WHAT DO YOU DO?
But I do a whole host of other things in between, mainly building and launching retail brands.
Everything I do falls under the umbrella of P/ET/AL Projects, including POP/P, a popup store concept that focuses on temporary shop launches and builds, taking an agile approach to building a long term vision for a new kind of retail.
I also run a beauty oil business, PTL Beauty.
And I write, now mostly about working from home, love and style at ptler.com, though I used to be a copywriter.
I’m a creative with a day job that I (surprise!) love. I’m a manager working on the social media support team at a major tech company focused on making commerce better. My team helps entrepreneurs and people who want to start businesses, from tech support to business coaching.
There’s definitely a common thread to it all: I’m always working on combining the things we buy and shop for with concepts that will carry our world forward, whether it’s through commerce or work.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
I’ve always taken a very intuitive approach to my career, because even early on, I didn’t subscribe to the idea that your job is solely the means to your life, like they're two separate things. They're not. To me, I felt like if we spend so much of our lives working, we might as well pick something that we enjoy. Because if you’re smart and consistent, you’ll eventually stumble upon a way to provide value. If you don’t even give yourself the chance and consciously work towards that, you’ll end up spending most of your waking life trying to escape it. I thought: why not get a head start, and skip all that hating my life stuff that was prevalent in popular culture growing up? So of course I rejected everything that everyone thought I would be and do and kind of went in a direction that I was extremely curious about: fashion.
I spent my earlier twenties trying to figure out where I fit in, after I got my fashion design degree. I did a lot of everything, but I think it really started because I happen to have grown up when the internet was becoming a thing. I loved this big new world and used it as a platform to say things that I felt like no one was talking about. I think things really started when I started a blog about fashion, but it wasn’t a style blog. I wrote about fashion: technology, business, sustainability, marketing. That led to a career in freelance copywriting. Before that, I worked for a photographer and sold wedding gowns - looking back, it exposed me to a way of blending the service industry and retail that wasn’t very common in North America. I dabbled in photography, and even though I eventually realized that photography wasn’t what I really wanted to do, it became the backbone for a lot of the things I eventually did later on. My writing career was going well - I started to contribute to Huffington Post, started a blog about sustainable fashion, and that led me to my next step.
I went to work for a sustainable baby clothing company, and really became pivotal in their progression from pre-2008 recession retail to modern retail. It was like working at a startup, and I did a lot of design, operations, marketing, and even retail sales - but more than that, I got to work really closely with entrepreneurs. I also learned e-commerce chops there, launching and managing their entire online store operations. Eventually, I did end up working at an actual startup - there, I interviewed over 500 boutiques in Canada and the US.
This whole time I felt like I wasn’t being pushed outside my comfort zone enough - doing and learning isn't the same as really pushing yourself to grow. I also went through a bit of a quarter-life crisis, having spent my entire working life working for startup and relaunch-phase businesses, feeling a bit like I wanted to take what I could do and affect the world in an even broader way.
I’ve always been interested in coding, and started to formally teach myself because I had the chops for it and it was an actual career with a clear path to improving my life. I thought I wanted to switch careers from the hodge-podge that it was (Marketer? Designer? Writer? Photographer?) and become a software engineer. But I didn’t have the money to go back to school. So I thought, while I learn on my own, I might as well get my foot in the door and perhaps start looking for a different job in the technology field.
I tucked that idea in the back of my mind, and one day, on my Facebook feed, I saw a job posting for a job at a Canadian tech company that was dedicated to making commerce better. I used the software and loved it at my previous job, so I applied and got it. I think that moment was another pre and post moment of my career and life. It was an entry-level tech support position, but even through all my experience, I took it as a welcome challenge and talking to so many entrepreneurs everyday helped continue to shape my ideas on retail.
Fast forward and I got promoted twice, started a couple more online stores (including a store that was featured in Vogue) in between until I really started to grasp that so many of the constructs and limitations are either self-imposed or perceived. It made me really think about how we do things and why.
So I pulled back, stopped working on my own projects while taking on my first management role ever, and just let my creative mind wander. I took a solo trip to Paris and Hong Kong in the same year and it opened my eyes, re-inspired my love for the retail experience.
This year, I came out of my creative hibernation and started a blog about loungewear to sharpen my writing skills and voice after I stopped writing as my career. For the first time, I’m no longer concerned about “where I’m going” and “what I’m doing” and instead just focusing on what I love to do and how to keep getting better at it. That second part is key.
How do you stand out in your field?
For a long time, I wasn’t really sure what my field was exactly. I thought it was fashion, and then I thought it was sustainability, but it’s definitely gone way beyond that. Fashion and sustainability are both just concepts that drive the underlying current of my work.
My field is maybe "retail".
