New York City? Really?

Guests hardly ever believe me when I tell them I lived in New York City for two years. How could a raft guide live there? There’s no rafting there.

As I look back on it, on our time chasing dreams in the magazine industry, I too find it hard to believe how far we’ve come from those fresh-faced degree-wielding days in the city that never sleeps.

Clean shaven, short hair, and a lot of collars, I thought the world was at my feet. From PR agencies to publishing houses, this was the big chance to find success.

But how much do you really know at 22?

Looking back, I’m thankful for the opportunities I had. Tracking investments, conducting interviews, Third Wave Fashion opened the door for me to be a writer, a published writer at that. Living in Manhattan provided lessons I never anticipated, from city slush in January to heat-rashed ice baths in July because air conditioning didn’t exist in our East Harlem apartment.

Yet, despite so many memories, so many people met, it’s hard to believe we lived there.

In my third year as a raft guide, I’ve been told by friends and family that this job makes total sense. I’m outside, I’m “in my element” and loving every moment chasing new dreams.

But these same people never saw me in New York. They never saw the late-night bus rides after fashion-tech meetups, or the furiously scribbled notes from interviews that still hide in the shelves of our office.

Our life in New York taught me to work faster, to expect more out of those around me, and to make hard decisions. In that past life I was a writer, I followed stories and helped guide opinions through a still-young industry.

Now, fashion is a new PFD. Everyday-tech consists of little more than a simple watch to keep trips running on time.

It’s hard sometimes to accept that we lived in New York City, but it shaped who I became. Who I am. To draw correlations between life in Manhattan and life running rivers is difficult, but I know it’s this combination that will guide me into the future.

And that’s what it’s all about.

Not where you’ve been, but where you will go because of it.

Event Recap: Fashion Business Strategies

The business of fashion can be an overwhelming, but with the right strategies in place the startup process can run a little smoother. That was the focus Monday night at Wix Lounge thanks to sponsors GarysGuide and AlleyWatch, with excellent food and drinks from Qwiker Liquor, For The Gourmet, and Hint.

1501758_643632312349057_41950675_nImage: Wix Lounge

Moderated by Dalia Strum, a digital marketing expert and FIT professor, the discussion took aim at the issues facing startups in the fashion business with advice from Becca Aronson, of Adornia, and Ashlene Nand, of Lacquerous. What was even better about the conversation was that Aronson and Nand both brought years of corporate experience to the table as well. Aronson with Lucky Magazine and Redbook, and Nand with Anvil Knitwear and a current position with Gap Global Brand Partnerships, provided insight to the startup world from both sides of the spectrum, which I believe is rarely available and accessible like it was Monday night.

After introductions, the evening turned to questions about branding, customer acquisition and retention, how to use social media, and getting your brand message to the world.

What could be more important than those things?

Determining if you should be an entrepreneur at all. Aronson and Nand seemed to agree on the importance of answering that question first, and basing it on if you want to make money and if you want to do fulfilling work.

Essentially, even if media has always been your dream job and you land it, if you’re creatively left wanting, then you have to pursue the career that will make you the happiest. It may take time to realize it, but the passion and flexibility provided from starting your own business is unmatched by a 9-5 job. If nothing else, making your own decisions and engaging an audience that’s genuinely interested in your product is a rewarding experience. In fact, that interest is where your most loyal customers can be found.

Since business is based on customers, and many of the strategies discussed revolve immediately around the topic, I think Aronson offered one of the best opinions on engaging your customers that I’ve ever heard. She said:

People don’t live in the digital world, they live in the real world.

It seems like a simple concept, something that seems so obvious it doesn’t need to be said, but when you attempt to manage the beast that is social media, understanding that real people don’t actually live online is crucial to your approach. A customer could run a Google image search if all they wanted to do was look at pictures, but that search can’t provide a way to touch the product, can’t offer a hand to shake, and certainly won’t convey the personality that your brand is built on.

That isn’t to say that social media isn’t important, but it does point to the second element that spanned the evening: how you spend your time and what you prioritize will enhance your company and your personal life. Both Nand and Aronson emphasized that you have to be willing to take care of yourself first, and at the end of the day, no matter what you’ll have to live with yourself. Prioritization from there is where the balance in customer engagement and brand growth will take root. More importantly, as your brand grows, you have to remember that some things don’t have to be done today while others don’t need to be done at all. Knowing where to draw that line will come with experience, but the quicker that understanding is developed, the more at-ease you’ll find yourself.

Ultimately, your business is your responsibility. If there was anything to glean from the discussion it was that you must be willing to step outside of your box, learn new things, and partner yourself with like-minded people that compliment your strengths and help you navigate your weaknesses. Build your team based on your needs, but developing your brand voice is like developing yourself, it won’t happen over night, but that process will shape where your brand is heading and how it needs to be positioned.

Be aggressive, be fearless, and always be yourself. You’re brand is depending on it.

Making Social Media Work For You

IMG_0357Image: Paige Hogan for Third Wave Fashion

To many people, social media is a game, one that almost isn’t worth playing because success is difficult to measure.

Yes, the more followers or fans you have, the better it looks, but without meaningful relationships in that community, the numbers don’t mean anything.

Advice flowed from the panel of industry experts that Third Wave Fashion put together, and for a look at what you missed, jump over to my recap on Making Social Media Work For You.

Beyond Mobile: A Recap

Josh Clark may be the smartest person I know. That’s why I’m proud to have worked for him.

The real benefit is seeing the future of tech that I would have otherwise been oblivious to. This was my second time hearing Josh speak, but he’s great at it, and the audiences love him. Between the free pizza and lights of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges in the background, XO Group provided one of the best spaces I’ve been to for any talk.

Despite a promise to look to the future, we have to all understand where we are now. This opened with sensors.

Why?

Because sensors can literally go anywhere. The key to exploring the use of sensors though, is their innate ability to interpret the environment around them. The best part about the expansion of technology now, is how real everything is becoming, hence “Augmented Reality” coming to life rather than just being a not-so-new tech term.

To wrap up this post, I’ll leave you with some of the fun things that the cameras on our phones and tablets are being used for.

SkinVaders is a fun app that uses the front facing sensor to “plant” alien eggs on your face, and your mission is to avoid becoming an alien.

Word Lens is one of the greatest apps I’ve ever seen. Forget Google Translate, this is going to be our God-send for surviving Japan.

Finally, the geniuses over there in Sweden are outdoing themselves again.

Are we really surprised by IKEA any more? How many times have you sat staring at your computer trying to determine if the furniture you like would look good in your living room? If nothing else, it’s brilliant.

Enjoy that hint of augmented reality on your Friday, and go have some weekend fun with the newest possibilities in mobile tech!