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An Entrepreneur Interview with Erica Lam from The Style Spy

October 2, 2009

In the business world mostly full of men, I am always excited to meet fellow female entrepreneurs.  I am very honoured to count Erica as one of my friends but our relationship is a bit more special, she was the very FIRST tenant when The Network Hub opened.  She is fierce, glamorous, stylish, charismatic, powerful but she does it all with heart.  In her pink lipstick, perfectly curled hair and her trendy garb she controls the situation whether it is in a business situation or an event for a thousand plus people.  Whether it is commanding attention in the board room or fighting for that last pair of Manolo, she does it with style – she is The Style Spy afterall.

1. Tell us what you do
Where do I start! I run the editorial arm of TheStyleSpy.com, a popular fashion/shopping blog. I work with a team of talented freelance writers, keeping women in Canada in-the-know on the hottest fashion trends, beauty must-haves and sales & deals going on around town. I’m a city expert on all things shopping. TheStyleSpy.com also hosts a monthly fashion segment on CityLights on NovusTV. I also run a marketing arm under The Style Spy Media Inc. I work with fashion retailers and shopping centres on their marketing, whether it be interactive shopping events, marketing campaigns, public relations or social media initiatives.

2. When and why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
Just over three years ago. I had worked a few jobs post university in marketing and sales. One day I started the TheStyleSpy.com blog by suggestion of a co-worker, my concept was shopping for everyday girls. Fashion has always been reserved for the elite, I always felt that fashion should be more accessible, cause reality is, most of us don’t shop in the pages of Vogue and we do shop at chain stores and try to duplicate looks for less. Once I started the blog, it became a bit of an obsession. I thought “how could I make this a business?” – how could this passion of mine, be more then just a hobby. That was three years ago. It’s been nothing short of amazing. I honestly didn’t exactly know how I was going to make money. Sure there are advertising dollars associated with the site, but I don’t have numbers like PerezHilton.com, so I definitely had to be creative to find ways to generate revenue. I realized my strength was the loyal network of female shoppers I had built. So I started to doing events with companies like The Bay and Richmond Centre, driving my audience and others through social media to events and promoting their brands. I execute the events or marketing campaigns with no traditional advertising dollars – utilizing Facebook, Twitter, the Style Spy network and doing traditional public relations on behalf of my clients. It’s worked out well, with companies wanting to take chances with smaller companies and wanting to find creative ways to engage their audiences. My clients have included the aforementioned Bay, Richmond Centre, as well as Metropolis at Metrotown, the Yaletown Business Improvement Association and boutiques like Ishara, Fine Finds, Orb Clothing and Wink Beauty Lounge.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of being a woman entrepreneur from your perspective?
I’ve been very lucky in this aspect. My audience is also female, which allows me to relate and understand them well. I also work with a lot of decision makers who are female and it’s worked my advantage. They often relate to me and see me as the very demographic and market they’re trying to reach. Giving me an inside edge, cause who better to speak to an audience then someone who is part of it.

4. What is a key personal attribute you see in successful entrepreneurs?
Determination. There will be many obstacles placed in front of you. Being an entrepreneur, and a successful one at that, takes lots of hard work, perseverance, determination and a bit of luck. There will be many moments when you wonder why you are doing this, but those who succeed are those who keep going despite the hurdles. I believe the journey is also part of the story, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

5. Any advice you would like to give to someone contemplating a start-up?
Do your homework, always educate yourself. I read countless blogs, from fashion to tech to small business. You want to be in on the action, always in-the-know. Networking is also huge. You could spend countless hours studying something, but if you know the right people – it can take you there that much faster. Be humble. I find lots of “pseudo-entrepreneurs” get caught up in the whole excitement of being an entrepreneur and lose sight of what is really the nuts and bolts their business. It’s really about the business, not the fame of being an entrepreneur. Lastly, bootstrap it. There are lots of things I spent money on that I wish I hadn’t. At first, you just have to make do with the basics and forgo the fancy office, spend wisely.

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