Overall, I think what people in the retail industry lack is reverence for a more forward-thinking approach. A lot of people open stores because they think they have an eye, but I always want to push people to think: why retail specifically? Why do you want to sell things to people? It’s tough to think of someone who wants to build their career in retail, but looking back, that’s essentially what I did. I’ve always worked jobs where I worked extremely close with the “sales floor”, sometimes even on it. As technology continues to evolve and digital continues to further integrate with physical retail, there will be all kinds of opportunities to build careers in retail, reaching into all types of other disciplines: technology, service, design, content. And that sort of reverence for being able to shape your career, life and beyond is something a lot of people lack (I did too).
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I just launched the first edition of POP/P, an online pop-up shop featuring a capsule collection of vintage loungewear. I very much adhere to the impact of uni-tasking but also of following creative cycles, so I’ve finally figured out a cadence to my life that makes sense and feels right, given all the projects I want to work on. I’m no longer trying to fit my life and interests into one already defined career path.
For the next 3 months after POP/P launches, I hope to focus more on my writing. Writing is how I reflect on my life and my work. It’s a meditative state for me, and I want to make a conscious effort to get even better at it. I try to think of my creative work as projects, ranging from 1-3 month cycles. I’m very much a sprinter.
I’m also planning on relaunching and systemizing my beauty oil business, after being in sold out state for 6+ months.
Once POP/P launches, it’ll be about scaling that concept to more brands, products, collaborations and IRL.
At my job, I’m working on operationalizing project management across my team.
WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?
I’m very driven by newness and forward thinking. Pitting contrasts together and rethinking the way things have been done to create something not entirely new, but fresh. Poetic/rational. High brow/low brow. Optimistic, forward thinking mixed in a brew with extremely timeless and classic principles. Science and art. Here and now (sense-driven) as well as broad future-thinking (concept-driven). Identifying and appreciating truth and beauty in every experience. Colour really drives me, and is one of the cornerstones of my work as a designer and creative director.
I think the most important part about my perspective is the idea of growth and change. The temporary nature of everything really fuels how I approach life, work, and style - which is why flowers figure so heavily, both aesthetically and metaphorically, in everything I do.
WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?
I have a degree and background in design, but I’d love to get more hands-on experience doing retail design work, having dabbled in it in the past with previous jobs. This is one of those things that you really just have to get scrappy at and learn by doing. But it's hard if you don't have your own storefront to experiment with.
If I had more hours in the day, I’d be happy to spend it writing more because that’s when my ideas become tangible beyond just floating half-thoughts in my mind!
WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?
For a few years, my primary frustration was how frivolous people were approaching the material world, and how there seemed to be a divide between people who appreciated luxury and material things but were viewed as pretentious, and those who felt they were above "stuff" and had no reverence for who makes things, how we make them, etc. I so badly wanted to find the middle ground between reverence/appreciation and approachability.
I value authenticity, not just the appearance of it. I’ve refined my style over time to respect my no-filter approach: I did a brief stint as a photo retoucher, now I do zero retouching. I write from a place of truth and rawness. Even my online stores, there’s a sense of reality and warmth, even though of course I style the shoots. The way I do my makeup, the way I get dressed: I think there’s a way to be aspirational and to put effort into something without putting a mask on, so that style is about mood rather than insecurity.
IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?
Probably outreach. It’s something that I can do and have done, but it always takes the backseat to the things I’m more naturally drawn towards.
I’d love to hire a personal chef or personal trainer to do all the things in my life that also take the backseat when I get into a build/creative phase.
LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?
Don’t worry so much about trying to be one thing in particular. Just do as much as you can and learn as much as you can. It’s all going to help you grow to eventually lead to what you’re meant to be doing. And things will feel right. Take what other people say with a grain of salt, but let the salt flavour your ideas. There are so many factors but the one that matters most is the effort you want to put into something, and that’s something that someone else can’t know and shouldn’t dictate.
IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
I would love to speak with the people who have built iconic retail brands and have pushed the envelope, across all types of categories and styles. My dream would be to travel the world, visit the coolest retail stores, then observe the people who founded these companies in their day-to-day. For everything else? I lean on Google.
WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I’m looking to connect with as many people and companies as I can who are looking to build exciting things and be a part of the new retail experience.
That’s startups and entrepreneurs who aren’t just trying to sell something, but are also looking to engage people in new ways.
I would love to do some more writing; my dream would be to have a column writing about the pursuit of work, love and style in the context of independence and modern work (while I’m building popup stores and helping others do the same).
DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.
It would be amazing to be at the middle ground between connecting a major company with smaller businesses, in the context of popup stores. I think, for a long time, there's been an association that smaller companies are making less impact. I don't think that has to be true, especially if we break down the barriers between companies and products to collaborate more.
WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE?
Most of my work now is focused on building retail projects, so I don't have a rate. For other types of freelance work, I typically charge a flat rate based on the scope of the project.
HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
Email is best, followed by a video chat. I appreciate professionalism but I'm a fairly casual person so authenticity has to come through for me to identify whether or not we'd be a good fit. And any sort of mood boarding is super helpful to help establish a visual point of view, right from the get go.
HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?
Respect your curiosities and cadence. Change.
This member profile was originally published in June 2018.