005 and I had just graduated from Holy Cross High School in the suburbs of Surrey. I had my eyes set on a career in business, maybe psychology, perhaps law, I really had no idea. I just knew I wanted to make LOTS of money, as we all do at 18. I enrolled myself in Kwantlen Polytechnic University for an Associates Degree and changed my major about 4 times. I tried majoring in Business but hated the accounting class so I switched to Psychology but really only enjoyed the stories, swapped to Sociology but didn’t enjoy the class work and then finally enrolled myself in Political Science for exactly 4 hours. The only thing I could really commit to was watching Jeanne Becker on Fashion Television when I got home from school. I always loved fashion.
I think my adoration of fashion comes from my parents. When my dad was a bachelor in the 70’s he used to dawn a powder blue or burnt orange suit, matched his belt to his shoes and drove a mustang. My mom would order her clothing from one of the top brands in Germany, wore a two piece swim suit and a black glitter jumpsuit. Aces.
One day after school I told my parents that I was no longer going to continue my education because I didn’t know what I wanted to study. After a little struggle, I finally convinced them that I wanted to work for 1 year to gain some working experience, meet new people and then eventually know what I wanted to go to school for. I got a job at Earls as a hostess and developed my communication, organization and leadership skills. Followed by a job at Moxies as a hostess and quickly a server / bartender and developed my multitasking, management and sales skills. I had no idea any of these skills were being developed until I needed them.
Eventually, the day came when I needed to go back to school and my parents walked up to me during an episode of Fashion Television ready with their questions. I said I would only go back to school if I could go into Fashion. Full stop, it was a no-go from the parentals. They said there was no future for a career in fashion and that I needed something more substantial. I said I wasn’t going at all if I couldn’t be in Fashion. I DO WHAT I WANT.
Fast forward to late 2007 and I had my first day at the Art Institute of Vancouver for Fashion Marketing & Management. My 1.5-year program included classes such as fashion sketching, retail merchandising, branding, public relations, b2b marketing, retail math and more. I can’t tell you anything that I learned while in school but I can tell you everything about what I learned outside of the classroom.
Internships are the best way to gain experience and get your foot in the door. My instructors were all industry professionals and had paved their way in the market. They would provide us with internship opportunities with their colleagues and encouraged us to take them on. I had no clue what an internship consisted of outside of what my knowledge from watching Lauren Conrad & Whitney Port on The Hills and The City. If Lauren could do it, so could I! Hello, Teen Vogue!! (But not quite.)
I took on full-time schooling 5 days a week, full-time work at Moxies 6 days a week and a total of 3 internships. I was one of 2 students in my class who took on internships and was dubbed as “most hireable student” by the school director. HUSTLE, HUSTLE, HUSTLE.
Internship 1: Fashionberry Magazine – Production Manager
I had no clue what a production manager but I knew what my assignment was. It was my role to plan 3 photo shoots a month for the online publication Fashionberry Magazine. These photo shoots needed to consist of a team of 5: upcoming designer, model, photographer, hair stylist and makeup artist. How the hell was I going to find 15 people a month?? Nobody could be the same and all had to compliment the designer’s aesthetic. Facebook was only a thing if you belonged to a university, there was no Instagram and I didn’t use Twitter. I used my network from the restaurants, my classmates and sites like Model Mayhem, Craigslist and others. This was one of my hardest jobs and I thrived. After the first issue, the owner of the magazine noted how well of a job I did and offered me a full-time position as the Production Manager. However, the owner never paid me and I refused to continue with the second issue.
Internship 2: Redia Soltis – Stylist Assistant
Redia Soltis is one of Vancouver’s most prominent stylists and I had the opportunity to work alongside her during outfit pulls and editorial photo shoots. Redia was the coolest person I had ever met. She had wicked style, her friends reminded me of crews I saw on TV, her home and studio were in Strathcona before that neighbourhood was even a thing. I took it all in and credit a lot of what I’ve become to what she had taught me. It was my role to take each fashion pull and document every time, categorize it and organize the looks. I would work closely with her on photo shoots to tape shoes, fit clothing on models, return clothing and more. Redia was into the independent designer scene so this is where I got my first taste of indie designers rather than the typical luxury designers. I stayed with Redia throughout my schooling and into graduation but eventually left to pursue my career in retail.
Internship 3: Vancouver Fashion Week – Backstage Coordinator
Oh, Vancouver Fashion Week… If you’re in the scene, you know I don’t need to get into logistics about VFW but as every fashion girl who goes to fashion school in Vancouver does, you intern with them. As the Backstage Coordinator, it was my role to organize models for the lineup and ensure everyone was dressed. I was all for this role! However, when I got there, it was my role to dress the models instead of managing them so I left. There were way too many dressers and I had no use for being there so I did what was best for me and didn’t waste my time. During my time at AI, we needed to plan a full fashion show and execute it for Orb Clothing. Of course, I took on the role of Show Manager & Coordinator so I felt like I would have been capable of doing the VFW gig. If I hadn’t had the experience I wouldn’t have said yes to it.
Upon graduation from The Art Institute in 2009, I decided that I wanted to begin a career as a Visual Merchandiser and I wanted to work at Club Monaco. At this time, I was still working at Moxies to complete paying off my schooling. My program was $30,000 and while working full-time during school I was able to pay off each month and only take a loan for just under $8,000. I paid it off fully in under 4 months. HUSTLE, HUSTLE, HUSTLE. There was no way I was going to begin a career with debt.
