As the cofounder of a boutique influencer marketing agency, I have learned a lot about what it takes to start and maintain a business. From seeing the big picture to taking time for myself, I now know what works for me and keeps me successful.
My company Counter Culture Agency is based in Toronto with reach across North America. Our business is twofold: we’re a talent house (we manage a roster of creators), and we also have clients for whom we design and execute influencer programs and experiences. I also run my personal instagram account, Tara Leigh Rose, which is my version of a creative outlet.
Despite the fact that I am a woman (and a woman of colour at that)—and despite the fact that the disparity is sadly evident when it comes to the number of female CEOs versus our male counterparts—I actually don’t think I even stopped to consider my identity before starting this company. That’s why my first piece of advice for anyone looking to start a business is simple:
Just do it
If you don’t ask or try, you won’t get. Quitting my full-time job in public relations to pursue this agency was a total risk—and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Of course, I’m not encouraging people to blindly or ignorantly take leaps, but sometimes you do just have to dive in.
…But do it intelligently
In order to prepare for a big career change, I think it’s important to look at your finances and save so that you have funds to last a couple of months. I started Counter Culture and had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve; I’d worked in traditional agencies and knew a) I didn’t want to treat influencers and creators like billboards and b) I wanted to have a look that set us apart from every other agency. Having savings enabled me to take on clients authentically and not just based on needing the money.
Focus on the big picture
Earlier on in my career, I felt the need to overcompensate for my womanhood. I took on a Kelly Cutrone “If you have to cry, go outside” type of mentality. But the truth is, I’ve learned you can be emotional—and you should be. It shows you care. It shows you’re human.
The thing I will say is: try to focus on the big picture. You won’t win every client and that’s okay. Take everything as a learning experience. I’ve learned throughout the past three years to focus on the long-term goals and not get caught up in the day-to-day drama.
Take a breather
As an entrepreneur, I often feel the pressure to work non-stop. If I don’t put in the work, who will? I used to feel guilty about taking an hour to go to the gym or even taking a moment to meditate during the day. But I’m at the point now where it’s become a necessity.
For starters, I have a vitruvi Stone Diffuser both at home and at the office. Currently, my favourite blend in the morning is 10 drops of Eucalyptus, 7 drops of Lemongrass, and 4 drops Ylang Ylang. It’s refreshing and calming—just how I like to start my day. I usually get up around 6:30 and go to the gym for a circuit training class and then head home; after I shower and eat, I usually meditate even just for a couple of minutes while the essential oil blend is being diffused. That’s the time when I set my intentions for the day, plan out the tasks I need to do, and just practice gratitude. Then, an hour before I go to bed, I put all screens away. It’s so easy to be in a digital industry and be available 24 hours a day—for my own sanity and to ensure quality rest, I put my devices away, curl up in bed, and diffuse Dusk Essential Oil Blend.
As a consumer of social media content, I’ve realized the impact it can have on mental health. I want something different for influencer marketing; more collaborative ways of designing programs that send a positive message. I guess I want it to be seen in a positive light and show that good can come out of the platform. What can I say? I’m an optimist at heart.