I find it nearly unbelievable to think that Jess and I have only known each other for 1.5 years. I had never met anyone who so effortlessly shared my energy for creative ideation, ear for storytelling, and boldness to prompt conversations that peeled back facades and find the truth. We bonded over our broken hearts and abilities to find laughter in the most stressful of days. Making decisions as a team suddenly made the world appear much bigger.
We started Shine motivated by our impatience, waiting for other agencies to dictate our fate was certainly not for us. We knew we were good at our craft, but had no idea exactly what we were getting ourselves into.
Early success came quickly…perhaps too quickly for us to realize what the true cost of our work meant. In a matter of a few weeks we brought on a host of contractors, coordinators and interns to help support our growth. We transformed half my house into HQ, took our every meeting at Colette Grand Café and turned Jess’ apartment into a ground zero for logistics and storage.
With a host of brilliant girls in our tribe, Shine became a culture that resonated and took on its own life. Our welcoming, sunny demeanor was a strong contrast to many corporate PR firms. Almost daily, we started getting letters from young PR girls who wanted to be part of our team. Our Instagram channel took off and other freelancers and small boutiques in the industry started reaching out to us directly saying they admired what we stood for and wanted to find out more. On hard days, an email from an adoring prospective intern could melt away our worries and remind us that we were onto something.
We started hosting Shine events as a way to remain connected to all the wonderful people we were meeting and engage with potential new brands. Our first, Shop & Shine with Kate Spade, was a hit and bonded our team in solidarity as we welded hammers and nails to personally construct a garden wall that many naysayers told us was an impossibility. Shine events became our calling card and an unrestricted outlet for our team to “play” and remember our worth.
Stretch & Shine did not lack magic. We hosted a twilight yoga session on the rooftop of the Thompson run by Power Yoga Canada and catered by raw juice house, The Fix. The team constructed a pallet bar from scratch and erected a 20 x 30 tent frame, which we entirely covered in fabric and flowers. The team felt the power in blasting past stereotypical visions that ladies who celebrated their femininity could be anything less than exceptional.
Work Jess and I had completed with our business consultants, Think8, started to take root. Although not yet profitable, we felt successful and were no longer held back by the fear of failure. We had already done more in a few months then we ever could have imagined and it was being validated through different people nearly every day.
Over the months we had met some of the most amazing talent. Social superstars who, although didn’t have millions of followers, had amassed a following of “friends” who religiously wanted to see the world through their eyes – true influencers and artists in their own right. We saw the need for an agency that helped manage the dealings of social influencers to curate stories that allowed audiences to experience a brand through the vetted interactions with a trusted source. What we could gather in Canada is that agencies were struggling to understand this relationship and influencers’ lacked confidence in their value and knowledge of the brand process. With this notion, Shine Influencers was born. A talent management agency for social superstars that helped to protect the authentic worlds of the creators while also being a resource for brands looking for a channel to augment their campaigns.
Since our official launch in November 2015, we have focused much of our energy on educating agencies and brands about the relationship that can exist between these parties. The most difficult is convincing brands to drop the reins. Influencer’s endorsements only have traction if they are in the voice and tonality of the creator. Key message prompting or scripted requirements only turn this unique channel into another advertisement – diminishing its potential effect. It has been a world-wind, but we are catching pace and feeling proud every day that we are standing up for the “little guys” and helping to facilitate positive change for the brand/consumer relationship.
Starting two business divisions in less than 12 months was a sprint, with a slow and steady monetary pay off. As accomplished as we feel, we also have felt the pressure and disappointment of not being able to sustain everyone’s contracts or convert part-time team members to full-time pay. What we have achieved in our first year is amazing, but certainly wasn’t done alone. Every contractor and intern played her essential role and helped nudge us further along when we needed it.
One of our greatest prides is that most of our girls never really disappear. Whether they had to go back to school or moved on to something else, we still have their shiny faces join us to help out at our events or to celebrate a milestone. The sisterhood of Shine is an extension of Jess’ and my dynamic. It is unique and something that I truly hope never changes.
The hardest lessons Jess and I have had to learn is to not let the minority of poor business experiences and rejections shape our future. We chose to move forward believing if we communicate our truth we will ultimately be connected with brands who trust our vision and see us for the effective storytellers we are.
We are excited for the future (…we are excited about everything). And truly welcome every opportunity to collaborate and make brands Shine.
…cheesy, I know. But it just works so well!