Once it was paid off, I was ready to begin. I walked into the Club Monaco on Robson Street dressed to impress with a large professional portfolio. With no experience as one, I said I wanted to be their Visual Merchandiser. I felt that my portfolio work of photo shoots, internships, school work, etc. were more than sufficient. My mother taught me that if I say anything with conviction, I can have it and it would be true. The manager, Brandi, stared at me and noted that although my work was great, there was no opening for a Visual Merchandiser and that she would be happy to have me working on the floor to understand the brand first. Once there was an opening for a VM I would be considered. I took it! I said yes to the role and left her with a CD version of my portfolio. Nobody was offering CDs at the time but we’re living in a digital age people!
I worked on the floor for 1 month until I became the top sales associate. After 1 month I was moved to the Pacific Centre location as their Assistant Store Manager and 3 months after that an opening appeared for a Visual Merchandising Manager. THAT ROLE WAS MINE!!! During my time on the team, I developed a clientele of regular shoppers who came to see me for their wardrobe needs. One day a client jokingly asked if I could clean out her closet so I said yes! Closet cleanouts are one of my favourite forms of organization and I was more than happy to offer it to her as a service. At the time, I had not done this professionally but did watch many seasons of “What Not To Wear”. I took the business model from the show and adapted it to real life and voila! I was officially a Personal Stylist offering full service to a handful of clients. After 6 months into the VM role, I realized that it just wasn’t for me. I stayed at Club Monaco for just over 1 year and became my career in self-employment.
Self-employment wasn’t something I sought out to have, it was something that was thrust onto me because frankly, I didn’t want to work for anyone anymore. My boyfriend at the time and I left our jobs and couldn’t afford to live together anymore so we both moved back home. While I did that, I continued Personal Styling for select clients, I worked on my blog and dabbled in some jewellery making and painting. My boyfriend was an artist who was constantly creating and one day ordered a package of gold foil. I had him order one for myself and after teaching me how to adapt it to my artwork my first-ever international business was born.
I created 4 gold foil images (prints) based on beauty and fashion to hang on my wall and did just what we all did at that time, I Instagrammed it. Instagram had just become an app so I documented almost everything. My blog readership took notice of my prints and asked where I had purchased them. My business instincts shot me like lightning and I knew I had something amazing. I replied with “they will be available in 2 weeks!” I took 2 weeks to learn how to run a business, source printing, more foil, packaging, shipping costs, bulk orders, how to open an Etsy shop, etc. I launched my Etsy shop and on the 1st day I sold out. I See Noise Prints was born. I sold out on the 2nd day, 1st week and every week after that. My shop would continue to sell out for 6 straight months. I was working with bloggers after my 1st week, in my first Vancouver retailer after 2 weeks and in my first international retailer after 1 month. I was selling all over the world for almost 4 years until I decided to close down my shop. I was the first vendor in Canada to be offering gold and silver foil prints and it was my full-time job from the first day of listing.
While I worked on I See Noise, I simultaneously worked further to develop my blog. I won’t get into the story of my blog but I will say that having one has allowed me to utilize all of my experience, skills and had been the platform for the majority of my marketing success. I started my site in 2008, before being a “Blogger” was a thing and it’s been a constant learning experience. To add on more work, I also took on select clients for content photography, social media analysis and the likes of. I was a semi-full-time blogger for 3 years but eventually, the market became saturated with bloggers and I decided to ease off the pressure and take a hiatus. I missed working on other brands and decided to fully dedicate my time to one brand, PetitePuf Organic Cotton Candy.
After a quick coffee with the owner (now different, company sold) we decided that after viewing over 100 resumes, I was qualified to take on her business. I became the Sales & Marketing Manager for PetitePuf and together, the owner and I took on the cotton candy world making sure that EVERYONE knew who we were. I worked in sales, marketing, social media, content creation, packaging, flavours, event planning, photo shoots, campaigns and more. After 1 year, I needed more. I decided it was time to take on more clients and expand my portfolio. Because I had just over 10 years of experience in business in all forms, I felt qualified to work on other people’s brands.
I spent almost 2 years working freelance for handfuls of small businesses helping their growth. During this time, I was ready to bring my blog back since I missed having something that was “just for me” and the pressure of doing it full time was no longer there.
2 years ago, something was bothering me. I had an obligation to continue something I was no longer passionate about. Something that everyone and their mother were doing. I See Noise prints no longer fulfilled me and I could no longer stop people from recreating my work. It was time to close down the shop. I walked away from I See Noise feeling fulfilled again. I no longer had this business baby on my back. After multiple blowout sales to go through stock, I took all of my unsold prints and tossed them into the recycling bin. You can’t imagine how uplifting that was for me.
Even though you’ve worked so hard to create a business for yourself, start a name in the industry, it’s 100% okay to leave it behind. You don’t own anyone, anything.
After my freelancing work, I took on a role with the Robson Street Business Association. This was a dedicated 1-year role in an office, 9-5. I have never had a 9-5 and I’ve never worked in an office. I have always worked 80 hours a week for myself so that I didn’t ever have to work 40 for someone else. At the time of my life, I needed to work for someone else. I needed benefits, stability and a steady income. When looking for a role, I made sure to let all of my friends in business know that I was searching. I spread the word far enough that it reached the team at Robson Street. There is no shame in letting people know you are looking for work – your network is your best tool.
I listened to what my life needed and I took it. That year has quickly come and gone and I am gearing up to move back into my freelance role.
That leaves us to today. I am going back into it knowing what skills I work best with and what services I can offer to their fullest. As Jimmy Ivone says “when you look left and you look right, you’ll miss a step. That’s why horses have blinders on. Look straight ahead” FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS.
I hope this post encourages you to say yes to experiences, use your skills, understand your worth, speak with conviction and take the job you want. If you ever have any career questions I am more than happy to answer them for you and I wish you all good luck and stay focused!